Doing Good with Greenhouses

Greenhouses are something you may not think much about… especially when it comes to promoting social justice. But, in many parts of the world where food and finances are scarce, greenhouses can provide a sustainble food source, as well as income generating opportunities. These small glass buildings are designed to optimize plant growth and grant communities access to fresh produce throughout the year. We’ve created several greenhouse projects in Kenya, which have been successful in providing vegetables and generating funding for children, and we’re currently setting up another one.

Here’s our greenhouses being installed in Kenya.

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Nearing harvest time with the tomatoes grown at the greenhouse.

In Nakuru, we installed six greenhouses, which grow lettuce, cabbage, onions, kale, spinach, green peppers, and red beets. By growing their own fresh produce, this children’s home has been able to save thousands of dollars that was normally spent on food costs. Some of that money has been reinvested into the project, through the implementation of a drip line system. The drip lines save water waste, as well as cost and time from the gardeners. Through selling the extra vegetables in the market, they’ve also been able to purchase cooking charcoal for the meals of the over 200 children who live at the home.

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The plants are flourishing at our greenhouse.

We also setup a greenhouse project in Nairobi, which has been producing thousands of pounds of vegetables. Among the varieties of produce grown are lettuce, tomatoes, kale and spinach, all of which go first to the 57 children who live at the home benefitting from the greenhouse. After that, the surplus produce is sold in the markets and the profits then cover their educational costs. In Kenya older children have to pay school fees to continue their studies… and with this greenhouse, these kids can!

A teacher at the home educating the children in Nairobi.

A teacher at the home educating the children in Nairobi.

At another location in Nairobi, we’re working on a greenhouse project that will provide food for 43 children. Like the other greenhouse projects, this one will first guarantee access to fresh, health vegetables to the kids everyday- something many of us take for granted. After that, the excess produce will be sold for profits, which will guarantee the children’s education. Also like our earlier projects, this greenhouse is environmentally friendly, and sustainable, as the income generated covers the cost of maintenance and gardeners. Find out more about this upcoming project and how you can be a part of a green revolution that puts food on the table and keeps kids in school.

 

Menstruation: Normal, Natural and Neglected

There exists a normal body function that affects the education, health and well-being of women all over the world, due to persisting taboos and lack of access to adequate supplies. It’s something that even in America, we’re often uncomfortable talking about: menstruation.

Photo: EcoFemme

Photo: EcoFemme

Even in 2016, most women in India do not use sanitary products for their periods. Instead, they use a variety of materials including newspapers and cow dung, which can have serious health implications. For example, 70% of all reproductive diseases in India are caused by poor menstrual hygiene, which is something that can be greatly reduced through education and supplies. But getting feminine products is often prevented by the social taboos that majorly affect the 355 million women of menstruation age in India. Some of the other consequences from the myths surrounding menstruation is that the women are sometimes considered impure and barred from temples, can be excluded from the community during the duration of their period or forbidden from drinking from the same water supply as the rest of the village. And in addition to the social taboos, the solution isn’t as simple as shipping pads and tampons to India. There are major issues of disposable non-biodegradable feminine hygiene products in India, as many of the items end up being flushed down the toilet, which blocks sewers systems, or end up contributing to India’s landfill problems.

Photo: MyPad: Workers sorting through discarded clothing to create biodegradable cloth pads.

Photo: MyPad: Workers sorting through discarded clothing to create biodegradable cloth pads.

However, there are options being explored by advocates such as Anshu Gupta. Gupta founded a recycling center in New Delhi, where volunteers create cloth sanitary napkins for the women of India. Gupta created the organization to help change the social stigmas that surround menstruation and find a way to provide cheap, environmentally-friendly feminine hygiene products. These biodegradable pads are now being issued by the millions by the MyPad  and the Not Just a Piece of Cloth campaign. Gupta found that these products “gave these women, who neglect or are ignorant of this critical health issue, a sense of dignity and self-respect.”

Thyra Khuri Bishwa Karma, 16 years, Narsi village “ I get scared of snakes. There is a village called Mumuri where a girl got bitten an when people come and see us at the chaupadi. I feel ashamed. I feel so ashamed.”

Photo: Poulomi Basu, Time Magazine: A 16 year old girl in a chhaupadi hut.

Why is this important? Because without the proper sanitary products, women’s lives are greatly impacted.It’s difficult for many women to gain access to these necessities and live their normal lives because of stigma surrounding menstruation. In some parts of Kenya, for instance, women who are menstruating are prevented from interacting with livestock, preparing meals or eating any animal products. In some communities in Nepal, the banishment of menstruating women, known as chhaupadi is a common practice. Once a month, these women are forced to live in makeshift huts and are forbidden from socializing or sharing food with their families. This practice is not only damaging to a woman’s emotional state, but very dangerous, as it leaves the women exposed to the elements and to abductions. Mothers are taken away from their children, and the women are subjected to physical and emotional abuse from spiritual leaders, who believe the women have been possessed by demons.

 

Photo: WASH United: Schoolgirls in Kenya on National Menstrual Hygiene Day

Photo: WASH United: Schoolgirls in Kenya on National Menstrual Hygiene Day

Because of taboos like these and the lack of supplies, many girls are prevented from attending school while they have their period. In Kenya, girls miss an average of 20 days of school per year, according to a Duke University study. This puts girls at a disadvantage to achieving education equality and dissuades communities from investing in the education of girls.

 

Photo: Kitechild: School children at the Fiwagoh home, showing the harvest from our greenhouse project, that works to fund their education.

Photo: Kitechild: School children at the Fiwagoh home, showing the harvest from our greenhouse project, that works to fund their education.

As an organization that focuses on the quality of care and educational opportunities of vulnerable children in their communities, this is a huge concern for us. Education is pivotal to breaking the cycle of poverty. We work to raise the quality of life for vulnerable children, especially those living in orphanages. We know that poverty is the main contributing factor that leads to children living their lives in an orphanage. Most of these children have one or both living parents, but their families simply cannot support them financially. If we can break down the barriers that prevent children from getting their education, like obstacles related to menstruation, we can help people permanently rise out of poverty. By escaping the cycle of poverty, more families will be able to care for their children in their home, which is infinitely better for the well-being of all involved.

One of the most important things we can do is to bring attention to this issue and not be afraid of having frank conversations about menstruation. Nancy Muller, of the NGO Path,  sees the fear of discussion as a major obstacle to helping these vulnerable women and girls. “People prefer not to think about it or talk about it. It’s a challenge to secure funding because menstruation is not seen as a critical or life-threatening issue,” said Muller.

Photo: Mic/Getty Images: Quote from activist Jennifer Weiss-Wolf on the tax of feminine hygiene products.

Photo: Mic/Getty Images: Quote from activist Jennifer Weiss-Wolf on the tax of feminine hygiene products.

Even in America, there is a lot of work to be done for the accessibility of sanitary products, but luckily, progress is being made. Chicago just banned the tax on tampons and pads, by a unanimous vote. And the New York Assembly has just passed Linda Rosenthal’s legislation to exempt feminine hygiene products from state sales taxes. Rosenthal calls taxes like this, “a regressive tax on women and their bodies.” Activists in Canada have also been successful in getting their government to repeal taxes on pads and tampons. It seems that more and more states and countries are waking up to the importance of accessibility to sanitary products… and as we keep bringing attention to women’s health issues, things can only improve for women and girls everywhere.

 

References

https://broadly.vice.com/en_us/article/blood-money-the-race-to-crack-indias-lucrative-menstruation-market

http://time.com/3811181/chhaupadi-ritual-nepal/

https://www.good.is/features/issue-36-the-bloody-truth

http://jezebel.com/free-tampons-for-everyone-1762358570

http://newyork.cbslocal.com/2016/03/16/tampon-tax-ban-new-york/

http://jezebel.com/the-majority-of-women-still-use-euphemisms-to-describe-1761939612

http://www.theguardian.com/global-development-professionals-network/2015/may/28/we-need-to-talk-about-periods-why-is-menstruation-still-holding-girls-back

http://www.globalonenessproject.org/library/films/not-just-piece-cloth

http://www.theguardian.com/global-development-professionals-network/2015/may/28/we-need-to-talk-about-periods-why-is-menstruation-still-holding-girls-back

Nauru: Children in Detention Centers

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Photo Credit: Free the Children NAURU

Children have been making the journey to Australia from Indonesia by boat, only to be met with continued hardships. They are sent to detention centers, no matter how young they are or if they are unaccompanied. The Australian detention centers on Manus Island and Nauru Island each can house approximately 1,500 people, who are detained there for 445 days, on average. Some children have been living in Nauru for three years, in terrible conditions that are unsuitable and dangerous.

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Photo Credit: Ian Waldie/Getty Images

The centers have been “a state-sanctioned form of child abuse,” by Brian Owler, the Australian Medical Association president. It’s hard to get details and aid to these children, due to the secrecy surrounding these centers. The government has forbidden any journalists from the detention centers and forbids those working in the detention centers from releasing any information. But what we do know about the situation is horrifying. A report from the Australian Human Rights Commission has documented some of the trauma experienced by these kids, including multiple attempted suicides.

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Photo Credit: Kristian Silva/ABC News

The debate over the children being sent to Nauru has been brought to a head by the story of Baby Asha. After suffering serious burns at Nauru, the infant was removed to receive necessary medical care. The doctors overseeing the baby at the Lady Cilento Children’s Hospital have been refusing to release Asha, as the Australian Immigration Minister Peter Dutton says that the baby will be sent back to a detention center. In addition to Asha, hundreds more, including children, are set to be deported to the camps on Nauru and Manus Island. Dutton has said that these 267 people awaiting deportation will be sent to the detention centers or back to their countries of origin, even though New Zealand has offered to take in at least 150 asylum-seekers.

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People around the world have been moved to action to protect these refugees. Whether on the streets protesting or taking to social media with the hashtag #LetThemStay, people have been raising their voices, on behalf of asylum seekers. There is another large protest scheduled for March 20th in Sydney, which will hopefully have a political impact to help these people. Organizations like the Refugee Action Coalition Sydney (hyperlink to http://www.refugeeaction.org.au/?page_id=1090) the Refugee Council of Austrial (hyperlink to http://www.refugeecouncil.org.au/get-involved/volunteering/) and the Refugee Action Collective (hyperlink to http://www.rac-qld.org/#!get-involved/cxz1) offer resources and information for those who want to get involved. Whether you volunteer or bring attention to the issue via social media, you can show your solidarity with these asylum-seekers.

 

Resources

https://storify.com/vanspecialk/aussies-like-you-say-letthemstay#10e42c

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-02-25/bradley-balancing-the-law-with-civil-disobedience/7198052

http://www.cnn.com/2016/02/21/asia/australia-nauru-baby-stay/index.html?sr=cnnifb

https://www.facebook.com/Free-the-Children-NAURU-839867502797443/?fref=nf

http://freethechildrennauru.com

https://www.humanrights.gov.au/our-work/asylum-seekers-and-refugees/publications/health-and-well-being-children-immigration

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-05-28/barns-newhouse-detention-centre-secrecy-just-got-even-worse/6501086

Did you know that Monday is the UN International Day of Peace? It’s a day observed every September 21st and this year’s theme is something that we’re really excited about: Partnerships for Peace – Dignity for All. We believe every person and every child deserves to live a life of dignity and we want to do everything we can to make this a reality. Are you willing to take the #PeaceDayChallenge and do just one thing for peace on Monday? Find out how every person can make a difference: bit.ly/1LOKeCb  

A happy #tbt with our friends from Kenya! We visited the Watoto Wema home in 2012 and can’t wait to go back! It’s amazing what’s happened in 3 years: a greenhouse, a chicken farm and a clean water project. We’ve been grateful to work with this home and the 57 children who live there. Together, this partnership has improved the health, nutrition and wellbeing of these children and we know it’ll only keep getting better!  

Photo: Christof Stache / AFP / Getty Images

These are heart lifting stories from @BuzzFeed that show the humanity and compassion being shown as the refugee crisis continues to unfold. Even in the darkest of times, there is more love than hate and more people who care than don’t. See these touching photos: http://goo.gl/YzlPr7 

Photo: Martin Godwin for the Guardian; Collection of items to be donated to refugees

In light of the recent news of the Syrian refugees, many people around the world feel compelled to help in someway. However, the question is how and in what way will be the most effective? This Thursday there will be a live Q&A on how ordinary people can help refugees and what role they can play within NGOs. The panel of experts will answer questions through a live chat @Guardian on twitter by using the #globaldevlive or  on the website: http://goo.gl/UZvQIW 

“Promise me you’ll always remember: you’re braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.” -A.A. Milne 

#MotivationalMonday We love this quote from the author of Winnie the Pooh and we hope that every child, everywhere remembers these wise words. 

Did you know that playing chess can help improve IQ levels in children? Kids who play chess score higher on reading tests, as well as perform better with critical and creative thinking. Playing chess makes kids focus intensely and work with complex patterns. They also get the chance to practice using active reasoning, among other brainy pursuits. This #funfact is something the kids at Ashirvad Home are already schooling us on! Find out more awesome ways that chess helps kids learn: http://www.parents.com/kids/development/intellectual/benefits-of-chess/