On the 29th of May “Team Arkansas” arrived on the ground at Maisha village. The team was made up of myself, Cathy Messer her daughter Krista Messer Ferguson and son-in-law Aman Ferguson. We designated ourselves “Team Arkansas” because in the past the vast majority of those that support and have gone to Maisha have been from Oklahoma. This is where I started but now I live in Arkansas and I recognize that for Maisha to grow the support base has to expand and grow too. The recent weather related tragedies in Oklahoma has demonstrated that in an instant support can slow down or stop completely due to the understandable changes in priority and resources being stretched and with the new kitchen project we have been able to reach out into other states and even countries to get support for this project—which we call “Bricks of Love” – because each donation is like another brick in the wall of the construction. We even made a poster showing the faces and locations of each donor that the kids got to see on the last day we were there.
My personal focus was of course on two things—the gardens I helped start in 2010 and seeing the progress and coordinating for the continued construction and outfitting the new kitchen. The rest of the team was going to do research , help where ever they were needed and in the case of Krista and Aman—learn more about Maisha and why Cathy and I have dedicated ourselves to continued support of Maisha and the people that live there.
I am happy to report that the gardens are in fact doing well. Much food is being grown and is supplementing the feeding program. We had continued training on ways to increase crop production and we built a “Key Hole” demonstration garden designed for individual family food production and established a new children’s garden bed for the teachers to use in garden based education in cooperation with the Shambas farm staff. We also set up a new composting area.
Just as exciting was to see the progress that has been made on the new kitchen. Each day we were there more went up and I could tell the excitement of those that actually cook the meals each day in the hot and smoky and totally outgrown current kitchen. Jeff from OKC – a retired firefighter that arrived a few days after we did has taken on the challenge of raising all the money to buy and install the new boilers, ovens and sinks in the kitchen. This was exciting news to hand off to him so I can continue to concentrate on getting the building constructed and outfitted with solar hot water and light systems. Our goal is to have this operational by October. We gave a challenge to all of this year’s volunteers to go home and raise $250 each for this much needed facility.
The rest of the team was a joy to watch. I could see that Cathy picked up right off with those she had friended before and spent several days cooking with the cook staff. Krista and Aman did too as well as doing other things such as playing with the kids. Aman is a big kid and connected right away with the older kids showing them how to use a program to edit music and could be seen jumping rope and running foot races. He also worked with Jeff and Dumpling to cut down and bring back a tree for the cook fires. Krista and Cathy have both decided to sponsor a child each – and Kristas accounting firm is looking at purchasing large orders of cards from Maisha to mail to their clients as thank you and Christmas cards. I think the first order is for 1000. Enterprise expansion.
As always – the time went too fast and we found ourselves heading home. I think that Team Arkansas had a successful mission trip—one indicator is that Krista and Aman are already talking about going back. Since they live in California now—perhaps it will be a toe hold of future support just as I Cathy and I have found support from our family, classmates and friends from Michigan….
For those of you reading this – I ask that you consider helping us finish the kitchen. A small donation of your own towards the kitchen and challenge you too—to help raise $250 from your support base…. And become part of our “Bricks of Love” project…..
Oh— Cathy and I are officially “Engaged now” in the Kenyan tradition! Thank you Mama Grace, Widows and everyone involved for the fun ceremony you put on for us! TEAM ARKANSAS—TEAM MAISHA!