cassava leavesShe picks the leaves off the cassava plant with her baby strapped to her back, focusing on gathering enough for her large family. Looking for the softest leaves, she focuses her efforts on the top part of the cassava plant, leaving the rest of the plant to continue growing so that so that one day, soon, she will harvest the cassava root itself.  Moving from plant to plant, she picks quickly, able to get what she needs in little more than 10 minutes, due to her speed and experience. She bends over the large metal basin, placing stacks of leaves on top of each other until it is completely full. She continues picking until she cannot possibly fit another leaf and carefully places the basin on her head for the walk home. The baby sleeps, comfortable against the warmth of her back as she walks down the road, bobbing gently against her but secure thanks to the blanket that holds him against his mama.

Once she reaches home, she takes the baby into her home, placing him on the mat so he can continue his nap while she starts to prepare dinner. She rinses the leaves and using a liboka (a large wooden pestle) and a nzungu (a large wooden bowl), she crushes the leaves until they are small and very tender. The sound of the liboka against the nzungu is deep and resonant, echoing through the open, dirt front yard, joining the sound made in other households as everyone prepares their evening meal.  

crushing cassava leaves

When she knows the leaves are ready, she puts the green mass in a pot with a little water and places the pot over the open fire to cook. When the leaves are cooked down, she adds some palm oil, salt, garlic or onion, and peanut butter, allowing the leaves to cook more. This is a daily chore, as she serves this staple at almost every meal, providing loads of antioxidants, vitamins and nourishment to her family.

ponduBy participating in #PassMyPlate, you will be allowing us to provide seeds for gardens full of cassava, cabbage, tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, and so many other valuable vegetables and fruit to families who desperately need them. Your donations also provide gardening tools and training so families can provide for themselves and their communities. Thanks for registering today! 



Another beneficiary familyWelcome to Distribution Day! This is the best day for our families and for everyone involved in AFCA’s Livelihoods Program. Each beneficiary family arrives early to the training center, so happy and excited, yet cautious because they are receiving such an incredible gift. I believe the responsibility weighs heavily on their shoulders, knowing that this is the beginning of a new life for them. 

After many trainings, they are ready – they have an approved animal shelter ready for their animals; they have a way to feed them every day, thanks to gardens they started growing months ago; they have a water source so the animals stay hydrated and even have a water filter; they know how to help the animals if birthing is difficult or if they have worms or anemia or any other simple illness; they know that they will receive weekly visits from the supervisors, ensuring that the family and the animals are doing well. They know all of this, yet, they are still nervous because they know this is the moment they have been looking towards for so long. They thank us over and over again. It is a very good day for all of us.

William and his family

Today, William's family stands out to me and will stay in my heart for a long time. William is just five years old and lives with his aunt and uncle, having been orphaned by AIDS. He is HIV+ but is in excellent health right now. I note the sparkle in his eyes and I think he understands how important these new goats are to his family. They hold hope for many things for this family's future, including nutrition and the money for William to one day attend school. Of course, the family can also purchase the medicine William will one day need to combat the virus he carries.

Third beneficiary family

I wish you could see for yourself how life-changing it really is for our beneficiaries and how through some common-sense gifts and training, families are lifting themselves out of poverty. It is so exciting and I know I am just as excited as the families are. Distribution Day is when the work really begins and when hope really shines.

The team here at AFCA thanks you for supporting this project and the work we do for the children in Africa. If you would like to help more children like William to become food secure, please join #PassMyPlate. 

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eggplant ladyMarie Fan stands proudly, holding one of her prized eggplants for me to see. It is huge! Brilliantly purple and larger than any eggplant I have ever seen, she had just plucked it from one of her 135 eggplant plants in the field she is currently harvesting with her husband. Besides eggplant, she also has cassava, peanuts, beans, corn, onions, hot peppers, and 41 tomato plants. 41! That is a lot of tomatoes!!

Marie Fan and her husband have 6 biological children, all of which still live with them. To this large family, they added her brother’s two children when he died, plus two additional orphaned children. Now, with 10 children to raise, their garden, along with the goats provided by AFCA, has become a source of income and of stability for the family. From renting a small hut to now leasing to buy, this family has dreams and it all started with some training, 4 goats, garden tools, and seeds.

The gardens – yes, multiple gardens - are amazing. They are well kept and maintained. It is easy to see that there is pride in how this garden is looked after and it is understandable why the family puts so much effort into it. While providing food for the large family, excess vegetables were initially sold with the sole purpose of paying for entrance exams for the older children to go to high school. They all passed their exams and all the school aged children are attending school daily. With the sale of corn, their uniforms were purchased, as well as their schoolbooks and supplies. Let me repeat: every school aged child in this family is going to school! I could feel Marie Fan’s joy and pride as she revealed this fact, this seeming impossibility – that eight of the children are in school and that the youngest two will join school as soon as they are old enough. What a mystery this whole thing is to the family – that someone far, far away though that they are important enough to invest in. That someone who does not know them decided that they have value and that they deserve a future.

This mystery is no longer foreign to them, though, because they now are the givers. They made the decision as a family that excess peanuts would not be sold, but rather, given to others who need them. The poor giving to the poorer. The hopeful giving hope to the hopeless. What joy there is in giving!

We invite you to register for #PassMyPlate and be part of this cycle of giving. Check it out! This just might what you’ve been looking for. Click below for more information.

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martin modeawanA small man with a wide smile, Martin Modeawan shakes my hand vigorously when I visit him. He grins as he welcomes us to his home, urging us to sit in the seats he has placed outside his hut, under a mango tree. With big green leaves, the tree provides shade on this hot day and we sit across from him, feeling his excitement and joy. I take out my little orange notebook, asking the same questions I ask of every family we meet to start the conversation going – how many children are you raising? How many of them are adopted? Do you have elderly people living with you? What gifts did you receive from AFCA?

Martin answers each question earnestly and I write, taking notes quickly because I want this part of the trip to be over, releasing me to actually converse with him and to hear him. I sense he has a lot to say and I want to listen carefully, so I understand what it is about him that compels me so.

Martin and his wife have five biological children and three adopted children, he tells us. The adopted children are nephews and a niece, as his sister died of AIDS a while ago, leaving the children orphaned. He received four sheep from AFCA, along with gardening tools, seeds, loads of training, a solar light, water filter, and follow up visits.

martin and his family

With the formal questions answered, I lean in and ask, “how have things changed for you?”

martin explaining to tanya weaver how he plants his gardenHis grin widens even more and he jumps to his feet, urging us to follow him. He leads us to his garden where he excitedly recollects what a mess it used to be. He says he did not have a clue as to what to grow and where. He did not know how to start seedlings, keeping them protected from the harsh sun and driving rains. He did not know about mulching or composting. How, he does, and it has made all the difference. He proudly and seriously shows me the tiny plants that have taken root, as well as the huge pile of corn he and his family have harvested. He credits his stash of vegetables, peanuts, corn, and beans to excellent training received and to the constant follow up done by the staff.

The gift of four sheep has multiplied, as well, and two are currently pregnant. He says he is ready to help birth those kids if trouble were to arise, as he is trained in this, as well. He goes between the sheep to his stored corn, ready for the next planting season. I can’t help but be as excited as he is, knowing that what we are witnessing is a miracle. This man, his wife and children have a future because of a small kindness given to them. Amazing stuff.

martin showing his peanutsShyly he asks if we can possibly buy a corn grinder for the project. I ask him to expound on his request and he explain that the community could share the grinder, each paying a small fee to use it. The money would be kept for upkeep of the machine and everyone would benefit from having it at their disposal. I tell him I like his idea and that we will see what we can do. Gratefully, he pumps my hand up and down, excited with the possibility of the corn grinder, knowing it will make the lives of the community women easier, as they are the ones tasked with this job. 

As I walk away from Martin, his smile stays with me.

Stories like Martin’s are only possible if AFCA has the funds to purchase supplies and build facilities for gardening and animal husbandry. Participating in Pass My Plate is an excellent way to make sure communities helped by AFCA are able to become food secure. To contribute, visit our website to sign up for Pass My Plate and help families like Martin’s.

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KatelynHer name is Katelyn and she is an AIDS widow who lives in Karusandara in western Uganda. A hard worker, she is an HIV+ mother to three children who wants what is best for them, knowing how difficult life can be without an education.

Katelyn has benefited from the three trainings received by AFCA’s partner, Baylor-Uganda: crop production, animal production and village saving and loans. When asked, she says she is very happy with this AFCA project because of the great things she has been able to achieve thanks to the hand-up she received when she was selected as a beneficiary. Katelyn tell us, “The AFCA project has changed my life. I was given knowledge in the form of trainings in both crop and animal production which has greatly improved my farming and rearing practices. The village loaning and saving association in which we trained and started is also doing well! I was given some goats and my animal project has grown enough that I was able to sell some in order to cover some unplanned costs.”

Changing lives is what AFCA’s livestock and seed project is all about. We have proven time and again that with proper training, the gift of specific items, monthly visits, extended counseling and management, and continued support, families who had no hope of ever breaking out of abject poverty can do just that. Families eat better thanks to veggies and fruit they grow, the milk produced by their goats and eggs given by their chickens. Excess food is sold, providing money for school fees and other necessities. And, as herds and flocks multiply, other needs are addressed. In her words, Katelyn explains the next part of her family’s journey, “I have bought cement, sand and gravel to use in the building of my home. I hope to complete the house after this harvesting season. We will have a home to call our own soon."

What an amazing feat! The combination of a hand-up, training and hard work has created in this family a feeling of hope and the certainty that they can fend for themselves. They are thrilled to be part of this project and urge us to continue adding families to it so that they, too, can know what it is to be hopeful. In order for that to happen, we need you. We need you to be part of #PassMyPlate and to donate what you’d normally spend in a week on groceries. It is not impossible to change a family’s life. Will you? Register today here:

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greenhouse girlsCheck this out! This lovely group of young women have just graduated from the Sandra Jones Centre Vocational Skills Training School (SJC).  Each one has had extensive training in greenhouse farming, as well as traditional farming. Six of the girls have been chosen to move on to an internship program with three of them working on at the Sandra Jones Centre and three are joining Providence Farm, where AFCA has established another greenhouse project. The internship program has proven to be a wonderful opportunity for the students to put their training into practice while having the protection of staff to monitor their progress. Three girls from the last internship program have done so well and achieved so much that the Sandra Jones Centre is now considering employing them full-time.

greenhouse girls 2The next group of girls has just joined the SJC for the 2020 vocational skills program. For the next 12 months, this group will receive training in running a broiler chicken project, a layer chicken project, a piggery, worm farming, and greenhouse farming. In 2016, AFCA allowed the SJC to add the greenhouse component, pledging 10 large greenhouses. Quickly, this project has become the most popular module in the training program and it is likely because the girls can see huge returns for their hard work. Here, they learn how to set up a greenhouse (bottom to top1), how to set up an irrigation system, how to compost and mulch (yes, they carry in the incredibly large amount of compost and good dirt required), how to start seedlings, how to transplant the seedlings, how to care for the maturing plants, how to grow vertically if tomatoes, cucumbers or peppers are the plants of choice for the season, how to water, harvest, sort, package, and sell the fruits and vegetables. The learning is intense!

greenhouse girls 3Much more than a program where girls learn a skill, the SJC and AFCA have created a place where young abused and broken girls become resilient, hard-working, eager to learn, and curious. Not only are the girls being trained and employed, but they are learning many valuable lessons each day! Lessons include business skills, financial management, the importance of hard work and integrity, teamwork, goal setting, conflict resolution, and honesty. As though all of this were not enough, through the hands-on training, the girls are helping feed the 140+ who live at SJC, making the center a food secure institution, unlike most of the country of Zimbabwe. Excess food is sold in the community, allowing the girls to save for the day they leave the center. What a gift! Food, security, love, education, and savings!

By helping Pass My Plate, you make it possible for girls to get an education at the SJC and help their communities. If you are interested in participating and raising money for AFCA projects and programs, click on the button below. Your support is appreciated!

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