Who would have thought a chance meeting in the spring of 2018 would have placed me where I am today? Teaching thermal cooking to women in rural communities in Kenya.
Of all things, it was at a sew-a-thon, sewing underwear that I first met Heidi Totten. I knew she ran some kind of humanitarian thing and I wanted to see what she thought about the thermal cooking bag I called a HopeSaC, which stands for Hope, Service and Charity.
Long story short, Heidi took 5 HopeSaC kits to Kenya in June of 2018. A HopeSaC kit includes pre-sewn components for a fabric thermal cooker. Once filled with insulation it can be used to cook, saving time, fuel and money.
The first thing Heidi said to me after returning from her June trip was “I want you on the trip in October with more of those HopeSaCs”.
Like I would say “no”. 🙂
Where does one even start when sharing Kenya? The trip was over-the-top amazing! I loved everything about the experience. But of course, my time sharing HopeSaC with the people was the activity closest to my heart.
We took 30 HopeSaC kits on the October 2019 trip. Some of the kits went to Bomet, others to the Mara and the Rescue center in Narok. But the two days we spent in Nkareta were something special.
The days were hot. Much of the time was spent building GardenSaCs/towers at the homes of people in the community. I remember at one point someone coming to me and saying, “Cindy, you have got to see this”. After which I was escorted into a kitchen. It was actually a mud hut, inside the door was a short walkway which lead to one small room with three-bed areas. In the center toward the back wall, I could see the glow of embers in a version of a clay rocket stove. It was U shaped leaving one side open to feed kindling and keep the fire going, a pot sitting on top. Yes, the room was hot, unbearably, and smoky, my eyes were burning, but what affected me the most was the darkness. It was almost pitch black inside with no electricity to turn on a light.
All I could think about was “this is why I do this” one cooker at a time.
We spent some time showing the women how to use the HopeSaCs. They gathered around and were listening, watching and asking questions. All with skepticism showing clearly on their faces. They seriously thought I was crazy. What made it worse was that the pot I had brought from the hotel could not be placed on the open flame so they had to pour boiling water over the rice instead of bringing it to a boil. Not something I would suggest doing by the way.
Their skepticism was short lived. Just over an hour later I opened the HopeSaC to reveal beautifully cooked rice. The room was abuzz with excited and surprised women speaking quickly to each other.
They liked the HopeSaCs! 🙂
A few of weeks later I received pictures showing the women working together, teaching each other how to use the HopeSaC cookers. I love those pictures and what they represent!
I leave again next week, making my way back to Kenya. It has been four months since my first trip. 100 Humanitarian and The HopeSaC Project will be hosting a ceremony in Nkareta for 25 women who are now HopeSaC Certified Users. We will be taking HopeSaC kits with us for 15 more families in Nkareta, and more to Bomet where 20 families will start learning and teaching each other the art of retained heat cooking.
Here we are, it is almost spring again, one short year later.
It has been an amazing and very humbling journey.
And it is only the beginning.
Stay tuned. 🙂