Seeds: Our Blog
Welcome to our blog! We use it to tell our grantee’s stories and to share more about what we are learning here at the Pollination Project.
It is 9 pm in Kenya, my phone rings and it is Franciska on the other end. She is one of the recipients of the 'flow fund' grants that I made through the Pollination Project's East Africa Hub. She asks how I am and proceeds to inform me that she is away for 3 days looking for mats made of papyrus reeds to sell in her village. With the poor maize harvest this season, Franciska and her group are diversifying their income sources by selling locally made papyrus reed mats. How amazing it is to see how people hither to considered helpless can be so creative and think outside the box when connected with the resources they need to create change!
The Summer Olympics are in full swing. American swimmers & gymnasts, Jamaican runners, and Irish rowers have all won gold. Eyes will be fixated on Rio until August 21st. The Olympic opening ceremonies were spectacular; could be the best ever. Of all the highlights in the opening ceremonies, one stood out to me the most; The Laurel Award. This is the first year this award has ever been presented. A man in a suit came running in with children dressed in white and they were flying white kites. The music playing sounded heavenly and created a sense of peace. The Laurel Award was created to honor a person who has used his or her accomplishments in sports to make achievements in education,
Jude Thaddeus Njikem is an advocate for women in Cameroon. He is an educator and activist who works to end violence against women in his country, and bring about conditions of equality for women.
Kathmandu destruction On April 25th, 2015, the worst disaster to strike Nepal in over 80 years came as an earthquake. Measuring 7.8 on the Richter scale, the earthquake lasted nearly a minute and its magnitude was even felt in surrounding China and India. Over 8,000 people were killed, over 16,000 people were injured, and nearly 3 million people were displaced. Just when it felt like things could not get any worse, a second earthquake struck Nepal a few weeks later. With continuing aftershocks striking daily and landslides cutting off many affected villages, panic and instability ensued. While most of the media focused on the collapsing temples and buried bodies of Kathmandu, a much more hidden disaster was unfolding.
Born and raised in a Western Kenyan slum, grantee David Omondi knows first-hand what it’s like growing malnourished, how it feels living in a single room with his whole family, and the difficulties of trying focus on completing school work in a crowded and often unsanitary environment. Despite these challenges, David graduated from school then went on to earn a scholarship to pursue a Medical Biochemistry Degree from the University of Nairobi. Upon completing his education, David chose to take his gifts and skills back home, to make a difference for those less fortunate-those barely surviving, but still hoping for a better life. David started Akili Library and Information Technology center in fall of 2010, and Akili Preparatory School for
Have you ever meet someone whose life journey inspired you and left you with an overwhelming sense of joy and purpose? Well that’s exactly how I felt after I interviewed Chris McGilvery, Founder and Executive Director of the Nonprofit Organization Give More HUGS (Helping Unite Giving Souls). Chris McGilvery is from San Antonio, Texas. His passion for volunteering and giving back to the community has always been a part of his life. As a teen, he led the student club Teens Against Tobacco Use (TATU ) mentoring elementary students about the dangers of smoking. He also served as a student assistant for a special education class at Stinson Middle School. He earned his Bachelor of Arts in Communication Studies and two Masters Degrees in Higher Education and Curriculum and Instruction from Angelo State University in San Angelo Texas.
Kehli Berry is a compassionate advocate for youth from Compton, CA. She strives to give kids an opportunity to develop their leadership skills and academic potential through the arts. The love and compassion she received from her mother inspired Kehli to help children at a young age. Kehli’s mom influenced her path to be an advocate for youth because of her experience as a foster sibling. Her family grew every year with new foster siblings. Kehli, began changing lives at the young age of 12 years old hosting talent shows, picnic gatherings, and tutoring sessions for her foster siblings. Her love for helping kids started early and continues to shine on.
Growing up in the suburbs of Los Angeles and Orange County, environmental educator Susan Silber was inspired to love nature early on. From hiking and with her parents as a child, to taking local Hmong children canoeing on California’s San Joaquin River, to introducing urban youth to hiking in Bay Area parks, Susan has spent more than 25 years witnessing nature’s powerful impact on young people.
Jamila is a beautiful example of building resilience both within herself, her family and with her community. Jamilia grew up in South Central Los Angeles, the product of both a loving mom and unstable community. She witnessed violence in her own household and on the streets, the images of her mom being abused by her boyfriend still vivid today. Jamila’s loving mom, however, provided her with the love and support to make her way through college at the University of Southern California. Jamila is now a social justice advocate providing youth and families in Los Angeles county with environmentally-focused, holistic, services.
Shari Jones is a bright young lady with a good head on her shoulders and a passion for giving back to young children in her community. She is committed to her two young girls, and making sure they get their needs met, which motivates her to help other young girls in her community have the same opportunity. Kids seem to be drawn to her warm smile and welcoming demeanor. Raised in South Central, Los Angeles, by a hard-working single mother, Shari had to learn how to take care of herself at an early age. As a result, she turned to cooking and baking as a way to cope with the growing pains of life. I met Shari at Lou Dantzler
Beth Koigi was born in Kiambu, Kirenga village in Kenya, in a family of 5 children, and has 3 brothers and 1 sister. Both of her parents are farmers and have always believed in the importance of education. After attending a local primary and secondary school, she received a government sponsorship to study community development at the university. While in school, she interacted with many people, and began her research into water borne diseases. Beth knew the effects of dirty water all too well: as a young woman she herself became very sick after drinking contaminated water.
Beginning in the 1970s, Hayu’s home country of Indonesia experienced great interest from multinational food producers. These firms sought to drastically increase food yields so they could supply a burgeoning global market. For example, genetically modified seeds for rice, known as I8 rice, were one of the experimental mechanisms that began during this time that led to 30% more rice yields.
Selene Gonzales Carrillo is an environmental advocate and change-maker based in Guadalajara, Mexico. Originally born in the dry, desert-like state of Zacatecas, her family immigrated to the United States when she was four years old. While she grew up in the United States, she never lost her connection to Mexico – she visited the village where she was born every year, and found great joy in speaking Spanish.
Although his full name is Dayana Robillard, this compassionate and visionary Haitian, who speaks beautiful Creole, prefers to go by the shorter version of Robi. He was born in St. Raphael to a large family of many brothers and sisters, and grew up in Cite Soleil. Robi is also the proud father of a blossoming young girl and is married to Sabina, an American who like him is passionate about seeding change in Haiti.
As his final year in university approaches, Charles Orgbon III will face a great adventure at a young age. Charles will go to the North Pole this September to join a research team that conducts research on climate change. Charles has held a passion for working on environmental causes for many years, and he considers this a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. While there, the team will be investigating changes in the latitude of the Artic tree line - an indicator of a warming trend across our planet.
Miriam Wambui is a Pollination Project grantee, Akili Dada 2014 fellow, ICT trainer, and advocate for young women who wish to enter the ICT field. Her objective is to work towards, giving reducing youth unemployment through ICT skill provision, and she believes that this is vital in eradicating poverty in the informal settlements and bringing social change. Miriam grew up in Kariobangi, one of the informal settlements in Kenya. Her Father passed on while she was still in Primary level, and she was raised by her mother. As the first born in a family of 3 girls, she grew up helping to raise her sisters. After she finished her High school education, her family situation prevented her from attending university. Growing up in an informal settlement has immense challenges especially among the youth mostly because of peer pressure. Despite this, her passion and zeal pushed her do to positive community work and activities through which she got an opportunity to join Nairobits.
Fred Batale was born in Mayuge district, Uganda. At the age of five, he became physically disabled. To this day, none of his family members are aware of the cause. Fred struggled in school. He crawled on his knees every morning to learn, but the distance between school and home was unbearable. His mother often carried him on her back to ease the burden of the journey. She became Fred's greatest influence in life. A compassionate woman, she treats every person with a disability as her own son or daughter.
Having grown up and lived in a slum in Western Kenya, David Omondi has first hand experience of what it is like to grow up in a single room and the difficulties of trying to do school assignments in a crowded environment. After getting a scholarship to pursue a BSc. Medical Biochemistry Degree from the University of Nairobi, David chose not to look for a job in the city to personally profit from what he learnt in the university but to go back home to make a difference in the lives of the less privileged in his community.
How does a seed grant grow and sprout into sustainable, and fruitful impact? Travel with us to Kenya, where a lot of young girls are missing days, or months of school because they cannot afford it. Grantee Lila Kiwelu and her project Mdada, strives to keep girls in school by helping them pay school fees. What’s so impressive is the creative change in their business model, from initially selling fashion items themselves to raise money for school fees for girls, to now teaching girls how to make personalized, eco-friendly bracelets to earn their own income, enabling them to contribute to their own school fees, and academic success. In their final Grantee report, Lila noted that they were challenged with their
Suzan Wilmot grew up straddling the line between poverty and privilege, a foot in each world as her father struggled to raise her single handedly while doing odd jobs for wealthier families. These contrasting experiences gave her the chance to determine what is truly meaningful in life. The history we go through shapes our future and determine what we can become in life, and Suzan didn’t let this situation stop her dreams.