Today I went to visit women in the demonstration garden in Kisumu, sponsored by Mama Hope. These Mama’s are tough! (Mama is what you call an elderly woman in Africa) These little old women were pulling buckets of water out from a 70 foot well. A three gallon bucket was attached to a rope. They would drop the bucket down the well, and then pull it up with their arm strength. Imagine yourself pulling 3 gallons of milk, attached to a rope, up 70 feet in the air. Hard right? Now imagine your grandmother doing this… Now imagine your grandmother doing this 50+ times!
Once the Mama got a full bucket of water she would take the bucket and walk to the various parts of the garden to hand water the vegetables. I would never make it being a woman in the garden. That physical labor in 100 degree weather… Wow!
The women in the garden were actually very happy to be working there. They felt the garden was a blessing and told us that it had changed their lives. The purpose of the demonstration garden is to teach the women agriculture skills, generate income, and serve as a women’s group for psychological health.
We took a trip to some of the Mama’s houses so that we could witness the benefits of this garden. One mama was named Ann. She was a widow, taking care of her two sons. She told us that because of the training she got in the demonstration garden, she was able to plant her own garden and grow vegetables to feed her family. She said that this training enabled her to live independent and for her sons to no longer be malnourished.
Another Mama we met, Pamela, was in a very critical condition and was so grateful for her training in the demonstration garden. Her husband was sick with HIV/AIDS and had recently become bed ridden. She was then left to the challenge of making the money to feed the family, including herself, her 5 children and husband. Pamela learned how to grow vegetables such as corn, onions and sukumowiki in the demonstration garden. Shortly after, she made her own garden and began growing vegetables at her house. She now produces enough to feed her family and a surplus which she sells at the market generating income to buy medicine, pay school fees, and other expenses. She knows in the future she will also become sick like her husband, and her children will be left. She has trained her daughters in agriculture just as she was trained and is confident that with these skills they will survive in her absence. Pamela feels her training in the garden has brought her children hope for the future.
I know these stories paint you a picture of sad lives for these women but the truth is, despite all their immense challenges, they are happy. They accept life for what it is, and that it is not easy. In the garden they provide support for each other and are able to talk about their problems. They sing and dance as a way to release their tensions and celebrate that they are alive. They have a joy about themselves, and are so full of hope. These women are a true inspiration!
I’m so happy to finally get a chance to meet the Mamas who inspired the name “Mama Hope”.
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