Monday, August 31, 2009

Ripple Report: Beyond the Trees in Burundi

by Aly Lewis

The impact of Plant With Purpose’s newest program in Burundi, Africa goes far beyond the benefits of planting trees and spurring sustainable development. Like all of the areas Plant With Purpose works, Burundi is plagued with extreme poverty and environmental devastation. However, a widespread current of intolerance, anger, and misunderstanding between the country’s Hutu and Tutsi tribes intensifies these devastating environmental and economic problems. After decades of violent civil war, these tribes have only recently reached a peace accord. Though both Hutus and Tutsis living and working in the Rutana province share a common set of socioeconomic problems, long-standing hatred and prejudice remains. As refugees flood back into the country and people begin to rebuild, Burundi is faced with the challenge of transitioning from a nation on the brink of extinction to a nation of hope.

Similar to Plant With Purpose’s restorative work along the Haitian/Dominican border, yet unique among PWP’s other programs, our Burundi program offers a vital Peace & Reconciliation component. PWP encourages restoration and reconciliation two ways: by providing training and facilitation to community leaders on peace and reconciliation and, more importantly, by requiring that projects are all inclusive of all community members, Hutu and Tutsi alike. Community projects bring together people who were on both sides of the conflict to achieve project goals. This practical reconciliation is the most important and significant part of our strategy.

We’re already through year one in Burundi and have been excited to witness true reconciliation and heart changes. Leoni Karenzo of our Dushirehamwe group shared with us about her renewed hope and confidence since joining a PWP community group. The group consists of Hutu and Tutsi who have shared goals and interests. They work with, not against, each other. Since joining together, they now have harvests to bring home to their families. They feel love for each other and have regained confidence as a community. They have benefited from the economic gain and also rebuilt trust. Leoni recalls that before her exile, life was stable, but when she was forced to flee they suffered from malnutrition and poor health. Rebuilding life in Burundi was difficult and when she heard about the group she wanted to join. Now they have access to seeds, they can plant again, and they are rebuilding their lives, together.

We can’t wait to hear more stories like Leoni’s!

Friday, August 28, 2009

Women, Children and Winos

by Doug Satre

Earlier this month I had the privilege of visiting Plant With Purpose’s work in the Mixteca Alta region of Oaxaca, Mexico. Oaxaca is one of the poorest parts of Mexico, and the “Mixteca” is the poorest part of Oaxaca, seen by most outsiders as a hopeless backwater. On the day we spent in Oaxaca City, our tour guide, Raul, summed it up like this, “The only people who live up there are women, children and winos. The men are all gone.” While this was something of an overstatement, it pretty well summed up the challenges the Mixteca region faces; poverty has caused most of the working-age men to look for work elsewhere.

I don’t think Raul had actually ever been to the Mixteca, or at least not to the communities where PWP is working. If he had, he might have come away with a different impression. PWP works among 47 communities and is seeing a dramatic improvement in the economic development. I was especially impressed to meet a young couple, Alier and Isabel, who have become respected leaders in the community of Loma Chimedia.

Alier is the leader of the local farmer’s cooperative. The greenhouse that they share with five other families produces a total income of about $2,500 per year, essentially doubling their household income. By working together the farmers are overcoming a variety of obstacles to their success, and have recently purchased a truck in order to transport their produce to town to sell. Not only are they succeeding economically, they are giving their community more reasons to be proud of their heritage and their community and creating reasons to hope for a better future.

As I listened to the stories of their success, I wondered what our tour guide would have thought. Maybe next time we can bring him to the Mixteca with us.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Planting Hope Gala

Plant With Purpose is gearing up for our annual Planting Hope Gala! The event will once again take place at the La Jolla Marriott on October 10, 2009 at 6:00 p.m., and will be hosted by former NBC 7 morning news anchor, Bill Menish.

Beyond being our biggest fundraising event of the year, the gala is an opportunity for us to highlight our programs and share Plant With Purpose’s restorative work and success. And this year is going to be a huge celebration as we recognize our 25th anniversary!

In honor of this milestone, Cesar Lopez, one of the founders of Plant With Purpose, will travel from the Dominican Republic to give a special presentation. The evening will also include silent and live auctions, including a "Fund-a-Need" opportunity where participants can directly support program needs such as reforestation efforts, mushroom projects, cisterns and latrines, and animal husbandry.

Some of our auction items include golfing and lunch at the Bridges Golf Club, an extravagant facial package at Neiman Marcus, several spectacular ski packages, ancient coins, and gift certificates to local San Diego attractions. All proceeds will go toward helping to transform thelives of the rural poor in Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Thailand, Mexico, Burundi and Tanzania.

The gala is an excellent opportunity to invite friends and family to learn more about Plant With Purpose’s restorative work. Tickets are $105, and various sponsorship opportunities are available.

All guests who r.s.v.p. by September 21st will be entered into a drawing to win four tickets to the San Diego Repertory Theater! We hope you will be able to join us for this elegant and inspiring evening.

To r.s.v.p. online, please visit If you wish to donate a tax-deductible item to the auction, volunteer, or be a sponsor, contact Kate McElhinney at (858) 274-3728 or

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Plant With Purpose T-Shirts!

by Aly Lewis

They’re finally here! Looking for a way to combine your kickin’ fashion sense with your passion for Plant With Purpose? Well, you came to the right place. PWP has teamed up with Jedidiah Clothing to create a Plant With Purpose line with six sweet t-shirt designs to choose from (my favorite is the Silhouette). These shirts make the perfect gift for friends and family (and the perfect, guilt-free self-indulgence as well). So amp up your wardrobe and support Plant With Purpose.

You can get to the store through our website or go straight to our new online store.

Happy shopping!

To check out other Jedidiah sweet stuff click here to visit their webpage

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Plant With Purpose Vision Trips

by Corbyn Small

Each year Plant With Purpose staff leads a few trips to visit our partners in the field. The trips usually will include between 5-12 people who are interested in learning more about Plant With Purpose and seeing its programs firsthand. This creates advocates who become our best “story tellers” who can share their firsthand Plant With Purpose programs experience with their friends and family.

The trip that I wanted to highlight today is to Oaxaca, Mexico on October 21-26. This will be my first trip to visit the field and I could not be more excited. Oaxaca’s Vision Trip provides an incredible snapshot look at all of the Plant With Purpose programs as the group gets to visit about 6 of the 47 villages where we have partnerships with local leaders.

The trip starts in Oaxaca City, one of the most beautiful and historic cities in the new world. After the team orientation we will get to visit a few of the communities and see firsthand the challenges that farmers face and the dramatic progress they have made to better their lives. The trip is set up to take a linear progression from villages where Plant With Purpose has not been a part of the community for very long, to a village where our programs have been embraced and enacted for years.

The trip costs $600 dollars plus airfare and provides a rich time of fellowship and an in-depth

 learning experience of the social, economic, and environmental issues facing the rural poor in Oaxaca. To learn more about visiting Mexico, Tanzania, or the Dominican Republic email Doug Satre at

Monday, August 24, 2009

Ripple Report: The Eco-Friendly Marriage Booster

by Aly Lewis

The women of Tanzania are all abuzz with talk about this great new Plant With Purpose project that is transforming their lives. They claim their family life has changed for the better and even their marriages are improving. What’s this innovative, life-changing project that is empowering women and strengthening marriages, you ask? Is it a marriage class through our discipleship program? What about a micro-enterprise project designed to empower women to start small businesses? How about farming techniques that increase yields so that mothers can feed their starving children?

Guess again. The cause of improved marriages and increased self-esteem is nothing more than our Fuel-Efficient Stove project. Stoves? Really? How on earth can a stove improve a marriage and what on earth does a stove have to do with self-esteem?

Don’t worry, we were just as surprised as you.

PWP staff in Tanzania first introduced the project as an eco-friendly technique and communities caught on fast. Families replace their traditional stoves (or fire pits) with fuel-efficient stoves that use 50% less wood. This is great news for families with limited resources: burning less wood means more wood to sell for extra income or, even better, less trees to cut down in the first place. Because they produce less smoke, the stoves also lead to a decrease in respiratory disease in women and children. PWP staff members were excited about the environmental, economic, and health benefits of these stoves. What staff didn’t realize, however, was that the greatest benefit was yet to come. It turns out that these stoves have not only improved families’ physical health and economic situation, but improved marriages as well. With the stoves producing less harmful smoke, the husbands are spending more time with their wives in the kitchen. Marriages are improving, relationships strengthening and deepening, and women are improving their self-esteem. Since less time is spent collecting firewood, women have more time to spend with their families, get involved in the local community, and invest in small business opportunities.

This week’s Ripple Report is dedicated to the unforeseen benefits of fuel-efficient stoves: the eco-friendly way Tanzanian women are improving their marriages and boosting their confidence.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Caffeine Kick for Malindi

For all you java drinkers, there is a way to justify your habit. You can fuel your caffeine cravings and support a good cause at the same time by purchasing bags of coffee from “Friends of Malindi”.

“Friends of Malindi” is a recently launched website that sells 100% fresh roasted coffee from Tanzania to support Plant With Purpose’s work in the village of Malindi. The group was formed after Mark Portrait, a friend of Plant With Purpose and founder of the Snapshot Group, and his son Jake traveled to Tanzania with Plant With Purpose’s Director of Outreach and Development, Doug Satre. They visited the village of Malindi, which is located at the base of Mt. Kilimanjaro. Despite the beauty of its setting, soil degradation and lack of water severely hinder village farming efforts in this area. The local income is about $320 per person, making Malindi one of the poorest areas of Tanzania.

During their trip, Mark developed a passion to help these people, and so he created “Friends of Malindi”. By visiting the “Friends of Malindi” website, ( you can buy coffee grown in the shadow of Mt. Kilimanjaro and support this community.

The comprehensive website includes:

- Current information on Malindi, including Google Earth waypoints.

- A gallery of photos from Mark’s trip.

- Tips on ways you can support the effort.

- A blog to follow the most recent activities.

- An online store for purchasing Malindi Coffee.

- Links to the groups involved in supporting Malindi.

The Snapshot Group has teamed up with Oregon Mountain coffee to roast peaberry beans and make them available in 1lb., 2lb. and 5lb. bags. 100% of all profits are donated to Plant With Purpose for Malindi.

Plant With Purpose is working with the people of Malindi to preserve water resources and improve farm yields. As a result, family incomes are increasing, children are able to stay in school, and hope is returning to the community. Thanks to partners like "Friends of Malindi", we hope to see these improvements increase.

To find out more, visit

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Ripple Report: Farmer Rides the Wave of Innovation

by Aly Lewis This week’s Ripple Report comes from Moshi, Tanzania. Located at the base of the breathtaking Mt. Kilimanjaro, Moshi is an area of great beauty, yet in recent years the area has been plagued with both poverty and deforestation. In 2004 Plant With Purpose began working in the region to help desperate farmers reverse this vicious cycle of poverty and deforestation and transform their lives. One of PWP’s most successful projects in the region has been biointensive agriculture training. This training equips farmers to make better use of their land, increase their yields, and improve their livelihoods. So great was the interest in these techniques that many of the original trainees immediately shared their knowledge with family members and neighbors. After learning these new techniques from a friend, one farmer, Fanueli Lewi Minja took the training one step further. Showing great initiative and innovation, Fanueli decided to make use of his new knowledge and expertise by starting his own biointensive agriculture business. Fanueli found that he could charge a small fee to establish biointensive vegetable beds for other community members. This way he can help his neighbors increase their yields and improve their land while making money to provide for his desperate family. Talk about a win, win situation! Community development is the process of empowerment, and Fanueli is a great example of a man who was empowered to take charge of his life and solve his own problems. And the best part is we’ve seen hundreds of leaders and innovators emerge as a result of PWP’s community development program; (to keep with the ripple metaphor) Fanueli is just one drop in the puddle.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Field Trip! The IRC Community Garden in San Diego

by Corbyn Small

It was 4:10 pm Thursday afternoon and I was driving around searching frantically to find the New Roots Community Farm in City Heights, San Diego. My nerves were on end as I was the one who had planned the field trip for the Plant With Purpose staff to visit and tour this urban farm that I had heard about a few months back. Finally I spot the section of land right off 54th Street and rush to park. Once inside I met Amy Lint, New Roots Farm Coordinator at International Rescue Committee (IRC). As I walked in, there were teenagers working hard on a plot of land to get rid of rocks, men playing games under the canopy, and a few women and children watering and tending to their crops. All in all, the small two acres of land was quite active and not at all what I had expected to see!

Every year around 800 refugees from East Africa, the Middle-East, and Southeast Asia arrive to San Diego and have to get resettled into their new home, adjust to culture shock, and find new jobs that will provide enough income to provide for themselves and their families. IRC helps these refugees to do just that. Starting from the beginning, they help these individuals and families to start their new lives here in San Diego, “America’s Finest City."

New Roots Community Farm is a project by IRC focused on creating an urban garden for refugees, new immigrants, and neighbors to farm in order to help alleviate some pressures on families in the neighborhood who are surviving on some sort of federal aid and living close to the poverty line.

As mentioned before, when I hustled onto the lot I could not believe what I saw, from all I knew this garden had only opened to its farmers two and a half months ago and yet probably 40% of the eighty 20’x30’ foot plots were already flourishing and ready for harvesting.

Plant With Purpose staff and friends proceeded to get a brush-up on the background and history behind the

farm, along with stories of all the bureaucracies the IRC had to overcome to provide an urban community garden to benefit this neighborhood. Most of the people involved come from one of three San Diegan organizations: the Somali Bantu Organization of San Diego, Union of Pan Asian Communities and Proyecto Casa Saludables. Individuals only have to pay a small amount of money for water and then provide seeds for their land while all other costs are covered by IRC.

Amy was joined by Bilali Muya, a Somali Bantu man who works part time at New Roots as the farm manager and community advocate. They gave us a tour of the individual plots and even had a chance to hear from some of the farmers themselves as they proudly shared their plot of land with us. Each of the three ethnic regions that are represented around the farm have chosen a variety of vegetables to plant, including comfort foods from home that are overpriced at local markets.

New Roots may have had a rough start cutting red tape and paying city fees but momentum is rolling now and Amy talked about many strong partnerships that have formed within the community of San Diego. Two acres of land may not seem like a lot to most farmers, but to these families their plots are now a valuable source of nutrients, camaraderie, and even additional income if they manage to produce enough to sell at the local farmers market. Believe me, when you see this much cultivated farmland in the middle of a residential neighborhood you look twice and have to wonder. ‘What is going on there?’


Monday, August 17, 2009

'I Love Lucy' to I Love Aly

by Aly Lewis When I was little I was convinced my grandmother and I were identical twins. Never mind the 60-year age difference, Nini was my soul twin and sister. Miraculously, we loved all of the same things—her homemade spaghetti and meatballs, reruns of I Love Lucy, bedtime stories like Make Way for Ducklings, and rummy tournaments that lasted over a decade. She also had a keen interest in my gymnastics practices, the third grade spelling bee, and any boy I had a crush on from elementary school through high school. It wasn’t until she passed away that I discovered the secret behind our enduring bond: her love for me. Turns out we didn’t just so happen to love exactly the same things. She made my interests her own. She made my trials and letdowns her own. She made my excitement her own. Now she may have been more apt to enjoy an I Love Lucy episode with me than a Power Rangers episode with my brothers, but I highly doubt she had an unbiased interest in the Agatha Christie novels I would recount to her in murderous detail or how a velvet leotard did not provide the same amount of cooling power as a Lycra one during a four hour gymnastics practice in a gym with only a declining swamp cooler to combat the sweltering heat. Always my biggest fan and partner in crime, Nini actively looked for ways to connect with me, to value me, to listen to me, and to encourage me. She made me feel loved and valuable no matter what. As I continue to read and digest Compassion by Henri Nouwen, I am reminded more and more of Nini. Nouwen says, “When we have discovered that our sense of self does not depend on our differences and that our self-esteem is based on a love much deeper than the praise that can be acquired by unusual performances, we can see our unique talents as gifts for others.” My grandma’s unconditional love gave me a sense of self and confidence that helped me see myself as a gifted and valuable person. Not to espouse selfishness, egocentrism or self-addiction, but I am becoming increasingly convinced that the key to loving others starts with loving myself or at least starting to believe that maybe, just maybe, there is something lovable and redeemable about me. Why else would Jesus command that we love others as ourselves? What reason would I have to believe that others have gifts and talents to offer the world if I don’t believe that I have anything to offer? We all have a natural aptitude for selfishness, that’s not the issue. Self-centeredness has nothing to do with truly loving yourself and everything to do with seeking to fill the gaps in us that ache for love and acceptance. One of Nouwen’s antidotes to selfishness while interacting with others is to “Pay attention in a way that they begin to recognize their own value.” Perhaps we could apply this advice to ourselves as well. What if we paid attention to ourselves in a way that allows us to recognize our own value? And what if this belief in our own value spurred us to value others, to serve others, to encourage others? When we believe we are loved and valued, we can shift our focus from seeking attention to seeking to love. Thanks, Nini, for using I Love Lucy to help me believe I Love Aly. Next up: I Love Others—I’m especially looking forward to the reruns.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Showers from Space

by Kate McElhinney If you logged on to Google yesterday, you may have noticed the spiffy artwork surrounding the logo. Always curious, I clicked on the letters and learned that there would be meteor showers this week. So, last night I hunkered down in my backyard and stared up at the sky. Believe it or not, I've never actually seen a shooting star. During all my camping trips I've scoured the sky in search of a rouge streak of light, but have had no luck. Therefore I was more determined than ever to see the "Perseids", as National Geographic called them. Unfortunately, despite Google's promise, last night wasn't any different. Maybe I didn't see a meteor shower because of the street lights surrounding my house? Or maybe my vision is becoming impaired from staring at a computer screen all day? In any event, it was a nice excuse to disconnect from daily life and sit back and feel insignificant for awhile. It's comforting to know that there is still a bit of spectacular natural wonder out there.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Knowledge is Contagious

by Aly Lewis

In last week’s post about PWP’s innovative mushroom modules, I mentioned that "PWP has worked directly with Oaxacans to establish 15 mushroom modules, and even more families have begun their own mushroom modules as program beneficiaries share their knowledge and expertise with friends and neighbors." 

Indeed, much of the impact of PWP’s programs goes beyond our initial investment into a community. Plant With Purpose will train a group of 15 or so people on topics such as starting a mushroom module, building ecological latrines, or applying sustainable agriculture techniques to their land.  In addition to the training, PWP will provide some start up materials to help community members implement the projects. 

With the mushroom modules, for example, PWP trains a group of interested farmers in the technical aspects—like where mushrooms grow best, when to plant, when to harvest—and provides some start up materials such as the mushroom spores, but the community members provide the sheds, the corncobs to grow the mushrooms on, and do all of the labor themselves.  Once one family or community group has started one, they can share both their crop and their expertise to help their friends get started.  Because PWP’s projects are designed to utilize readily available materials, they’re pretty easy to replicate. Instead of giving out handouts that won’t last, PWP equips farmers with the skills and knowledge to implement sustainable projects that will transform their lives and the lives of their community.  In this way, the projects aren’t really our projects, but the community’s. 

Our impact evaluation reports from last year showed that:

In our program in Oaxaca, 52% of PWP beneficiaries have shared their knowledge and experience with 1, 2, or 3 other people. 

In Haiti, on average, 33.4% of PWP participants have trained a neighbor on one or more of the techniques taught to them by PWP. 

And, on average, 21% of non-beneficiaries in a PWP Tanzania community have copied or learned techniques from the PWP beneficiaries and then applied them to their own land. 

At PWP we’re big fans of the proverb, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” This ripple effect is exciting to hear about and truly one of the most significant aspects of our program. Not only are we teaching 8,500 or so farmers directly how to earn a livelihood, but those 8,500 farmers are in turn teaching their neighbors to be self-sufficient, and the impact goes on and on.

This willingness of community members to share their knowledge and success with their neighbors made all the difference for Gerardo Miguel Martinez of La Muralla, Mexico. Last year Gerardo’s neighbor, Señor Gumersindo, invited him to be a part of a community greenhouse that PWP had helped begin. Gerardo says, “Thanks to Plant With Purpose and at the invitation that was extended to me by my neighbor, Señor Gumersindo, we are now working in a greenhouse, which has helped us a lot. Not only do we have tomatoes to eat but also to sell to our neighbors and the farms nearby. In this way we can benefit everyone, because we sell the tomatoes at a good price and the people in this region don’t have much income.”

This is just one of many examples of PWP’s ripple effect that is fostering long-term transformation in communities around the globe.  Stay tuned for a weekly “Ripple Report” to hear more stories of how rural farmers are sharing with purpose. 

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Tanzania in 2008

by Corbyn Small Over the last year, Plant With Purpose witnessed significant growth an success in every aspect of the Tanzania program as small farmers worked together to transform their lives through Plant With Purpose's training, opportunities and encouragement. Most notably, the Village Community Banking (VICOBA) groups continue to grow and thrive. These groups bring communities together to raise capital for small loans to improve their farms and start small business initiatives. Women make up 80% of these community banking groups, and have reported an increase in self-esteem as they use their own profits to contribute to the household income, send their children to school and creatively implement business ventures.
Some stats from last year in Tanzania
-Plant With Purpose worked with community members to establish 30 tree nurseries for the purpose of growing new seedlings for reforestation and agroforestry efforts. By the end of the fiscal year, these nurseries housed a supply of 81,191 seedlings.
-125,891 trees were planted in reforestation efforts, bringing the program's 4-year lifetime total of trees planted to 273,405.
-Plant With Purpose worked with Tanzanian communities to operate t total of 23 VICOBA groups, which collectively distributed 530 loans in the total amount of $59,909. Group members contributed $59,422 of their own funds to use for these loans.
-532 fuel efficient stoves were provided to households for cooking and heating, reducing local wood consumption and improving respiratory health among community members.
-Plant With Purpose worked with farmers to construct living barriers and 363 soil contours, protecting hillsides from soil erosion.
-952 compost heaps were established, providing a safe, low-cost source of organic fertilizer for use on farms, tree nurseries, and gardens.
Thank you for your support of the Plant With Purpose programs, to learn more about Tanzania and the work being done there click here

Monday, August 10, 2009

Micah Film Festival

by Corbyn Small
Last Friday I had the pleasure of representing Plant With Purpose at one of the best events I have been to in a long time, the Micah Film Festival at the Crest Theater in Oceanside. Organized by friends of Plant With Purpose, the festival was a three day event that screened three different powerful documentaries that were truly thought provoking and inspiring. 40% of the ticket sales were redistributed by attendees to non-profit organizations like ours, and Plant With Purpose was able to share its Trees Please video with the audience as a "movie preview" before the screening on Friday.
I wanted to share a quick synopsis and some of my thoughts on the documentary "As We Forgive." This film dug deep into the history leading up to the mass genocide that took place in Rwanda in 1994 when one in eight Rwandans were murdered for no other reason than prejudice and brainwashing. But this documentary didn't give the history in the traditional report form, instead it came from testimonies of survivors translated across the bottom of the screen, which for me put a face to a tragedy that I had heard so many bits and pieces of information about but never stopped to think about perspectives from both sides.
The main focus of the movie was reconciliation and mercy. From what I did know about the actual genocide, I have never known what has happened in Rwanda since then. From this film, I learned that due to governmental incapabilities to prosecute the 40,000 Hutu perpetrators that confessed to their crimes against their own neighbors, the government released them all to become neighbors once again with those whose family members they had slain. There has been incredible rebuilding since 1994, but the reconciliation between the Hutu and the Tutsi's was primarily left to non-profit organizations and churches. The film explores the lives of individuals who were on both sides of the conflict, a man who committed an inconceivable act against a woman's husband, and the woman who lost her husband to the neighbor that once had shared meals with them both. How could anyone expect the woman to forgive a man for such acts, let alone an entire nation of Tutsis.
Someone mentioned after the film was over that this genocide took place at the same time as the OJ Simpson trials. Even though I was only nine when both happened, I am saddened that I remember watching OJ for hours and did not find out about the mass murder of hundreds of thousands of innocent people until many years after the fact. I want to invite you to see this documentary and consider, as I have, the true definition of forgiveness and mercy. See the preview below and then click here to visit their site.
Thank you to everyone who helped put the Micah Film Festival on and make it such a huge success and for opening my eyes to mercy as I have never seen it before.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

The Top 10 Myths of Disaster Relief

by Kate McElhinney When a disaster strikes in a developing country, Americans are usually instantly on the scene, helping in any way they can. The media shows footage of people suffering around the clock and we want to know what we can do to help. Relief work is important, however before jumping in it’s imperative to examine our strategies and how it will best benefit the people.

At Plant With Purpose, we mainly focus on development as a long term solution to poverty and as a preventative measure against the damage caused by natural disasters. However, last fall when four hurricanes hit Haiti we supplied relief aid by raising support for seedlings, animals and food. We tried to find the balance between how we think we can help and how best to use our resources to help the poor.

These top 10 myths of disaster relief were written by Rich Moseanko, a relief director for World Vision. Here, Moseanko explains the truth behind the top 10 myths of disaster relief. 1. Americans can help by collecting blankets, shoes and clothing. The cost of shipping these items – let alone the time it takes to sort, pack and ship them –is prohibitive. Often, those items are manufactured for export to the U.S. from these same countries. It is far more efficient to purchase them locally. Cash is the better solution. 2. Helping the living always has priority over burying the dead. In refugee camps and epidemic situations where people die of diseases, it is essential to dispose of the bodies within a short period of time. If they died of other causes such as drowning, they are less of a health risk but pose an impediment to relief efforts and delay the mourning process. 3. The United States must airlift food and medicines to the disaster site. Food is virtually always available within a day's drive of the disaster site. Purchasing the food locally is more cost-efficient, and it ensures that the food is appropriate to local residents' tastes and religious requirements. Medicines are often available within the country, too. India, for example, has a large pharmaceutical industry. Because medicines are high-value, low-weight commodities, in some cases they can and must be airlifted in to save lives. 4. If I send cash, my help won't get there. Reputable agencies send 80 percent or more of cash donations to the disaster site; the rest goes for administration, operating expenses and monitoring the efficiency of their own operations. Donors have a right and a responsibility to ask aid groups how they will be using those donations, and what will be done with donations raised in excess of the need. 5. Once someone survives the immediate disaster, he or she is safe. The immediate catastrophe kills quickly; survivors can face a slower death from hunger, disease and even criminal predators. While emergency medical teams certainly are needed for people injured in a disaster, the best way to keep survivors healthy is to provide clean water and adequate sanitation. Cholera and dysentery can result from drinking contaminated water; malaria-spreading mosquitoes breed in standing water. 6. Developing countries depend on foreign expertise. While specialized assistance is always welcome, most relief and recovery efforts are accomplished by local aid groups, police, firefighters and neighbors before international teams arrive. Also, in recent years most governments have established disaster preparedness plans. 7. Relief needs are so intense that almost anyone can fly to the scene to offer help. Professionals with specialized skills and overseas disaster experience are often deployed to disaster sites. Volunteers without those skills can do more harm than good, and siphon off critical logistics and translation services. Hiring qualified disaster survivors is much more cost efficient and provides much needed employment. 8. Survivors feel lucky to be alive. Shock, trauma and the mourning for loved ones who died are common among disaster survivors. Often, they wish it was they who died instead of their loved ones. Treating these emotional needs is an essential component of relief efforts. 9. Insurance and governments can cover losses. The vast majority of the world's population has never heard of an insurance policy, let alone are able to purchase one. Further, governments of poor countries can barely meet ongoing social service needs, let alone provide a safety net like FEMA. Disaster survivors must bear these costs alone. 10. People are helpless in the face of natural disasters. The United States is proof that tougher building codes, early warning and disaster preparedness can save lives. Even in poor countries, communities are taking steps to mitigate the loss of life in future emergencies.

Caring for Creation in Haiti

by Scott Sabin

As the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, Haiti’s troubles are no secret. Daily headlines such as, “Haitian Migrant Shipwreck Kills 15, Dozens Missing” describe the plight of this impoverished country. Sadly, this is not new news, but astonishing news nonetheless.

Out of sheer desperation, these Haitians risk their lives by packing into tiny 60 foot boats, sometimes carrying as many as 120 people, hoping to escape poverty and find work and a better life. Because of extreme poverty, people are forced to leave their homeland, their families, and their culture since it is not providing like it used to.

Headlines such as this make Haiti’s circumstance seem hopeless. The country is trapped in a dismal spiral of poverty and despair. The land has dried up as a result of massive deforestation. And hurricanes threaten to wipe out entire communities each year.

Given these facts, it becomes understandable why escape seems like the only viable option of survival for Haitians. All their resources have been depleted. However, this panicked flight does not have to happen. People’s lives can be revived by tracing the problem back to its roots and thus finding the solution: the earth.

Approximately 70 percent of Haiti's 9 million people work the land. Therefore restoring agricultural production is vital to generating jobs, feeding the hungry, and healing the land. If proper agro-forestry techniques are applied, some of these effects can be alleviated. For instance, by planting trees and terraces along with native crops such as plantains, mangoes and avocados on hillsides, massive mud slides and erosion are prevented.

This past May, one of our program officers traveled to Haiti to meet with communities. Last October we provided relief to Haiti after the four brutal hurricanes hit the country last fall. After speaking with the local communities that were most impacted by the storm, he said he was amazed to see that the people were not entirely discouraged. He explained their attitude as “motivated” as was evidenced by the lush crops that were beginning to bloom. They are replanting trees to hold the soil in place, and this hurricane season they will be better prepared to brace for any storms.

Relief work is beneficial, but for a long lasting solution Haitians must focus on sustainable development. Of course this does not happen overnight; it takes hard work and planning. But the result effects generations to come. My hope is that overtime, Haitians won’t have to flee their country to escape a life of misery. By caring for the earth now, future generation’s lives will be transformed along with the earth and the people will be empowered to reclaim their land. It is a vision that with God’s help can be made possible.

This article was posted on Sustainlane on 8/5/09.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Re: No Time to Waste No Water to Waste

by Kristen Tucker
Kristen is the Director of Finance and Administration at Plant With Purpose. Read below for some great tips on how to save water! I live in an old condo that has a pretty poor hot water system. Not only is there a really limited supply of hot water, but it takes FOREVER for even luke-warm water to come out of my tap. A little more than two months ago, right before the level two alert came out, I decided to start conserving water that would otherwise go down the drain while waiting for my shower and sink water to get warm.
Here is what I do: I keep 2 buckets in my bathroom at all times (a small bathroom, mind you, but well worth the annoyance) and a small-size mixing bowl that fits underneath my bathroom sink faucet. Every time I take a shower, I stick the buckets underneath the faucet to collect the water until it turns hot. One bucket is usually sufficient for that. And every time I wash my face in the sink, I stick the mixing bowl underneath the faucet and then empty that into the larger buckets. It usually takes 2 buckets of water before the water is warm enough to my liking. I then use these buckets to water the vegetable plants in my (very tiny) backyard. The mere act of this has made me realize how much water I actually use--and that's with already being mindful of not wasting precious resources such as water. Now for a little math. Let’s say these buckets hold 3 gallons of water, so when I take a shower I’m conserving 3 gallons and when I wash my face I conserve 6 gallons. On average, in a 2 day period I will take 1 shower and wash my face 3 times. This equals 21 gallons of water that I save in a two day period! And that’s ONLY saving my bathroom waiting-for-the-water-to-get-hot water, so it doesn’t take into account the water that runs down the drain during my shower, water used to flushed the toilet, and water used to wash dishes.
My yard is pretty small. I have 3-5 veggie plants at a given time, 2 potted herbs, a lemon tree, and a lime tree. The rest of my yard consists of California Native Plants, which helps to cut down on water consumption. I also have a thick layer of bark mulch covering the plant beds, which helps to keep the soil moister for a greater length of time. So with this small amount of flora, I find that my 10 gallon per day average of conserved water is sufficient enough—so sufficient that I have probably watered my garden with a hose 3 times in the last 2 1/2 months since starting this conservation regiment! And sometimes, even, I find myself dumping a bucket of water into my toilet tank as I flush because my plants look like they’ve had enough water for the time being.
I do have to confess my initial motivation was to build up statistical ammunition to prove to my pesky HOA that they need to invest in buying new water heaters. (Side Note: If you are considering buying a place that is run by an HOA, please do your research and let the HOA’s reputation be a huge part of your buying decision. Ours is extremely annoying and if we could do it all over, we would not have bought there based merely upon this fact. Not that I’m not grateful for owning a place of my own and not being in danger of foreclosure...) Every few months my HOA posts threats of raising the HOA fee because of the increase in water prices. Yes, the complex’s astronomical water bill is affected by wasteful uses of water. But it’s also affected by pin hole leaks in our old-fashioned and shabby copper piping. And by our out-dated, half-working water heaters. In addition to pointing fingers at the tenants, the directors should also be pointing fingers at themselves for not upgrading to a more energy and cost efficient water heater system. With my water-saving experiment, I concluded that if my complex, made up of 46 units, invested in a new water heater system, we would save at a minimum 460 gallons of water every day. And that’s assuming there’s only 1 person living in each unit and that he or she takes only 1 shower and washes his/her face 3 times in 2 days. And that’s only calculating water saved from showers and face washes. Think of how much more water is wasted considering the fact that the vast majority of the units house more than one individual. And think of how much money and water would be saved a month if they were to invest in new water heaters.
To bring this point home, if you live in a complex, you may have a better water heater and piping system that pumps out hot water quicker than the complex I live in. And, if you live in a complex, you probably don’t have a yard so you have less plants to water. You can still use your buckets to help flush toilets. On the flip side, if you live in a house you almost most definitely have a better water system (heater-wise, at least). And almost definitely have more flora to water than I do, which might require you to use your hose more frequently than I do. But if you calculate it out, I’ll bet your water bill will decrease none the less. With that said, I challenge you all to try water saving techniques. (And, if you are a numbers geek like me, figure out statistics that are specific to your situation.) It is quite an eye-opening experience—not only will you be amazed at how much you conserve, but also you will feel proud that you are doing your part in the world. And you just might surprise your friends and family at how much of a green thumb you really are. It’s truly a small act (taking maybe an extra 5 minutes a day) that has such great impact: on your plants, on your pocketbook, on our great state of California (not to mention those states we are buying water from), and on our planet.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

No Time to Waste, No Water to Waste

by Corbyn Small
Staying on a similar theme from my post two weeks ago: water, desertification, drought. Sounds like I am about to dive into another blog about East Africa, when in fact my topic today is a little closer to home, San Diego. In case you don't follow the news here in San Diego, or the San Diego news hasn't reached your home elsewhere, the city has issued a Level Two Drought Alert to all of it's residents as of June 1, 2009. You may not have thought of it before but San Diego is a desert, it's chaparral climate is warm, dry, and it does not have a large source of water near it's major populations. Only 10-20 percent of the drinking water here in San Diego comes from rain water that falls and is saved in reservoirs, while the rest travels upwards of 1,000 miles through aqueducts from Utah, Wyoming, and Colorado. Ocean water desalinization plants are expensive making aqueducts that travel through countless metropolitan cities the most viable option for San Diego's water supply.
Here is what the level two alert means for us here in San Diego:
    * Homes with odd-numbered addresses can water: Sunday, Tuesday & Thursday
    * Homes with even-numbered addresses can water: Saturday, Monday & Wednesday
    * Apartments, Condos and Businesses can water: Monday, Wednesday & Friday
These regulations have been put in place to help remind people to limit and conserve their water usage during this time of drought. Other regulations have been removed in order to reuse household water for personal gardens. Starting today, the regulation keeping people from creating simple at-home systems to divert used water from bathtubs, showers, and washing machines into their gardens has been lifted. You are no longer required to have a permit to reuse this water that is called "grey water" for your backyard jungle. A single family could reuse 22,000 gallons of tap water a year by simply diverting rinse water from their washing machine. Collectively San Diegan's can significantly relieve the stress levels that are on our water supplies.
If you live here in San Diego, next time you take a shower, wash your car, or water your garden think about the fact that you are using an imported resource that local San Diegans wouldn't have unless our kind friends in Colorado and Utah shared their tasty mountain top snow melt. It is almost beyond my capacity to think about San Diego in a similar context as the countries where Plant With Purpose works with rural subsistence level farmers, but the truth is we need to be mindful of our resources and careful about how we go about preserving them.
Helpful Resources:
Here is a cool site that gives practical solutions to saving water and tells you how much you will save.
Details about reusing grey water.
A workshop to teach you all about setting your home up with grey water systems