3 things and a newsletter

Canaan Gondwe found Moringa powder at a health fair in Malawi.

Canaan Gondwe found Moringa powder at a health fair in Malawi.

1. Fall newsletter is here!

The newsletter is off to the printers! You can get early access to the stories and photos of local empowerment (in FULL COLOR!) by downloading a copy here.

2. Grant impact continues in Ghana

In 1992, even before SIA was officially born, Del Anderson sponsored Newton Amaglo to learn about the “miracle tree” Moringa. The encouragement, support, and information has made a lasting impact. For the last three years, Newton has been traveling back and forth between his native Ghana and China where he is researching Moringa as part of a PhD in Food Science!

A 2008 SIA grant to Newton and his team of researchers in Ghana helped them start Moringa garden plots in schools and prisons. (Read about the prison project here.)

Moringa is highly nutritious and fast-growing, which makes it a good supplement for the poor diets of vulnerable Ghanaians. Newton wrote me this week saying, “The legacy [of the project you funded] still lingers on and has been taking different impacts and dimensions.”

Further proof that a small grant can ripple out to reach many more people than ever imagined.

For more about Newton and Moringa, see here and here.

3. When things don’t work out, share.

Feel-good story of the day: Family Hosts 200 Homeless People for Dinner After Daughter’s Wedding Gets Called Off

4. Pray for Kenya

The standoff between militants and Kenyan forces at a Nairobi mall seems finally to be over, after three full days of terror and over 70 deaths. (Read the latest news here.) There are reports that some of the militants were Somali-Americans from Minnesota, though it hasn’t been confirmed. The situation worries and saddens me and so I ask you to keep all involved, including Somali communities around the world, in your prayers.

Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.

Local Action Shapes Lives in Ghana

Women with fuel-efficient stoves in Ghana.

Women with fuel-efficient stoves in Ghana.

“Even though you might not see face-to-face how lives are changing, I want to let you know that your support is transforming so many lives in our community,” began Alexander Kedje of Shape Lives Foundation, Ghana in a recent email to me.

When we think of charity in Africa, big name organizations are probably the first to come to mind. We hear about World Vision, UNICEF, and Heifer International but it’s the small, unknown, local organizations like Shape Lives Foundation that are perfectly situated to help people in their own communities.

These local organizations, as the blogger Jennifer Lentfer points out, are able to best understand the situation on the ground, and are already rooted and integrated into the community. Where the large international organizations have to work hard to meet people and promote projects, local leaders like Alexander are already known and respected by the people they serve.

I’ve been in contact with Alexander and Shape Lives Foundation for two years now and I am always so excited to see the progress they are making toward empowering the poor and raising the standard of living for the women in their area.

Part of Del Anderson’s mission for Spirit in Action was to encourage and promote local leaders and so, although we have not given a grant to Shape Lives Foundation, I share with you a few highlights from 2011 so that you too can appreciate their local work and service:

* Twenty-five women are now employed in their Moringa Processing Center, plucking the leaves and grinding them into a powder. This great video shows how they process the Moringa leaves into a highly nutritious dietary supplement.
* 1200 Moringa trees have been replanted to grow more leaves to process in 2012.
* Seven women received fuel-efficient stoves and training. Not only will the stoves produce less smoke, they also make it so the women do not have to gather or buy as much wood to cook meals.

Congratulations, Shape Lives Foundation! And we stand with you as your continue your important work in 2012.

Take action, for it is your duty, and we are with you; be strong, and do it. –Ezra 10:4

Related posts:

A Phone Call from Ghana

Ring, ring…. “Hello?”

“Hello, it’s Newton from Ghana! The world just got a lot smaller…”

So began my Skype conversation yesterday with Newton Amaglo, one of Spirit in Action’s partners in Kumasi, Ghana. Using Skype to “call” me for free online, Newton could see and hear me in real time! It was an exciting experience to hear his voice and catch a quick update on his work growing Moringa plants.

SIA Board member, John Bayer, recently returned from a trip to Senegal and has been enthusiastically networking to see how Moringa might be used in prisons there. John wrote in an email, “We visited the prison while we were there and were shocked at the really terrible conditions with the 700 inmates all living in very cramped facilities with only one meal a day unless they had families in the area to bring them food in the afternoons. Many were malnourished and some were suffering from skin disease/parasites from the very thin infested mattresses they slept on. Don’t need to go on for you to see the huge need here. All I can think of is Newton Amaglo and the Moringa leaf powder and the results he has had, especially with the prison inmates.

In July 2010, I wrote about how Newton and others on his research team used a SIA Community Grant to train prison employees to grow Moringa. This fast growing and important nutritional supplement can be added to the food of the inmates in the prison infirmaries to great benefit.

Yesterday, Newton told me that they recently trained two more prison employees to grow and process the Moringa. Together, they are building a drier to dry the Moringa leaves, and a mill to grind them into a fine powder to add to the inmates’ soup.

The most efficient way to grow Moringa is in a densely packed square-foot garden and in one season the plants can grow 7 meters (23 ft) over a number of harvests! Above is a picture of one of the researchers demonstrating how to cut the leaves and still keep the plant alive.

Newton said that the prisons all had garden plots that had fallen into disuse. With the gift of training and Moringa seedlings, Newton has since seen a revived interest in gardening at the prisons. He is hopeful that more people will discover the immense health benefits of Moringa and use it more often as a food supplement.

Spirit in Action’s mission is to create a “worldwide network” and this connection between Senegal and Ghana is just part of it – and the Skype call with Newton Amaglo helped that worldwide network feel a little bit more close-knit!

Related posts:

SIA grant helps prisoners in Ghana

‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’ –Matthew 25:40

Part of our mission at SIA is to serve God by empowering others. The passage above clearly states that, indeed, the best way to serve God is to help others, especially those in need. In the Bible parable, those who helped did so by providing clothing, caring for the sick, and visiting those in prison.

Prison officers and their wives enjoy Moringa enriched meat pies.

Prison officers and their wives enjoy Moringa-enriched meat pies.

An inspiring expression of this good action, Newton Amaglo, a SIA grant recipient and professor at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology in Ghana, is now working with over 400 officers and 2,000 inmates at four prisons new Kumasi to help them improve their diets.

So far Newton and his team have contributed free samples, 50 grams for each prisoner, of the highly nutritious Moringa leaf powder to the prisons. That’s a significant supplement to the prison diet, especially considering that just one gram of Moringa has the same nutrients as:

nutrition facts for Moringa

Considering the rumors of poor food in prisons in the US, we could take this as a lesson!

In these Ghanaian prisons, now, the leaves are used in tea and as a supplement in meat pies. Newton and his team have also recommended Moringa for use in the infirmary because of its many know medicinal healing qualities.

This is not just a handout; Newton also knows the importance of training the inmates. When giving aid the best help leaves the recipient with skills they can use long into the future. As such, Newton claims that the greatest success of the project so far is that “the prisoners are learning the technology of Moringa cultivation and processing so that they can live their lives on it even after serving their sentences.”

Not only do we want to care for our brothers and sisters, we also want to care for our earth. Moringa helps with this too. Newton, who also works as Scientific Manager for Moringa Partners, a Moringa discussion forum, recently recorded this podcast about the ways that Morniga can help combat global warming. (His voice is pretty difficult to hear, but the information is very interesting.) Since Moringa grows so quickly, it can help reforest the denuded land. Its green leaves are also high in chlorophyll and in the podcast Newton tells how these trees can absorb carbon dioxide at a faster rate than an average tree. Another interesting fact: there are currently studies being conducted to see if Moringa can reliably used as a biofuel, reducing our dependence on fossil fuels. If you want to read more, Trees for Life has a good, reputable resource page about Moringa.

Wow! Every time I read about Moringa, it is a bit clearer why people call it the “Miracle Tree”. And Newton’s work visibly embodies our passion for providing individuals with simple tools that can drastically improve their lives.

50g Moringa samples are handed over to the prison officers

50g Moringa samples are handed over to the prison officers

Children's book about micro-finance

The best part about talking to librarians is that they know about books on almost any topic! It was through a librarian friend that I heard about the children’s book One Hen: How One Small Loan Made a Big Difference by Katie Smith Milway and Eugene Fernandes. This beautifully illustrated book tells the inspiring story of a boy in Ghana, named Kojo, who starts a small business with a loan to buy one chicken.

The book, for children and adults alike, clearly shows how micro-finance works to change the lives of a family, community, town and country. On the grassroots level, people in a community pool their savings together to create a small loan fund. As the story explains “None of the twenty families in the village have very much money, but they do have a good idea. Each family promises to save a bit of money so that one family can borrow all the savings to buy something important” (p.7). The families take turns borrowing the money to start or expand their businesses. When they pay back the loan, another family gets a chance to borrow the funds.

Small business woman with her chickens

SIA small business grant recipient in Kenya with her chickens

This idea is what Spirit in Action calls a “merry-go-round” loan or a micro-savings group. In fact, one of the grant proposals approved at the June 2010 Board meeting helps establish a small-scale chicken project in Malawi, where the profits are added to the micro-savings pot, to be lent to different communities members on a rotating basis.

Giving people a chance to borrow money gives them a chance to make an investment in their future. In the story, which is based on the real life story of Kwabena Darko, Kojo borrows a few coins to buy one chicken. He takes care of the chicken, selling its eggs in the market so that he can pay back the loan and buy more chickens to expand his flock. He and his mom also eat some of the eggs to add more protein to their diets. After a year Kojo has made enough to go to school!

Kojo and his mom also benefit emotionally from the initial loan. “Kojo is proud of his eggs. And his mother is proud of Kojo. Bit by bit, one small hen is making a big difference” (p. 11).

Del Anderson knew just how much a few words of encouragement could bring hope to a person’s life. People who know they are loved and supported are more confident in all their enterprises! That’s why, for SIA, sharing and communicating with all our international partners is an important part of our mission. As Del always reminded people: Don’t let impossibilities intimidate you ~ do let possibilities motivate you.

This women's small poultry business experienced high demand for eggs

If you want to find out about just how successful Kojo is in his chicken enterprise, why not check out One Hen? And then read it to a friend or a child and get them thinking about how one small gift can make a significant difference in our world.

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