Tag Archives: environment

Tears, Joy and Awe in Africa

Ever walk out of a movie, chuckling at the same time you’re wiping tears of emotion from your eyes? That’s what it was like for me when my husband and I visited Africa this summer. And each time I tell someone about our marvelous adventure, I fight back tears. It was without doubt the most memorable, rewarding and moving trip in my life.

We spent ten days in Kenya, visiting the staff, students and directors of Caring Hearts High School, in Nguluni. The school is about a ninety-minute drive on bumpy, crowded roads from where we stayed in Nairobi. Our host was Dr. Vincent Kituku, president of Caring Hearts and Hands of Hope, the force behind Caring Hearts High School.

Dr. Kituku grew up in nearby Kangundo, Kenya, and now lives in Boise, Idaho. I met Vincent in Boise through Toastmasters and later edited many of his articles and two of his books.

Classrooms at Caring Hearts High School
Classrooms at Caring Hearts High School

A visit to his native Kenya in 2010, where he saw the horrendous toll AIDS and poverty were taking, prompted him to take a hiatus in his career as a professional motivational speaker and become a fundraiser. When he realized that providing scholarships for girls and boys still didn’t help those most in need, he began the quest to buy a boarding school for girls. There they could be safe and nourished.

Kenya is a country of social and economic inequities. According to Unicef, 42 percent of its 44 million people live below the poverty line. Access to basic services such as health care, education, clean water and sanitation, is a luxury for many people. Yet everywhere we visited, we were greeted with warmth and food and entertainment, and usually left bearing gifts.

On our first afternoon at Caring Hearts, the students thrilled us with a remarkable display of talent and energy—singing, dancing and

Welcome to Africa!
Welcome to Africa!

recitations. We heard from their formidable, live-in principal, Miss Pamela, and from other local board members. They,

CHHH Principal, Miss Pamela
CHHH Principal, Miss Pamela

and of course, Dr. Kituku, had inspiring and encouraging words for the girls.

We were amazed at how hard the girls work and by the sheer volume of their course load—11 subjects a day. They rise at 4:30 a.m. to work on personal studies (homework) and are in class or other structured activities, including sports, drama and music, until

Dr. Kituku on dreaming big
Dr. Kituku on dreaming big

lights out at 9:30. They may even sneak in a few minutes for TV, but I’m not sure when.

Despite their rigorous schedule, these girls are happy—they smile and giggle a lot! One day I served them lunch and couldn’t believe I needed to dole out the entire pot of Githeri, a yummy staple of

lunchtime-2
Githeri: yum!

beans and corn, for one table of hungry teenagers. They set me straight.

We spent a morning working in the garden with the students and another collecting trash with them in Nguluni, the nearest community. There the conversation was more relaxed and we got to chat about the

Me, delivering manure!
Me, delivering manure!
trash-pickup-2
Collecting trash in Nguluni

differences between our country and theirs. And laugh a lot. When Mark and I asked one girl to summarize a story she’d told in their opening entertainment—we had a little difficulty hearing and understanding it—she recited it again. When Mark said, “Wow. You’re only a sophomore. Imagine when you’re a senior—you’ll be a star! She smiled with pride and said, “I’m already a star!” And indeed, she, and the other young women we were fortunate to meet, are stars. Stars that represent hope for a country mired in corruption and poverty.

 

giraffes-4-small

eland
Eland, zebras and buffalos

Later our group trekked six long hours by van over yet more bumpy roads to visit the Maasai Mara. The bumps were forgotten as soon as we began to see animals. Lots and lots of them

One day our adventure may be fodder for a novel. Today, it is food for my soul. If you want to learn more about Caring Hearts High School, visit their Facebook page, www.facebook.com/CaringHeartsandHandsofHope.

What about you? Has a trip or a project changed you in a significant way?

Lions
Lions

 

 

 

 

Gratitude, Hope and Squash Pie

I saw the movie “This Changes Everything” last week. Narrated by the author of the eponymous book, Naomi Klein, it painted a powerful and disturbing overview of climate change caused by our pursuit of growth and its resultant pollution. Klein’s ultimately hopeful premise is that people, working together, can reduce the impact of pollution through grassroots action. The imagery and the film’s message moved me.

I found hope in the full theater and in the volunteers from several environmental groups who handed out information before the movie. I am grateful for those volunteers and have hope that we can take action to combat the deniers of reality.

I also am grateful that President Obama and his advisors are, even if overdue, taking the threat of global warming as seriously as that posed by terrorists.

It’s often said that only the rich can afford to be environmentalists. But the effects of global warming will impact all of us, from farmers whose fields are flooded to those with second homes on shrinking, soon-to-be parched lakes. Each of us can take steps to reduce consumption of fossil fuel and slow global warming. Not everyone can afford to convert to solar power or buy a hybrid vehicle, but we can all use compact fluorescents or LEDs and turn off the lights when we leave a room. We can all encourage our utilities to implement alternative energy in their grids. If you have to rwild-turkeys_w520eplace an appliance, buy one with an Energy Star label.

Even eating wisely can reduce global warming. Try buying local products that haven’t been trucked for miles. Eat low on the food chain. Meat and dairy production contribute to greenhouse gases, so try a vegetarian meal once in a while.

Which brings me to my recipe! Enjoy, and have a Happy Thanksgiving!

 

butternut squash tartSavory Butternut Squash Tart

The recipe suggests using a tart pan. I find a pie pan works fine. This makes a great meal or a good side dish for leftover turkey or ham.

Start to finish: 45 minutes, depending on your skill at peeling winter squash.

9 inch prepared pie crust (I used to make my own, but have found those by Immaculate Pie Co. an excellent substitute, and a lot faster, if you remember to get it out ½ hour early to soften)

1 ¾ pounds peeled and cubed butternut squash (approx. ½ inch cubes)
3 eggs
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoons brown sugar (dark or light)
½ teaspoon dried thyme (leaves, not powder)
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Unroll pie crust and set it over a 9-inch tart pan with removable bottom. Press the crust into the pan and up the sides. Crimp and remove excess dough. Refrigerate pie crust.

Steam the squash over boiling water, in a steamer basket, covered, until very tender, about 15 minutes.

Transfer squash to a blender or food processor. Process or blend until mostly smooth. Add eggs, cheese, brown sugar, thyme, salt and pepper, then process again until very smooth.

Remove the crust from refrigerator and set in on a rimmed baking sheet. I line mine with foil to save cleanup time. Carefully pour the squash mixture into the crust. Bake for 25 minutes, or until set at the center. (It takes longer if you use a traditional pie pan.) Cool slightly before cutting into slices.

I am grateful for readers, other authors, good food, friends, my dog, my cat, my spouse, my new home, the ability to read and so much more. How about you?