Friday, October 30, 2009


Happy Halloween from everyone here at Plant With Purpose!

Don’t Waste Pumpkin Guts

by Mackenzie Miller

I’ve decided that carving pumpkins is the PERFECT first date. And not because I am some artistic protégé, and want to show off my skills– frankly, I’m more Picasso than Van Gogh when it comes to pumpkins. (and most activities that require sharp motor skills and a creative eye, for that matter.) No, it’s definitely not the process of CARVING that’s so special, but the experience as a whole; especially the pre and post carve.

It starts off at the pumpkin patch. Some major flirtation and getting-to-know one another can happen in this romantically rustic setting. But more importantly, the selection process will definitely tell you how much appearances matter to your suitor. Does he spend hours searching for the “perfect” pumpkin, all round and huge? Or does he search for that slightly leaning one, the one with all that character? Is he particular at ALL about making his selection? Finding the best pumpkin for you is an expression of personal opinion and preference, let me tell you! After the pumpkins are chosen and all the adorable pictures among bails of hay are taken, (that hopefully will be in a scrapbook titled “first date!” years down the road…) the excitement wears off. But fear not, for this is NOT a lull in the date! The carving is about to begin.

Ahhh pumpkin guts. Scooping and carving is an awkwardly messy and fun way to ease those first date jitters. Kit, or free-hand? Traditional, or eclectic? A person’s design choice can give great insight to their character, if you think about it. At least I’d like to think that my jaggedly juvenile yet original designs say a lot about me! (Not artistic. “A” for effort. But cool. Willing to take risks and laugh at herself.) But what says even MORE about a person is what they do with the guts AFTER the pumpkin is scooped and carved.

Let's think about resourcefulness, and sustainability. Does he go straight to the trashcan with his pumpkin guts, or does he save them? I, for one, could never date a guy who wastes such a delicious resource. Not when roasted pumpkin seeds are so easy to make, and such a great snack for fall! And pumpkin bread? Pumpkin pie? Okay, a little harder to make – but, once again, my theory of first-date-ability is proved, because you will find out right away if your date is a good cook!

I mean, clearly, there are no better qualities in a mate than being environmentally conscious and having Top Chef skills in the kitchen, are there?

Happy carving, happy dating, and happy Halloween! And please, remember this important message from Plant With Purpose: Don’t Waste Pumpkin Guts!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

But it has Always Been this Way...

by Plant With Purpose Executive Director, Scott Sabin

Jared Diamond, in his book Collapse gives a frightening description of how the Polynesian culture of Easter Island deteriorated, largely as a result of deforestation. In fact, as he points out, deforestation was a major contributor to the collapse of most of the societies he examined in the book.

But particularly chilling is his speculation on the mindset of the islander who cut down the very last tree. Diamond imagines that he probably would not have even recognized its significance. By the time he came to that tree, trees would have long since lost their economic importance and their prominence in the landscape. No one would have even noticed its absence. Sadly, we have reached this point with many plants, animals and entire landscapes around the world.

Diamond has a name for this phenomenon: “landscape amnesia.” It has also been called the “shifting baseline syndrome” or creeping normalcy. Many might recognize it as the boiled frog syndrome. Changes happen so slowly that we do not notice them as they occur, and we forget what things looked like originally or what they are supposed to look like.

C. S. Lewis, author of The Chronicles of Narnia and Mere Christianity, wrote a poem hinting at the same idea, titled “The Future of Forestry.” In it he imagines a time in the near future when children will have difficulty imagining what elms, chestnuts, and even autumn looked like during a legendary “age of trees” before concrete covered the land. I have witnessed this effect in Southern California, where the canyons and mesas of my home have been gradually reduced to a few thin slivers of park in the midst of housing developments. Most of the people who live here are recent arrivals and have no idea what a beautiful place this once was. They think Southern California has always been a sea of concrete. In the meantime, those of us who have grown up here look at photos from our childhood and are shocked at what we see, because the change has been so gradual yet so complete. What had been here for millennia disappeared in thirty years and we have barely noticed its passing.

The same thing is happening around the world. Flying from Nairobi, Kenya to Lake Victoria over the Rift Valley in a small plane, I saw no space that was unsettled, no land uncultivated. Tin roofs glinted in the sunlight from horizon to horizon. Lake Victoria has been badly damaged by deforestation, contamination, and the introduction of invasive species. Water hyacinth is choking out other life, while introduced Nile perch has eliminated most native species of fish. A group of friends who visited a month before me all contracted schistosomiasis after swimming in the water.

Yet the high-end resort on Rusinga Island manages to maintain the image of pristine beauty in the midst of remote wilderness, in part because their clients never saw what the lake used to look like. However, it has clearly become a shadow of its former self. We can only guess what Lake Victoria must have been like 150 years ago when John Speke first laid eyes on it. Since we are unable to compare its current state with its previous state, we fail to see the degradation.

Dr. Jeremy Jackson, professor of oceanography at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, writes, “The problem is that everyone, scientists included, believes that the way things were when they first saw them is natural.”

Knowing that we are prone to miss the big picture should be a cause for humility. As we read Jared Diamond’s account of the destruction of the ecosystem of Easter Island, and that society’s subsequent demise, we tend to be harsh judges of the short-sightedness of the islanders. It is always easier to see the faults in others. We should instead recognize the mirror it provides for us and our own situation. As stewards we are fallible and yet still responsible for how we care for God’s creation.

This article was posted on on 10/28/09.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Oaxaca Wednesday

by Aly Lewis

Buenos dias! Last week I had the privilege of visiting Plant With Purpose’s program in Oaxaca, Mexico. Pretending to be a weathered journalist like Nicolas Kristof, I spent the week asking the tough questions (only tough because my Spanish is a little rusty), scribbling down copious notes and anecdotes, and getting to know our partners in the field, the families we work with, and other friends and supporters of Plant With Purpose.

It’s a strange paradox that visiting our programs always makes me feel less qualified to write about the people we work with. The more I learn and see and know, the more I know I don’t know—about agriculture, the Mixtec people, and even our in-country staff. It’s humbling to know I don’t have the whole picture or the whole story, but it’s also been incredibly exciting to be able to experience part of the story. And encouraging to know I can share these juicy tidbits and morsels—like the fact that our partner organization’s Fundraising Assistant, Noemi, plays the electric guitar, it takes women two days to make their remarkable pine needle baskets, and the price of beans has risen from 10 to 25 pesos per kilo due a devastating drought—with those who aren’t able to visit the field. In honor of the wealth of stories and information I collected, I am dedicating one blog post a week (from now to eternity) to highlight our transformational work in the rural hills of Oaxaca. Welcome to Oaxaca Wednesday!

I’d also like to share some amazing images taken by new friend, Ruby Coria, on our trip. Enjoy!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Imagination in Focus

By Rhodes Garrison, Plant With Purpose Intern

This weekend was interesting. Many of my family members and friends were out of town for some reason. Maybe it had something to do with the moon or moving in to Scorpio season. Who knows! Nevertheless, my many unaccompanied experiences had no negative effect on me. I got to spend some quality time alone reading Hemingway, watching football, not talking a whole lot (mainly to myself), and imagining.

I did get the chance to take part in the fun and games at a pumpkin patch with my sister and two dear nephews on Saturday afternoon…the only ones in town! I figured it was a good way to break from Hemingway’s depressing rhetoric, the ten spectacular channels of college football, and even the delicate sounds of October winds. Fortunately, I could continue imagining in a festivity full of imaginary kids.

My oldest nephew Garrison and I rode down the “scary” slide, circled the merry-go-round on a tiny wooden bench that I was way too big for, and shot ping pong balls purposely aimed for glass bowls in a tub full of water. Honestly, to see him shoot caring least of the result and shining with a bright smile on his face was amazing. We later took a walk and said “hello” to the many slides where limitless and rambunctious kids slid down. Considering Garrison is two and loves slides, I felt it was perfectly acceptable and fair to ask the slides how they were doing. To be a participant of Garrison’s imagination is something I would never trade.

I got the chance to break from Garrison when he decided to get inside the jump zone with beach balls. Lets just say when you combine a jump zone, beach balls, and a two-year-old, energy and time are boundless. By my sister’s request, I proceeded to take my eight-month old nephew Leeland to the displayed rows of pumpkins and do some eight-month old exploring. This consisted of sitting in one spot, eating a lot of hay, and drumming while also drooling on the one pumpkin we decided to inspect. Leeland is at the point in life where his curiosity is fresh, completely unhidden, untroubled, and carefree. He is in the midst of building his own personal imagination, where his actions are priceless, beautiful, and unique to witness. To be a participant of Leeland’s imagination is something I would never trade. The fact that both Garrison and Leeland continue to provide me with these moments is simply incredible.

This got me thinking about the roles we play with Plant With Purpose. Limitations are only existent in our minds. We need continue to use our imaginations and think of things we believe will make this world a better place. If followed, our possibilities become limitless. Don’t let age fool you. The sky is the limit everyone. Imagination can rule the world and sometimes what we cannot see is infinitely more important than what we can see. Humanity deserves to continue further and grow. Just as I did with Garrison and Leeland, embrace your imagination, share it with others, and believe.

Monday, October 26, 2009

The Justice Project

by Kate McElhinney Looking for a meaningful book to read? The Justice Project explores how Christians can respond to the call for justice and change in the world. This recently released book contains a collaboration of ideas from contemporary authors including Brian McLaren, Lynne Hybels, Bart Campolo and Rene Padilla who are dedicated to solving social justice issues. Each chapter focuses on a different aspect of justice such as extreme poverty, racism and human rights. We are excited to announce that Plant With Purpose Tanzania Program Officer Sarah Ferry is included in this project. In chapter 26 titled "Just Countryside", Sarah explains how justice from the roots up can affect life in rural areas. Focusing on Plant With Purpose's work in the Dominican Republic, specifically in the village of Zumbador, Sarah highlights how farmers who live in extreme poverty and depend on the land for survival are forced to work on the least desirable plots - steep and treacherous hillsides. Desperation forces them to cut down precious trees to burn and sell for charcoal, which depletes nutrients from the earth, drys out the land, and makes the soil vulnerable to erosion. This causes poverty to spread even more as farmers suffer from the degraded environment. Sarah points out how this cycle, left unchecked, has created some of the most extreme poverty in the world. Haiti is one such example where deforestation has left people unable to farm, utterly broke and starving, with some people so desperate they literally eat dirt just to curb their hunger. Sarah writes, "This image of God's children eating the dust of the earth is a powerful icon of injustice. This is the ultimate sign that humankind and the environment have disengaged from the relationship for which we were intended." To read more, you can purchase a copy on (Helpful hint: If you purchase this book through the Floresta website, a percentage of the sales will go toward helping Plant With Purpose to combat injustices throughout the world.) Happy reading! PS You can become a fan of the Justice Project on facebook by clicking here.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Facebook: Friend or Foe?

by Mackenzie Miller

As part of the Greek Community at the University of San Diego, I was required to attend a talk by a special speaker this past Monday night. Okay, most of the time these speakers are soooooo boring, and since I was stuck in midterm madness this week I was ALMOST about to head to the library instead. All I have to say, is I am so glad I ended up going to hear Katie Koestner's enlightening and frightening presentation.

Katie Koestner is a name that may sound familiar to you. She has appeared on dozens of television shows and news programs in order to create public awareness of date rape, acting as a voice for one of the most under-reported crimes in America. But Ms. Koestner had another agenda for the students of USD Monday night. She warned us all about the dangers of Facebook and digital media.

I am officially freaked out now. You never really READ the terms and conditions when you click “Agree!” Does Facebook really own EVERYTHING I post or write or tag… even after it’s deleted?

When I left the seminar, I was about 2 seconds away from deleting my page entirely. But as I logged in to my Facebook, an “Event Invitation” for a fundraiser for Breast Cancer Awareness stopped me short.

Yes. This new online world can be a dangerous and scary place if used incorrectly. But it can also be a way to connect with people around the world and to get the word out there about non-profits, charity events and community gatherings and to become “Fans” of cool pages – like PWP’s fan page!

Ms. Koestner’s message and story was powerful and motivating – I am definitely going to think twice about everything I do on Facebook, and encourage everyone else to do the same. But don’t “delete!” Use it to send and share great messages instead.

And to post some funny YouTube videos every now and then, of course.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Happy Feet!

Ok, you all know how much we love photo shoots here at Plant With Purpose. So when our Outreach Coordinator's mom sent us colorful socks to keep our "toesies" warm, (which was much appreciated by Aly, whose socks were knocked off during the Planting Hope gala) we couldn't resist having an impromptu photo session! We want to send a big thank you to Shelle Small for this thoughtful gift. Thank you for your encouragement and support! And now...check out our fun photos!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Renewal Day of Prayer

Hi everyone!

Today is Renewal’s second annual Day of Prayer for God’s creation. At this very moment, colleges, churches and communities across North America are standing together to pray for the renewal of God’s creation.

The student lead organization “Renewal” is calling on Christians to pray for energy stewardship and climate change. Renewal believes this expression of unity in prayer is vital during an age wherein our careless and irresponsible stewardship of energy resources has led to severe harm such as: air and water pollution, climate change, mountaintop removal, environmental injustice, and violence and economic instability.

As Christians, we’re called to be “the light of the world,” and to demonstrate Christ’s vision of hope. In this time of darkness, we are called to pray for guidance, present solutions, and reach out to our neighbors who have been harmed by poor energy stewardship and climate change.

Overconsumption of our energy resources has led to great harm, but with God’s help we can make needed changes and offer practical solutions that offer hope to the people and places affected. Today is an opportunity to shine a new kind of light, and demonstrate Christ’s hope for the world in this important area.

The students of Renewal are inviting all Christians to fast from one source of energy use for the day. Examples include: not driving for the day, shutting off lights, fasting from cell phones, television, computers, or other sources of electricity, eating vegetarian for the day, etc.

Tonight, Christian students on campuses across North America will demonstrate their unity and solidarity by turning off the lights for one hour, and hosting prayer vigils for a time of prayer for the people, places, and wildlife that are harmed through poor stewardship of energy resources.

Renewal is inviting all Christians to participate in this day of prayer and fasting. We encourage you to join in!

About Renewal

Renewal is a group of college students who seek practical ways to care for the earth so that all God's creatures, as well as future generations, can have a healthy environment in which to live. They believe that prayer is an important practice for all of us as we seek to reclaim and renew our Biblical calling to care for God’s creation. Once a year, in the fall, Renewal calls on Christians to participate in a day of prayer to seek forgiveness, wisdom, and leadership in caring for the whole of God’s creation. Renewal issues this call every year as an open invitation to all Christians.

For additional resources, click on the below links:

Suggestions for Day of Prayer Events

Day of Prayer Fasting Ideas

Sample Prayers on Energy Stewardship

A "How To" guide and sample timeline for organizing your Day of Prayer event!

For more information or to send a prayer request or photo of your event, please email:

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Cool School

By Corbyn Small Last night, students piled into the Ellipse Chapel at Point Loma Nazarene University for a night of music, dance, fellowship, and fun celebrating Plant With Purpose’s work in Haiti. There was Haitian art sprawled around the room, Creole-style linguine pasta with andouille and chicken, and a traditional drum and dance performance that took the audience on a rhythmic journey from the musical roots of Africa through Cuba and into Haiti. Plant With Purpose’s Executive Director, Scott Sabin, also spoke about his experience in Haiti and how Plant With Purpose started its work in Haiti more than 12 years ago. The overall tone of Scott's message was that hope exists with in Haiti, that the people are some of the strongest in the world, and we mustn't discount Haiti because it is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere
The 5th Annual PLNU Plant With Purpose dinner was one of the most successful yet: there were 120 people in attendance and over $250 was raised to plant trees! Each year the PLNU Resource Stewardship Task Force and Physical Plant host a Plant With Purpose dinner so that students and faculty can come be immersed in a cultural experience themed after one of the countries PWP works in. Through the years Plant With Purpose and Point Loma Nazarene University have built a strong relationship with one another, and the evening highlighted the growth that both groups have experienced over the last five or six years. Thank you to PLNU for years of the highest quality interns, devoted volunteers, and financial support of our international work. As an alumnus of PLNU and as the current outreach coordinator at Plant With Purpose, I was proud to be the one to introduce the newest accomplishments and efforts of Plant With Purpose. Advocating on behalf of PWP has never been easier, using social networks like Facebook and Twitter give every individual the opportunity to use their voice to share the story of Plant With Purpose and its sustainable programs in Haiti and around the world. Just as I invited the students and faculty last night, I invite you to join us in the storytelling: use the tools on, share our video with your friends and family, tell those 200+ friends you have on Facebook that you love what Plant With Purpose is doing and want them to be involved too! We can’t do it without you! Facebook Fan Page Twitter- @PlantWPurpose Viral Video link (post it in your blog!)

Monday, October 19, 2009

Fall Festivities and Family Fun

by Aly Lewis

Fall has indeed fallen upon us. This Saturday Plant With Purpose took part in Point Loma Nazarene University’s annual Fall Festival. Hundreds of families from around the community enjoyed a day full of fall and family fun. Kids skipped out their energy in bounce houses, scaled climbing walls, and impressed the crowds with their high flying gymnastics skills and karate concentration. (I just have to add that the little gymnast girls were so cute that I was highly tempted to get one of my old leotards out and join them in their spring board bouncing and cartwheeling fun. Too bad there is an unwritten height limit of approximately 4 feet and a cute cut-off of about 12 years.)

Families also celebrated the season with carriage rides and pumpkin patch photo shoots, attended a free ice cream social with the university’s president where they raffled off a sweet motor scooter, and passed by booths highlighting local non-profits, artisans, and university groups. That’s where Plant With Purpose came in. Thanks to everyone who stopped by our booth, picked up our stickers, and bought our t-shirts.

Plant With Purpose also got some free publicity as one of the featured musicians of the event, Cameron Lewis, (my younger brother!) sported one of our new Plant With Purpose t-shirts as he serenaded and entertained the festival-goers. Thank you, Cameron, for making Plant With Purpose look—and sound—cool!

The Plant With Purpose/Point Loma collaboration continues tonight with a Haitian-themed dinner at Point Loma designed to educate students, staff members, and professors about Plant With Purpose’s transformational work around the world. And speaking of college students, this Wednesday college students from all over the country will be joining together to pray for Renewal’s second annual Day of Prayer for God’s Creation.

Check back later this week for stirring updates on both of these events.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Boot Euphoria

by Mackenzie Miller

Wednesday turned out to be a monumental day, though my morning started like most with a run along the beach. As the burning subsided in my tired legs, and the sleep melted from my eyes, I noticed something different, however. The sky was an unusually gloomy shade of gray. The air was damp, and cold. Had San Diego finally decided to behave within the guidelines of fall? Eureka! I thought. BOOT SEASON.

I couldn’t contain my excitement as I showered and got ready for my day. All I could think about was peeling open the shoebox of those tan, leather, slouchy boots I had been just WAITING to wear. And as I left the house (practically strutting) I couldn’t help but notice how elevated my mood was. My boot-euphoria quickly transitioned into Fall-euphoria, and I giddily came up with my top 5 reasons – shoe trends aside - why I love the season so much.

1. Sitting by the fireside. There is nothing I love better than enjoying my book/TV show/homework by a fire. I swear it transforms whatever the activity is.

2. Pumpkin flavored lattes: why is it that these are only available in Fall? Clearly, ‘pumpkin’ is a flavor that could – and SHOULD – be enjoyed all year long. Get with it, Starbucks.

3. Wearing socks to sleep, and around the house in general. And not just any socks: fuzzy ones. Thick ones. Knee-high ones! (Ps – sorry to rub in the whole sock thing, Aly. I know yours were recently knocked off….)

4. RAIN! Okay, there usually isn’t much. But on that rare circumstance that I get to whip out the umbrella, it is a joyous occasion.

5. Thanksgiving - perhaps my favorite holiday, ever. Because every American celebrates, regardless of religion. Because it isn’t about gifts – it’s about family. And being thankful for what we have.

Now I’m bummed. Because thanksgiving is sooooo far away. I got ahead of myself. But you know, who needs to wait for Thanksgiving to be thankful? Every time I go into work at Plant With Purpose I’m reminded of how lucky we all are (as human beings) that there are people and organizations out there willing and able to help people. Willing to change and save lives.

My mom’s delicious yams will have to wait until the end of November. But in the meantime, I’ll just be thankful for non-profits, warm socks and delicious lattes. And cute boots, of course. Gosh I love Fall.

Plant With Purpose Celebrates its Most Successful Gala Ever!

By Kate McElhinney

Last week was a busy one for everyone here at Plant With Purpose as we geared up for the Planting Hope Gala. Our printers were launched into overdrive as they pumped out bidder numbers. Baskets were stuffed and primped for the silent auction. Our awesome volunteers pitched in with last minute details. Then, before you know it, lights, camera action! The big night had arrived.

Stinky socks aside, (sorry Aly, I couldn’t resist!) the evening was a huge success. We had over 300 guests enjoy the opportunity to learn more about Plant With Purpose and support its efforts on behalf of the rural poor around the world. Bill Menish, the auctioneer for the evening, kept the energy alive during the silent and live auctions, and the evening was truly filled with merriment as everyone celebrated Floresta / Plant With Purpose’s 25th anniversary.

I thought things would settle down this week, but the opposite has occurred! There is a current of excitement throughout the office that has carried over from Saturday night. The administrative department has been hard at work tallying up the final numbers from the evening, and with each calculation there have been new reasons to celebrate.

Now what you have all been waiting for…I am pleased to announce that our final total for the evening is $317,000!! This is a tremendous figure and more than we could have hoped for. And this is a huge jump from last year’s total, which was $262,228.

The most successful part of the evening was the Fund a Need auction. During this time, guests had the opportunity to learn more about our programs and their specific needs such as agro-forestry loans in the Dominican Republic, credit corporatives in Tanzania, and reforestation projects in Burundi. At the end of the Fund a Need auction, paddles flew up left and right as people committed to planting a forest of trees. It’s amazing that for only a dollar you can plant one tree…and at the gala we raised $13,000 to plant 13,000 trees!

Plant With Purpose sends out a big THANK YOU to everyone who participated in the Planting Hope gala! Whether it was through attendance, volunteering, giving or prayer, we want to thank you all for supporting this event. And a special thank you to Shirley Billingsley, the Committee Chair, whose dedication and attention to detail made a huge impact on the evening. Thank you, Shirley, for all your hard work!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Knocking Socks Off and Transforming Lives

by Aly Lewis

The verdict is in: my socks were knocked off. By Plant With Purpose’s 2009 Planting Hope Gala last Saturday, that is. It was a delightful evening of high energy Plant With Purpose supporting, socializing, and celebrating.

Here are the top 3 reasons my socks really were knocked off:

1. I didn’t trip in my heels all night, as I gallivanted around catching up with old friends, classmates, and coworkers, sneaking Hershey’s kisses off the silent auction tables, and sharing my Plant With Purpose savvy with anyone who would listen.

2. Journey to Africa By far one of the most meaningful parts of the evening was getting to meet Edith Banzi. Edith is our local director in Tanzania and we had the honor of hearing her talk about the amazing work and progress that is taking place in our program there. Mama Floresta, as she’s know throughout the communities, shared about the latest projects—double dug gardens, wood saving stoves, and Village Community Banks—talked about the transformation she’s seen in the lives of the farmers she works with—improved incomes, increased confidence, and hope for the future—and gave us a little taste of the excitement, dedication, and compassion she shares with farmers and families in her part of the world. It’s a privilege to join with partners like Edith in this transformational work.

3. Rolling in the Benjamins I’m not going to spill the financial beans or steal Kate’s Gala recapping thunder, but I will say that this year’s gala was our most successful gala in Plant With Purpose history! The big bucks aside, the fact that over 300 people chose to spend their Saturday evening learning about, celebrating, and supporting Plant With Purpose is a huge encouragement to me. Seriously. I’ll stop here before the Aly Lewis Cry Fest has a chance to begin.

Anyways, check out these fun pics from the evening and stay tuned for Kate’s Official Gala Recap to be posted tomorrow.

*PS If anyone has found my knocked-off-socks please return them to the Plant With Purpose office at your convenience. My sockless feet are not liking the cold fall nights.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

“Would you rather have 100 more soldiers or 10 agronomists?”

by Doug Satre Sounds like the beginning of a joke, but actually this was a question Gen. Karl Elkenberry, America’s leading general and now Ambassador to Afghanistan, routinely asked his field commanders. The answer he got back, 9 times out of 10, was that his commanders would take the agronomists. Surprised? To see the article click here: The answer highlights the often-overlooked role of agricultural development that lies at the heart of some of our world’s bloodiest conflicts. Historically, many of our planet’s wars have been fought to control farmland. Rome conquered Egypt, not just for the monuments, but so that it could become the “bread basket of the Roman Empire.” Current conflict in Zimbabwe, Congo, Ethiopia, etc have more to do with farming-related issues as it has to do with political ideology. PWP sees this reflected in many of the places where we work, especially on the Haiti- Dominican border, and in Burundi, where returning refugees are struggling to settle back into their old communities and find land to farm. We see first-hand the crucial role that sustainable agriculture plays in overcoming conflict and establishing peace in rural communities. It can seem like slow going, at times, but the results are long-lasting. Yet, most of the money our country spends abroad still goes towards weapons, or at best, emergency food aid, rather than actual agricultural development. (Foreign Affairs recently reported that in Africa the US spends 20 times the amount of money on emergency food aid as on agricultural development.) I wonder why that is? Maybe because sending more soldiers, or air-drops of more food, seems to promise immediate results, providing short-term solutions to pressing problems. Maybe it’s because we are moved to action by a crisis, and farming sounds kind of boring. I wonder if those commanders in the field ever got their agronomists? What do you think? 
This post was pulled from the archives and was originally posted May 22, 2009.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Ripple Report: Hope is Spreading in Tanzania

by Aly Lewis

I'd like to start the week by reviving our Plant With Purpose Ripple Reports. This week's report features the inspiring story Dina Kokerie, a mother of five school age children from the village of Ashira in Tanzania. After Dina’s husband abandoned the family, she was left in a desperate situation. Unable to provide for her family’s needs, she was forced to borrow money from relatives. After hearing how Plant With Purpose's work had benefited the nearby village of Masia Mamba, she took the initiative to gather a group of 40 people and invited Plant With Purpose to help them form a Village Community Bank in Ashira. She is now secretary of the group, which meets weekly to encourage consistent savings and be trained in small business and agricultural skills.

The results in Dina’s life have been dramatic. Using the money from her goat breeding business she started with a VICOBA loan, Dina now supports her five children and is able to pay for all their school fees—which amount to over $1,000 a year! Even better, she says, “Now I can look to the future with confidence, since I am able to stand on my own. I am so happy that Plant With Purpose has come to my community.”

This week's Ripple Report is dedicated to all of the talented and proactive community members that seek us out to improve their lives and transform their communities. Click here to see how you can partner with farmers from around the world on this journey of hope.

We wish you the best, Dina!

Friday, October 9, 2009

Dr. Farmer and Holistic Community Health

by Corbyn Small
Dr. Paul Farmer is an American physician and anthropologist who sits as chairman of Harvard Medical School's Department of Global Health and Social Medicine. But he doesn't just sit, Dr. Farmer has spent much of his time since he was a college student doing medical research focused on prevention and treatment of infectious diseases in the third world countries of Haiti, Rwanda, and Peru. He was one of the principle founders of Partners In Health, which is now 11,ooo strong and focused on a community development model that trains locals in each community as community health workers and nurses. He is completely committed to building local capacities, and he is using health care at the helm of his strategic plan to create jobs, eradicate preventable diseases, and restore what may never have existed in the first place- social dignity.
I had the pleasure and the honor of hearing Dr. Farmer speak at the University of San Diego last night and was taken back by his ability to relay complicated and technical medical jargon effectively and at times almost colloquially. He spoke from his heart and connected with his audience. He encouraged everyone to be involved, explaining that it is going to take more than just health care to make a lasting difference. It is going to take infrastructure, education, micro-finance and countless other efforts to make poverty history. He posed the questions, "How can we add up to more than just the sum of all our parts?" and "How can we make this (his work in health care) more effective? This is what I want to think about for the rest of my life." 
Farmer understands that there is no one panacea or end all to poverty, and that it will take collaboration, partnerships, and a commitment to social justice in order to see sustainable development.
Perhaps someday we at Plant With Purpose will have the opportunity to collaborate directly with Dr. Farmer. Until then, we can continue applying holistic solutions that will lead to holistic community health and prosperity.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

4 Star Charity Rating

Plant With Purpose just earned its fourth consecutive 4-star rating for sound fiscal management with Charity Navigator, putting us in the top 7% of US charities.
Congratulations, Plant With Purpose! Good work making the programs effective, keeping fundraising efficiency high, and overhead low. Keep it up!
To view Plant With Purpose's Charity Navigator rating page (under the founding name of Floresta USA) Click Here.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Oo-la-la Ga-la-la

Confessions of a non-schmoozer and new owner of a “little black dress”

by Aly Lewis

I don’t attend many “black tie optional” events. Sure, my friends occasionally get married at venues other than the beach and require their guests to wear apparel other than sun dresses and flips flops, but I must admit it’s not often. My tendency toward introversion and my general aversion to high heels often compel me to shy away from fancy-dress frolicking and gala gallivanting. But this weekend is Plant With Purpose’s 2009 Planting Hope Gala, and, somewhat to my astonishment, I couldn’t be more excited to gear up for some good ole mingling and the chance to test drive my newly (thrift store) purchased little black dress. And here’s why:

Top 10 Reasons the Gala Will Knock My (and your) Socks Off*

1. Hershey Kisses as Hors d'oeuvres

Who doesn’t love tasty pre-dinner chocolate treats?

2. Business Casuals Dressed to the Nines

Seeing my coworkers primped and preened: priceless.

3. Family Reunion

For me personally the gala will serve as an actual family reunion. My parents are coming in from Northern California for the event and my brother and his girlfriend will be attending as well. What’s more, the gala serves to reunite old friends, coworkers, and classmates. And beyond family lines, the gala unites us all as one Plant With Purpose family, joining together to transform the lives of the rural poor.

4. Goody bags

They were the best part of childhood birthday parties and, if we’re honest with ourselves, they’re still pretty great. This year we even have goody-bag-size bags of coffee from our friends at Malindi Coffee. Can you say cute caffeine?!

5. Killer Deals at the Silent Auction

Trust me, there are some sweet deals and packages in the silent auction this year. We’ve had companies from all over donate lots of unique, elegant, and just darn fun items. Here’s a little sneak peak: San Diego Sightseer and Lego My Eggo includes tickets to an array of local San Diego museums as well as to Legoland. Inline Fun with In ‘N Out Yum features a Skateworld party and In ‘N Out gift certificates. Little Kung Fu Guru offers authentic Kung Fu training for kids. And we have loads more of exciting packages, exclusive getaways, and entertaining ways for you to spend your days. (And if you’re wondering who wrote the clever package names, let’s just say I don’t like to toot my own horn, but I did enjoy a week of snickering at my desk while scheming up rhymes and alliterations)

6. Mix and Mingle

I admit I’m not usually one to schmooze, but even I find it fun to meet and talk to people who care about the same things I do. And perhaps I’m biased, but Plant With Purpose supporters are some of the coolest, most interesting people I’ve ever met. I dare you to introduce yourself to at least 10 people you don’t know. Make that a Double Dog Dare.

7. 25th Anniversary

This year marks Plant With Purpose’s 25th year of working to reverse poverty and deforestation around the world. That's right, Plant With Purpose was working at the intersection of poverty and deforestation way before creation care was cool. 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. Woohoo Plant With Purpose!

8. The Bidding Frenzy

I never cease to be amazed by the supersonic speed with which auctioneers “call” a live auction. Don’t let all the “Um diddle diddle um diddle ays” distract you because you’re going to want to bid on these awesome packages from an Adventures in Fatherhood father/daughter or father/son wilderness excursion to a magnificent Diamond Delight ring (to be modeled by my wonderful roommate) to an All Season High Sierra mountain retreat. Get your paddles ready!

9. The Giving Frenzy

Even more scintillating than the live auction is the Fund A Need “auction” of sorts. Instead of outbidding fellow tablemates, this is a chance for guests to pledge their support to Plant With Purpose’s life-changing programs. Every year I’m blown away by how much people give. I find myself saying to my neighbor (usually another broke college student), “Did they seriously just raise their paddle to give $20,000?” It’s inspiring and amazing and really really really cool to watch the excitement as people give joyously and generously. So inspiring, in fact, that I made my friend hide my paddle the first year I volunteered at the gala for fear that I would commit myself to give thousands of dollars that I didn’t possess. Building a cistern in Tanzania or paying for a semester of college? Seriously, it’s a tough choice.

10. The [Aly Lewis] Cry Fest

I will cry. And yes, this is a good thing. Every time I hear anyone speak on our life-changing programs or talk about the stories of transformation and restoration that Plant With Purpose is helping to bring about, I am moved to tears. I wish I was the kind of person who could cry on demand, but trust me, I can’t. So if you see my eyes glisten while our Executive Director, Scott, talks about Plant With Purpose’s accomplishments over the last 25 years, know that I’m legitimately moved. Witty banter and sarcastic comments aside, I am deeply grateful to be a part of this ministry, to connect with and empower rural farmers around the globe, and to join with others in taking baby steps of selflessness and compassion that spur us toward becoming more loving, more compassionate, and more fully engaged in our world. I think that’s something worth celebrating.

Don’t miss out on this amazing evening! To r.s.v.p. online, please visit or contact Kate McElhinney at (858) 274-3728 or

*Don’t worry, I will not actually be wearing socks with my little black dress. My socks will only figuratively be knocked off.

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