Friday, January 25, 2013

Feel Good Friday - Katie's Krops

Like Meryl Streep, we're out of Africa this week and heading over to South Carolina.  Although no windmills are involved this time, it's another story about a young person who is much more mature and motivated than I was when I was a kid.

When Katie Stagliano was 9 she brought home a tiny cabbage seedling home from school as part of the Bonnie Plants 3rd Grade Cabbage Program.  She tended to her cabbage and cared for it until it grew to an amazing 40 pounds. Knowing her cabbage was special she donated to a soup kitchen where it helped to feed over 275 people.  Moved by the experience of seeing how many people could benefit from the donation of fresh produce to soup kitchens, Katie decided to start vegetable gardens and donate the harvest to help feed people in need.

It's 5 years later and Katie's Krops has 51 gardens in 21 states!  Not only that, she is the youngest recipient of the Clinton Global Initiative's Global Citizen Awards.  That's a lot more accomplished than I was at 14!

If you've got a green thumb and are between the ages of 9-16 (or know someone who is) you can apply for a grant from Katie's Krops to start a garden of your own and deliver fresh fruits and vegetables to food banks in your community.

It's time to start digging!

Friday, January 18, 2013

Feel Good Friday - Boomu Women's Group

We're spending another Feel Good Friday in Africa, but this week we're moving from Malawi to Uganda. The journey goes so much faster on the internet than it does on the bus - believe me, I've done it. 

Weaving baskets and nursing babies.
When I was in Uganda in 2007, I had the pleasure of staying in Kigaragara with the Boomu Women's Group.  The group has around 40 members from the villages of Kihaguzi and Kigaragara who are all subsistence farmers, meaning that most food that is grown is for domestic consumption and what is left is taken to the market.

In 1999, there was little produce left over to sell so the women´s group was formed with the aim of reducing poverty and malnutrition, and providing an income for the members to be able to pay their children´s school fees. What began as a craft group selling baskets has evolved into a wonderful community tourism project, with accommodation in traditional bandas, a restaurant, unique guided tours and a well-tended garden.

The famous Edna!
I went on the community and cooking tours with Edna Biabili, one of the founding members of the group.  She has great knowledge of the surrounding nature, knows all her neighbors and interprets while you chat with them, and she can dig cassava out of the ground and chop down banana leaves faster than anyone I know!

Every nest is full of birds and
this is only part of the tree!
The number of birds that nest in the trees (and the constant chirping) is unbelievable for someone whose avian sightings consist mainly of seagulls eating sourdough bread bowls at Fisherman's Wharf.  Fortunately, like you and me, they sleep at night. The accommodations are basic, clean and safe - and it's kind of cool to say you slept in a banda.  Next stop, yurt.
The banda is inviting, no?
Boomu is supported by the Uganda Community Tourism Association (UCOTA), a national group that aims to involve local people in the planning, decision-making and implementation of tourism development activities. This form of tourism assures that as many of the benefits as possible stay in the local community.

You can watch a short video I made about my visit - and yes, the name of the Spanish volunteer in the video translates to Black Sea in English.

Whether you stay with them in Uganda, buy a basket online or just experience a warm fuzzy feeling inside - I wanted you to know about the Boomu Women's Group.  Happy Friday!

Friday, January 11, 2013

Feel Good Friday - Moving Windmills

It's a cold, windy Friday in San Francisco (well, cold for California) and that made me think of William Kamkwamba.

William lives in a village in Malawi that (in 2002) had no electricity or running water and was suffering from drought.  His family was struggling to survive and he had to drop out of school as they couldn't afford the $80 school fees.

William's 1st windmill
Only 14 at the time, he read a book from the library about windmills which said they could be used to generate electricity and pump water.  He built a windmill from bicycle parts, gum trees and bamboo poles.  It worked well enough to bring electricity to power radios and enable his family read and study at night.  His second windmill turned a water pump so his family could irrigate their crops and fight the effects of the drought.  

Word of his accomplishment started to spread and since then, William has continued with his education, given two TED talks, written a book for children, The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind, and a version for adults.

His work inspired the creation of an organization called Moving Windmills Project in 2008.  They pursue rural economic development and education projects in Malawi.

All of this started with one 14 year old boy with curiosity, initiative and determination! You can watch a 6 minute documentary about William and his windmill here for a little inspiration.

As he says at the end of his TED talk "Trust yourself and believe.  Whatever happens, don't give up."

Friday, January 4, 2013

Feel Good Friday - Three Squares

Happy New Year! 

A lot of people make New Year's resolutions about food and thinking about that made me hungry! That's why today's Feel Good Friday focuses on a group in the San Francisco Bay Area that provides nutrition education and improved access to healthy food in low-income communities. 

Introducing Three Squares.  Their tag line is "Changing the food system, three squares at a time." and that's exactly what they do with their Cooking Matters program.  

Julia Child
(will not be teaching the class)
Cooking Matters is a free, six-week long series of cooking and nutrition classes for low-income families.  Classes are taught by volunteer culinary and nutrition instructions working in teams - perhaps even you!

If your cooking skills are like mine and you'd be better off taking a class rather than teaching it, there are other ways to support this organization.  My plan is to attend their first ever Food and Farm Film Fest, happening March 29-31, 2013 at the Roxie Theater in San Francisco, California. This unique film festival will pair local chefs with new films to create a delicious feast for the eyes and mouth. 

See you there!