Do You Want to Go to Kenya?

Do You Want to Go to Kenya?

Let’s Go to Kenya

When Brian said we were going to throw gas on the fire, he wasn’t kidding. Building garden towers with 500 families required us to go to Kenya, and expand to three different communities. We wanted to get a more realistic picture of what growing the garden towers looked like in different climates. Believe it or not, an hour away in Kenya from Bomet is the dry desert region of Narok County. 

This was February 2021, and the world was still in the middle of a pandemic. I had gone back to Kenya in October to buy furniture for Kokoo’s Guest House so that it would be ready for our teams, but we hadn’t gone in as a team since getting stuck in Kenya the year before. 

Garden Tower in Nkareta

Eating Greens Grown in a Garden Tower

Allen Roberds, Marissa Waldrop, and I decided that we would go to Kenya to help get things organized and set up for expansion. One day, I was at a sew-a-thon at The USANA Foundation and asked Brian if he wanted to go with us. There was almost no hesitation on his part, and we set the date for late April. A few other members of our team found out we were going and jumped in, and suddenly, we had a full group and the opportunity to stay for the first time at Kokoo’s Guest House. 

However, opposition came in full force when a month before we were scheduled to leave, Kenya locked down 5 counties, including Nairobi County. Their mandate was that people could travel within the 5 counties, or outside of the 5 counties, but they couldn’t cross the border. 

That put a wrench in our plans, and we went back and forth on whether or not to go for a few weeks. Finally, we got word that if you were a tourist, you would get a special permit to go to the Maasa Mara. We decided to take the chance, and boarded the plane. 

When we started driving a few days later to the Mara, a collective prayer went up that it would work. As we drove through the first checkpoint, we saw cars pulled over by police lining the road. And then, the first miracle occurred. As we drove past, every police officer turned away from the jeep. It was almost like they didn’t see us. We weren’t stopped or prevented in any way from driving through. 

We still had the second checkpoint to get through, and the same thing happened! We had crossed the border of the counties, and we were free to continue. 

The first few days were spent in Nkareta and Bomet, as we got video of everything the teams were doing to make and build garden towers. Watching Brian’s reaction was priceless. Truthfully, we were all pretty emotional about how it had impacted families. There are many stories that we hear when we are on the ground in Kenya, that are too sacred to share publicly. 

Next week…Can I build a cottage here? 

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The USANA Foundation

The USANA Foundation

The USANA Foundation

Sometimes, it’s better to say yes and figure it out, than show doubt that it can be done. When we walked into Brian Paul’s office at the USANA Foundation on May 20, 2019, my mind was made up to say yes. Whatever he asked, it was a yes. 

We had talked over zoom, but holding up a garden tower to a webcam doesn’t quite have the same impact as live and in person. I knew Brian was skeptical, because why wouldn’t he be? I was telling him that with a tube of shade fabric with some holes burned into it, we could feed the world. Or at least teach them how to grow their own food. 

Garden Tower in Nkareta

It’s Time to Say Yes

At that point, we had built about 15 garden towers in Nkareta, Kenya, and ONE in Bomet at our training center. We had no statistics on how many meals they would provide. We didn’t know how long to let the seedlings grow before starting to harvest. We didn’t know how much soil each garden tower used, and we didn’t know the dimensions of the garden towers

We knew they cost $10 and we had to buy them from Nairobi. That was about it. 

For the next several months, I answered Brian’s questions to the best of my knowledge. Finally, in September 2019, he said, “Okay, let’s do a pilot project with 200 families in Bomet. Two garden towers, a water storage tank, and fencing to protect the garden towers from the animals. We need reports on how many meals per family member per day.” I wrote the proposal. 

A few weeks later, the funds were in our account, and we got started growing seedlings in Kenya. It was a slow start, and after around 30 families had the garden tower system, the world went crazy with Covid, and Kenya shut down for 13 weeks. 

During that time,100 Humanitarians fundraised for food relief for families in the 3 communities we worked in at that time. Our goal was to focus on helping widows get past the worst of it, since markets weren’t open and food was harder to access. We fed over 150 families with a daily meal of rice and beans for those 13 weeks, because of the generous donations that came in. It was truly witnessing a miracle.

What we didn’t realize at the time, was that it created a stronger list of families who would later receive garden towers. It also built a level of trust between our organization and the families that we wanted to reach. 

It took an entire year to build garden towers with those 200 families, but at the end of that year we had the statistics we needed: 

1. Each garden tower fed 5-6 people a meal of fresh vegetables almost daily. 

2. Families could sell the excess vegetables, making an income of $12-15 per month. If a family was living on $1/day, this was increasing their income by 50%. 

3. The families used the $12-15 per month on other things they needed like food staples and soap. 

4. The water storage tanks reduced the number of trips taken to the rivers and springs each day, creating more time for women.

5. It provided jobs in sewing and garden tower building for 10 women and men. 

We met with Brian, took a picture of that momentous day, which we look at from time to time now and remember how little we knew back then. After going over the numbers, Brian said, “It’s time to throw gas on the fire. Let’s do 500 more families.”

Next: Do You Want to Go to Kenya?


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