“How inspired am I going to feel about a piece of irrigation equipment?” I wondered, as our van bumped across the African savannah.
Despite raising my family among the cornfields of Iowa, I know very little about farming - let alone about farming in Kenya.
Leaving my own six kids in the capable hands of my husband, Becky (my co-founder), Esther (our photographer) and I were beginning our 16-day trip through East Africa. I was there to meet farmers whose lives have been transformed, all because of one piece of equipment - a Kickstart irrigation pump.
After an hour of driving through fields and farmland, we turned a small dirt road, stopping in front of a modest home.
The door opened and three kids bounced out, followed by a young mother wearing a Kickstart baseball hat and matching skirt. Her skirt’s print was images of women watering their gardens. She was the perfect walking advertisement.
Peninah seemed quiet and shy, giving us meek smile. Her children were getting older she said flatly, patting each on the head. Ages 13, 10, and 4. Two boys, one girl.
Eight-months earlier, Sarah noticed Peninah and her husband hauling buckets of water to their field, fruitlessly struggling to keep their crops from withering away. Sarah, who is a Kickstart sales rep., waved to them and did a quick demonstration. Peninah and her husband had never seen anything like it before; it was remarkable. They purchased the pump on the spot.
In just one season, they reaped a huge harvest. They ate well and sold extra crops to their neighbors. With the new income, Peninah said proudly, Kennedy, her oldest son, is now attending secondary school. All three children are now enrolled, actually.
Peninah’s story is all too common. In Sub-Saharan Africa, most of the rural poor struggle to survive as subsistence farmers. Three out of every four farms have children who are malnourished. They may work as farmers, yet most cannot grow enough food to feed their children. It’s estimated that 12 million people in Africa could benefit from this simple pump.
We spent the day with Sarah and Peninah, as they walked from farm-to-farm, encouraging neighbors to buy one, too. Sarah did most of the talking. Peninah would stand quietly behind, holding the hose and spraying their gardens. Neighbors would scream and soon, every family member would emerge from the house, eager to take a turn with the remarkable pump.
We walked down narrow paths on our way back to Peninah’s home. With Peninah up ahead, Sarah turned back and whispered heartbreaking news. Only a few weeks ago, a short illness unexpectedly took Peninah’s husband's life. “I think she’s still in shock,” Sarah said sadly.
With her kids following close behind, Peninah walked us behind her house, beyond her husband’s new grave, to her fields. She showed us her tomatoes, maze, onions and spinach. We sat on a rock and ate her avocados. She pointed to where she plans to extend her plot to increase her business in the local market.
Becky, Esther and I have met many people over the years. We have heard and told so many stories.
But meeting Peninah was different. The concerns for her children brought no shame, no embarrassment. Her life is difficult, but she has hope. Purpose.
A simple irrigation pump is what saved her. And it’s saving her now.
In all that she lost, she had not lost her dignity.
Peninah isn’t aware that donors like you helped make the pump affordable for her to purchase. Her and her husband contributed what they could, and generous people like you gave the rest. This way, there is no shame. And it tells us that what we supported was deeply desired and desperately needed. It has great value.
Before hugging goodbye we asked one final question, “What does this pump mean to you?”
She smiled sweetly, “It’s my miracle.”
“This is it.” I thought to myself as I stood next to Peninah in her field. “This is how I am supposed to be giving. ” You should too.
Your gift of $360 will enable one pump to reach one farming family in need. On average, each pump increases a farmers income 500% -- moving the entire family into the middle class and sending at least one of their children to school for the first time.
Our goal is to reach 250 farms this month, and we need your help.
You can lift one farmer and her family out of poverty.