WomenStrong believes in the power of knowledge-sharing and the cross-pollination of innovation across diverse cultural settings. Lorian Viola, WomenStrong International’s Operations Manager, is based in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. Although she overseas financial management, planning, systems and controls for WomenStrong, Lorian also has considerable experience with economic development. So, while WomenStrong does not officially work in Honduras, Lorian didn’t hesitate when she saw a way to help a Honduran school by borrowing ideas from a WomenStrong Consortium half a world away.
In concrete terms, Lorian saw how the experience of our Consortium member in Kisumu, Kenya, Alice Visionary Foundation Project (AVFP), could help a rural Honduran school. The results show the power of freely sharing innovative ideas that enable impoverished women, girls (and boys) to lift themselves out of extreme urban poverty. Here’s Lorian’s story:
In an area close to where I live, there is a small primary school that, until recently, held classes under tents. Within the past few months, they obtained donations to build actual classrooms. In speaking with a community council member about the school, the problem of child hunger was highlighted as impacting student learning. Kids were coming to school hungry and then would often go throughout the day without a bite to eat. As might be expected, many of the children are stunted from malnutrition and related illnesses.
When I saw the situation, I suggested providing the children with at least one meal a day while they were at school. The council member told me that they did not have any additional funds to purchase food. I then suggested that they grow a school garden and use the activity to feed hungry kids, while also teaching them how to grow a kitchen garden. I was told that they didn’t have enough space to grow vegetables. And that made me think of AVFP’s urban agriculture program, specifically designed for growing crops in small spaces.
So, I told the school and the council about AVFP, and how they have overcome the challenge of limited space in a highly populated urban area, the slums of Kisumu, Kenya. They seemed interested, so I asked Beldina Opiyo, Founder and Director of AVFP, to send a few photos of her demonstration site, which she did.
I shared the photos over email with the council and thought that was the end of it.
But recently I was at the school and met up with the principal, who showed me what they have done so far. It was impressive! Apparently, they took the idea and just ran with it.
The community had collected spare tires and old bottles and created planters, just as depicted in the AVFP photos. They even went so far as to recruit an agricultural engineer, to teach the kids how to implement AVFP’s space-saving gardening ideas. Now, they have all sorts of small plants starting to grow in strategically placed tires and bottles along the fence. And they plan to continue! They have decided to make this a regular part of the school curriculum.
They asked me for more ideas, so Beldina and her staff made a video of how to build a gunny sack garden (a vertical bag garden), part of AVFP’s urban agriculture program. Now, the school here wants to do the same – and I plan to help them next week. They’re already in the process of collecting the items needed, stones, sticks, seeds, etc.
This is the power of a good idea shared between two very different places. Sometimes, all it takes is planting the seed of an idea and then watching it grow – quite literally here in Honduras.