When you see my eyes well with happiness, you will find dignity there.
Story written by Becky Straw
I wish I could take you here. I wish I could take you by the hand, and sit you next to me on Hannah’s couch. To experience her story in person.
I sat and appreciated the modest house, just one small living room, flanked by two simple quarters on either side. A single light bulb hung from the tin roof, and dozens of baby chicks chirped relentlessly outside. Inside, I admired the walls, every inch covered with images. Soccer posters, old calendars and embroidered wall hangings. Looking closer I saw that they were bible verses, stitched in between happy flowers; “To whom much is given, much is expected.”
Upon our arrival, Hannah shrieked playfully, like so many women would, “You have arrived early, don’t film me yet - I haven’t done my hair!” We laughed and nodded in understanding as she ducked into the next room.
While I waited as she primped, I asked her son, Steve, how he’s doing in school. He modestly mumbled, “good,” like a typical teenage boy, even walking with the gait of a sudden growth spurt. I pushed harder until he finally puts aside his 7th grade indifference and confessed to us his dream. “When I grow up I want to work in hospitality management.”
“Why?” we ask.
His neighbor is a hotel manager, and he has a good house, he admitted. There’s also a chance that the President might come in to his hotel, and that would be very exciting. It’s a modest dream, but it’s achievable. It’s possible because he has excellent grades and because of his family. Because of his mother.
Outside, Hannah hands me a large package, wrapped in yellowed plastic tarp and tied up with string, like a present. I balance it awkwardly. It takes me a minute to realize, “Oh, this is your irrigation pump.”
Kuyu, the marketing manager for Kickstart, looks at me and smiles, speaking softly, “It’s funny that she wraps it like this, it’s chip-resistant paint. It’s not going to rust or be damaged.” Hannah has had her pump for two years. It still looks brand new.
We tread carefully down a slope to her small garden, walking through trees until we reach a clearing where the sky opens up before us. Fruits and vegetables of every variety lay in neat little rows. Huge fuchsia flowers bloom wildly along her fence. It’s an unexpected eden.
Carefully, she unwraps her pump and goes to work. Hannah’s farming business has tripled since she purchased her irrigation pump, a fact she is keenly aware of.
Her story is not unique. The benefits of one pump are astronomical. A pump can increase harvests by 3-4 times per year, and can irrigate up to 2 acres of land per day. One pump has the ability to move a farmer and their family from poverty into the middle class in just one harvest.
The irony of Africa is that 75% of all subsistence farmers’ children go hungry, for they cannot even grow enough to feed their own families. With an irrigation pump, farmers suddenly have so much food that they can sell their surplus in local markets. Earning enough to send an average of 1.5 of their children to school for the first time.
As hard as I try, I can’t think of an any single item in America to compare the pump to. What’s the one physical item we have in the U.S. that can transform a poor family struggling to feed themselves into nearly instant middle-class entrepreneurs?
After Hannah finished watering her garden, she grabbed her old bucket, filled it with water from her small well, and did something I didn’t expect. She began painstakingly washing every inch of her pump free of mud and dirt. Thoughtfully. Methodically. As if she was caring for a precious child.
After twenty minutes she carefully took the pump, laid it on the plastic, tied it up with string, and rolled the hose into a neat coil. I asked if she did this routine every day.
“No,” Hannah replied. “Plants only need to be watered every other day.” In her own way, she answered my question. I took my notebook out of my backpack and wrote one word in the margin. Value.
Hannah and her husband bought this pump themselves. The Adventure Project is helping to subsidize the costs of Kickstart’s program, so that the pump can be sold at an affordable price. No determined farmer is too destitute to pay, and Kickstart even developed a layaway program for those truly in need.
With the income generated from selling her crops, Hannah has invested in chickens and now sells eggs along with her produce. She can also afford her son’s school fees and he will never miss school again because they can’t afford to buy him socks and shoes.
No longer toiling all day under the hot sun, carrying a bucket, plopping water and drenching seedlings, Hannah now has time for her favorite activity, she tells us joyfully - teaching Sunday School at her church.
I cannot think of one investment more precious. More valuable.
This is the Kenya I know and love. The story I want you to be part of. There is no longing. No begging. No swollen bellies or hungry eyes. If there are tears, they are mine. And maybe yours. Welling with happiness. For me, I know I’ve found my calling. The opportunity to play a small role in giving something more valuable than gold; a job.
Story written by Becky Straw, Co-Founder and Chief Adventurer at The Adventure Project
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