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Friday, November 20, 2009

Friday Friend Shout Out: Gardens For Health International

This friday I would like to give a big shout out to a small organization in Kigali, Rwanda called Gardens For Health.

When I decided to move to Rwanda I knew that I wanted to use my health counseling training to do work here that involved nutritional counseling, but I wasn’t sure what opportunities I would find. So I began searching the internet for organizations that might have opportunities for me, that I could also feel good about working with.

When I came across Gardens for Health I was both impressed and excited, as it seemed a perfect fit for me. To date, GHI (Gardens for Health International) works with 10 different co-operatives in the Gasabo district of Kigali, an area on the outskirts of the urban center of the city. They have teamed up with these co-ops in order to supply land for planting gardens that not only feed households who have members living with HIV/AIDS, but also teach members of those households how to plant, sustain and harvest the crops. With this, they can maintain a level of food security, all while introducing them to healthy foods to support their immune systems, which is essential while being treated with antiretroviral therapy. Most of the crops that are grown on the co-operative land are used directly to feed the households, but they are also starting to grow maize (corn), a main component used in food aid in impoverished countries, that can be sold and used to support the families’ incomes.

GHI also supports 150 individual households by supplying them with seeds and tools to start their own home garden. I will be helping GHI conduct surveys with these households to see how well they are sustaining their gardens and how well they benefit from them.

All pretty amazing right? Even more impressive is that the organization is run in Kigali by country director Julie Carney, a 23 year old fellow New Jersian! Julie leads a team consisting of two agronomists, a nutritionist, and a project coordinator, to make sure that the communities and cooperatives are working together seamlessly, providing security to those in need.

The first time that I met Julie, she was showing me GHI’s demo garden when a beautiful young girl named Francoise came to visit. I took the photo above of Francoise picking dodo, a local green in the demo garden that day. When I inquired about the girl, Julie told me that her mother, a former prostitute who suffers from AIDS, is one of the members that participates in their program. She also told me of 14 year old Francoise’s battle with cancer. She had lived with a massive tumor for many many years that was recently removed and she is now receiving chemotherapy at a local hospital. I was further impressed by Julie’s compassion for helping people when I asked how Francoise's family can afford the medical bills and she admitted that she has paid for Francoise’s operation and chemo treatments herself.

I am so happy to be able to help out Julie and Gardens for Health as much as I can while I stay here in Rwanda. I can not wait to visit the homes of their members and see first hand what they have done to help them!

You, too can help GHI receive funding by voting for GHI as a favorite hunger-related charity. Vote by visiting the following website, clicking on the yellow “give here” button, scroll to the Hunger Charity Poll and vote for Gardens for Health! You will help out Julie and her team and feed the hungry in the process!


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