As the year 2010 wrapped up and we welcomed a new year, we also welcomed a new big idea. The third big idea focused on natural medicine. During 2011 we developed a variety of projects with HIV support groups. As we collected results and studied these groups, we noticed that these people had the greatest challenges in the area. These challenges involved secondary diseases like pneumonia that would often take the lives of those suffering with HIV. In order to help them overcome these diseases we knew we needed some more training ourselves.
Three of our leaders, Douglas, Ambrose and Boaz, attended a five-day natural medicine course. Anamed International, a German based organization that worked in many different African countries, sponsored this course. Our leader’s attention quickly focused in on a lesson about treating HIV patients with medicinal herbs that were locally grown. These medicinal herbs were Moringa and Artemisia, both of which are perennials and are very easy to take care of. This organization promoted Artemisia as an antibacterial and as a plant best used to treat parasites like malaria. As well, they advocated Moringa as a treatment for malnourished children as it contained lots healing chemicals.
Absorbing all this valuable information, the O4O leaders shared this with their HIV support groups and saw miraculous results. After taking 2-3 teaspoons of green leaf powder each day for a week, moringa helped to double and even triple the immune strength of the HIV patients.
Similar to the previous year, Organics 4 Orphans continued to grow in many ways. Our staff continued to evolve. Ambrose Oketcho from neighbouring Uganda was the first staff that we hired outside of Kenya. Ambrose started several new community projects. Additionally, several organizations in Africa started to show interest in what we were doing. Many of these organizations even started traveling to our training center in Kitale to attend our courses.
CANADIAN NUTRITIONISTS MAKE THE TRIP
2011 was off to a great start, but we still knew we needed to do more. O4O’s way of ending extreme poverty was being heard, but it wasn’t necessarily being lived. Eating green leaves did not seem to compete with the sugary, delicious looking foods the Africans were consuming. We decided to call in reinforcements from our homeland, Canada. Nutrition experts jumped on a plane and came to Africa determined to help us make disease-fighting foods tasty and appealing to Africa.
Seminars were setup to teach people about the benefits of these foods and how they could be used as medicine. After observing these seminars, we knew we still needed something more, the information was given but wasn’t being used. We needed to teach Africans how they could make these foods and include them in their everyday meals. We needed to provide them with recipes, so we created recipe days. These recipe days helped us to introduce locally available plants that the average African may not have tried. As well, it helped us to teach how various plants could be added together to create delicious and nutritious meals. By this time, we knew that our missions were not just about growing food, but we could actually grow health!
O4O TRAINING CENTER
By 2012, Organics 4 Orphans had grown so much that we needed a training center. Immediately we created plans and started construction. This training center would eventually be able to house and train 40 people. The remaining area on the one-acre property was used to grow enough food for the staff and students who attended the training. This helped to make our program very cost efficient.
Our training program, the Growing Health Seminar, started immediately after the center was complete. Our training focused mainly on O4O’s 4 big ideas, food security, nutritional excellence, natural medicine and income generation. Lessons involved a theory component followed up by small group interactions and practical learning.
Those students who completed our one-month seminar took their new learned knowledge back to their communities where they started various projects. Not long after our first set of graduates went back to help their communities did we start hearing amazing transformation stories.
One interesting story involved a 16-year-old girl from the Pokot tribe. She had been suffering from stomach ulcers for a few years which was unusual for a young girl. During this time, stomach ulcers were very common because many people overused antibiotics. Drugs for any infection were cheap and easy to come by. After several rounds of antibiotics, the friendly bacteria in one’s gut was removed and bad bacteria would eat away at the stomach lining, therefore causing ulcers. We suggested that some herbs and plants that encourage good gut bacteria be added to this young girl’s diet. Within 3 days her stomach ulcers disappeared, and she was able to enjoy her life as a teenage girl.
OUR FIRST HIV STUDY
Instead of nutrition experts, in 2012 we invited a Canadian Naturopathic Doctor to join us in Kitale, Kenya. During her time in Kitale, Doctor Elisa Santiago conducted a one-month long study involving HIV patients. Read more about this study by clicking here. Current results from this study show that 28 of the 31 HIV patients who took on a protective diet are still alive today.
Results like this were very encouraging as we were giving hope to those that were hopeless. At this time our organization seemed to be growing faster than we could keep up, but we knew that the need for health support was so great in a continent with one billion people.