Sew Powerful co-founder, Jason Miles, shares exciting news about feeding hungry kids in the Ngombe compound. Through a newly established partnership, more than 4800 children will receive a hot lunch every school day. Listen as Jason explains how the program will work and miraculously, how God prepared one of our Zambian team members to take a leadership role in this amazing new venture. Be sure to listen to the end for a second announcement about a new launch and partnership.
Expanding the 3 Esthers Farm with Jason Miles
IN THIS EPISODE
Feeding hungry kids, Tikondane Garden program, Ngombe compound, schools, donors, Esther, purse program, 3 Esthers Farm, Convoy of Hope, ministry, nutritionist, billboards, new website
We are Sew Powerful, How a Global Community of Seamstresses Is Changing Zambia One Girl at A Time, 2nd edition. By Jason G. Miles and Cinnamon, © 2016 & 2020 Jason G. Miles and Cinnamon, all rights reserved.
Convoy of Hope: https://convoyofhope.org
Tikondane Garden program: https://www.sewpowerful.org/blogs/3-esthers-farm/the-tikondane-garden-project
3 Esthers Farm website: https://3EsthersFarm.org
ABOUT THE SEW POWERFUL PODCAST
The Sew Powerful Podcast shines a light on the people behind the mission to keep girls in school and create purposeful products in Zambia. Join us every week for a new 30-minute episode to meet new people, hear inspiring stories, and learn how you can join us in this global movement. Whether you sew or not, make purses or not, you will find something to enjoy in every episode. Listen today.
Host: Jan Cancila
Guest: Jason Miles
Jan Cancila, host 00:04
Welcome to the Sew Powerful podcast. This is your host, Jan Cancila. You know the sound of my sewing machine means it's time for another episode. So, let's get started.
Hello Sew Powerful podcast listeners. Today we continue our discussion with Sew Powerful co-founder Jason Miles. And, you know, recently we've talked about the 3 Esther's farm and the Tikondane Garden project. But they're undergoing changes, great new things are happening. And Jason is here today to tell us about that. And we'll get to it in just a moment. But how are you today, Jason?
Jason Miles, guest 00:45
Well, I'm doing all right. My voice might be a little affected. Our household is doing the COVID thing here this last week, but I think we're okay. And it's an honor to be able to chat with you today.
Well, thank you for taking time out of I guess your testing to talk with us. Well, let's just start off. Give us the good news. What's happening?
Yeah, we have a new initiative that we're launching here on early part of 2022, with a ministry partner called Convoy of Hope. And we're just so excited about this new opportunity to serve more kids through the 3 Esthers Farm ministry. And I want to tell you all about it and answer questions and and let you know, kind of the origin story of it and all that in this conversation.
Well, that's great. Well, why don't you tell us a little bit about Convoy of Hope. Who are they? What do they do?
Yeah, it's a ministry that was started in the 90s by a guy named Hal Donaldson. And he started very simply, in Sacramento area. And he went on a missions trip and met Mother Teresa, and also some very kind of famous missionaries, Mark and Huldah Buntain in India and was inspired by them, and came home. And he started doing these care days, where they would collect groceries and help feed people. And the ministry started from there. And I think in their second year, another larger charity said, you know, we'll give you a lot of food if you can organize some larger events. And they ended up doing a big feeding event in Oakland, California, and then in San Francisco as well. I think there were like, 12,000 people they fed and and that just really kind of exploded their ministry and mission to help feed people. Yeah. So, it's an honor to be able to partner with them. We're really excited about it.
And what I understand is now they're headquartered in Springfield, Missouri, is that correct?
Yep. That's right.
And their source of food is very interesting to me. What is the source of food?
Well, they have big donors that do commodity food gifting. And so, Midwestern farmers, and those types of donors that have access to large quantities of food, are ones who equip them. I think, last year, they had $400 million worth of, of giving that they received. And so, they're a large organization now. And we'll be working with them both on receiving food as a commodity item from them and a program will allow us to also hire staff and that kind of thing. So, it's a, it's really an exciting collaboration.
Well, and how did this all come about?
You know, it's one of those things that I would just say, we're going to chalk up to a total God-thing, a God-blessing in the life of the ministry, and it happened in a way similar to how the 3 Esthers Farm started originally, which was just through a relationship conversation that produced sort of an obvious next step. So the relationship kicked off with some people that one of our board members knows that works at Convoy [of Hope], and that person is named Roger. He hadn't heard about the 3 Esthers Farm or what we were doing. And then we had a conversation and he introduced us to the Africa program people at Convoy and had a great conversation about the 3 Esthers Farm program, but also, mostly in that original conversation, it was about the Sew Powerful purse program. And then one thing led to the next and they did circle back with us and ask if we were interested in being a ministry partner on the ground in Zambia That first conversation, we asked them what they did in Zambia, and they said that they were planning to launch in 2022. And they didn't have a program on the ground there yet. And we just offered to be of service and of help in whatever way we could. And one thing led to the next and the program got formalized, and their Board approved the program in December; their president signed off on it, and our board approved it in December as well. And so we're just starting to set up the details now, this early part of January.
Well, so describe what is the program going to look like in Zambia for us?
What's gonna happen?
Yeah, so we have 10 schools that we have worked with locally in Ngombe compound for the purse program. And we're going to now be able to work with them for a daily feeding program serving over 4800 children. I think it's about 4850 kids daily, five days a week with a hot meal. The Convoy of Hope team will provide the the food and capacity in that regard, and then our team will implement on the ground. And so, it's going to be an really an opportunity to collaborate with these 10 schools in new ways, and really strengthen the relationship we have with them. And most of the schools I've been to and have photos from and have met the principals of the schools and, and it's just very, very touching, to be honest, to be able to say now that we can expand our program partnership with them beyond the purse program and also include feeding their kids. And it's just an incredible, incredible, it's a miracle in my view, that we have this opportunity to work with them in this way.
Well, you know, when you say schools, I'm thinking of a school building, but I saw a photo of one of the schools and it was was something like a large tent, almost it look like the sides were made out of canvas, a dirt floor, looked like maybe two by four frame. Is that right?
Yeah, yeah, that that school you're mentioning is called Generous School. The principal is a wonderful guy named Nickton. We met him in 2017. And the the school you're describing, the way it's constructed, is it was just made out of old recycled billboards. Those big vinyl billboards, that after they're discarded, they use those to turn into sort of like a big Quonset hut tent, or like circus tent or some like small circus tent type thing. And on the outside, it's just all black, because it's the backside of the billboard. But on the inside, you can actually see like doughnuts, and like mobile phones and stuff. And so I have photos of that. We'll have to have on the website here as we go forward. But it is a school that is probably one of the most challenging schools in terms of the physical facility there in Ngombe Compound, but just a beautiful guy, Nickton, and they have 185 kids there. And in general, the way the schools work in Ngombe Compound is there's, there's public schools, and then there are private schools, which would be nice, really kind of expensive. And then there are community schools, which are usually started by a mom or group of moms or somebody, somebody who's just a caring adult, that's just trying to get the kids off the street and get them into some semblance of a school. And so Nickton's school is a community school. And it's a thrill to be able to begin to collaborate with schools that are, in essence, sort of the poorest of the poor. I mean, if you can say it that way, they have the least resources, the least facility, and those are the ones we really feel a burden to help the most. And so, we're designing the program to actually help the schools who have the greatest need, not the schools that have the greatest facility. And that sort of, you know, tension point. But it's important, from our view, to really help the principals who have no one else helping them. They have no facility, they're, you know, they're in setups like, like that one.
What are the kids doing for meals now?
Before we get there?
Yeah, most schools that are the community schools, they don't have the budget to provide any kind of hot lunch. And Esther is the principal or director for the Needs Care School, which has been our longtime location since 2009. She's had hit and miss access to food. World Food Program, which is the United Nations program had done food distributions at these schools, on and off, for some of them. It ended, I think, in 2012, or 13. And then it just depends on what they can muster in terms of donations, and that kind of thing. Most of the time, they don't offer any kind of hot lunch. They just wouldn't have the budget for it. And the kids themselves are in households that do not have access to food. It is incredibly, intensely deprived. Most of the households live in extreme poverty, technically, it's below $1.90 a day, per person and most of them wouldn't have food in their household. It's hard for us as Westerners to understand how desperate it is. You know, one time a donor ask is there a mouse and rat problem in Ngombe Compound? And the answer was laughingly No. That's called bushmeat. They eat the mice and rats. And in Africa you can tell a child is malnourished because their hair will turn red on the end the ends. You can see it. And so, it's a desperate situation. This is not a, this is not just a, you know, a kind of unnecessary thing. This is incredibly crucially needed. Nickton, when he found out that his school, Generous School, was going to be included, he sent us a note back and he thanked us. And he said, you know, we have so many kids who are on antiretroviral therapy, HIV AIDS medication. And if they don't have food, that makes them ill, and frequently skipping school. So, he said, this will help us keep our kids in school. So that's kind of the circumstance that we find ourselves in. It is incredibly desperate. And so that's why this is so important for us. And we're so excited about it.
Will this new program create any new roles? Will our team members expand?
Yeah, that's the exciting part too. We have a budget and figured out a staffing plan to support this that basically has a total team of about 30 people who are going to be joining just for this. And then when you add in the Tikondane Garden program that's growing, then we've got a team, that's about 38 people that will be on the ground here in the next few months. A couple of the roles that are obvious that everybody might enter, like, what is the role, but one of them is just a cook at every school. So every school will have a cook. And these will be part time roles for parents, or you know, the moms or that kind of thing. But every school have a cook. Every school also have a program coordinator. And this is really exciting for the purse makers who are listening to this. They're like, What now?, but listen to this. This is really cool. The schools that we're partnering with have already been beneficiaries of the Sew Powerful purse program. So, their girls have gotten the training; they've gotten the purses. We've always just gone to the school principal and said, hey, you know, here's how it works dot ta dot ta dah. But because we've got the feeding program, that would be every day, you know, five days a week, we're going to have a program coordinator at each school as well, that will administer both programs. They'll administer the feeding program, but they'll also be on point to administer the purse programming work, which means the girls at those schools will have a contact now at every school. There'll be that coordinator, and it'll likely be one of the teachers, you know, who will have basically be, you know, like, in our schools in the US, it's like, okay, which teacher is the volleyball coach in the afternoon or which teacher does the football team or whatever. It'll be something akin to that, where we'll have a teacher at every school, that will be able to be our point person for for both sides, the feeding program work and the purse program work. And, and so that's exciting, as well. And so, and then there are a few other roles. I've got one key staff position, I want to mention, that's just a total, a God thing. There's one staffer who I'm so excited about, and I'm going to tell you the story of and it's in regard to one of our program leaders. And the purse makers don't know the story. And if you're a purse maker, you might have heard this person's name, but you didn't know this backstory that I'm about to tell you. Lentiah is one of our key leaders in the purse program. She's the person we hired, I think in 2012, or 2011, 2012, to be the, the head knitter. She was the knitting machine professional that we brought into the group. And she has over time become our key leader. Well, in 2016, or 17, Esther let me know that Lentiah was going back to college, but still wanted to work with us. But she was going to college to be a nutritionist. And that was really the passion that she was excited about. And so she went to college, and I believe it was in 2019. I'll have to look up the conversation, but I remember Esther came to me and said, you know, we might lose Lentiah; she's finished with her college. And I remember vividly saying to Esther, do whatever you have to do to not lose Lentiah as a team member. And she's become one of our primary directors of the program. But she's had this degree in nutrition. And when we met with the Convoy of Hope people in the fall, one of the roles that they said you need to find locally, there is a nutritionist. And in the moment, I didn't even remember any of this, because it was a couple years back. But afterwards, I said to Cinnamon, we're gonna have to find a nutritionist and she said, Don't you remember that whole thing with Lentiah, she went to school to be a nutritionist? And I said, Wow. So, I talked to Esther and said, Esther, do you think Lentiah would be interested in this whole new program? We need a nutritionist. And she was like, of course. It's It's ordained. It's preordained. So Lentiah will be moving over from the sewing program and being one of the leaders in the nutrition and school feeding program, because her background suits it. And that's really what her passion has been these last few years. And it's one of those examples where it just feels to me like God has been walking before us setting the stage. Now, you know, Lentiah is going to be one of the leaders on the on the feeding program side but all of those school coordinators, they're all going to be working with her. So she knows everything about the reusable hygiene pad product and you know, the purse program. She's going to be able to bring all that expertise into it to work with those school level directors to really make sure the girls get what they need. So anyway, that, to me, that's the coolest staffing story kind of happened as we've launched this. And I'm hoping that the donors see how the Lord is just working with their giving and our efforts to make employment opportunities available for these local folks. So, there you go. That's a long-winded answer.
I know. That's alright. I'm so glad you included Lentiah in that. I was going to ask about that anyway. You mentioned donors. Are their funding opportunities specifically for this new feeding program?
Yeah, actually, what we've decided to do just to be very clear as to make this a ministry of the 3 Esthers Farm. Of course, that makes sense from, from our view. And so, the 3 Esthers Farm going forward really has three core programs. Now it has the farm itself, and then it has the Tikondane Garden program, the backyard gardens that are growing and scaling, and then it has the school feeding initiative. And so, we're going to actually start proactively raising funds, and asking donors to step up and come alongside us. You might have noticed, but really, as I mentioned, in prior podcasts, we haven't really raised funds for the Farm over the last few years, because we've had donors kind of outgive what we could, you know, implement. And so, the exciting part for this is it's really going to unlock our opportunity to include donors and ask them to step up and participate financially. And we're excited to see what happens. But yes, the opportunity will be there. And as we receive funds, we'll just scale; we'll scale the backyard garden programs, will scale the capacity on the farm property itself. And then ultimately, we believe too we'll also scale the number of schools we serve, through the partnership with Convoy of Hope, so. So, donors, participation, I think is going to be central going forward.
I think there's another exciting announcement that you want to make that's all related to this. And it's going to tell people how they can learn more, get involved. How will that happen, and what's new this week, this very week?
Well, we haven't had the 3EsthersFarm.org website, very, you know, put together and we just launched or launching a new, shiny, happy version of 3EsthersFarm.org. It's the number 3, Esthers, farm.org. And we'll have links to that on sew powerful.org of course. They'll cross reference each other in the menus and footers. And we'd love to have people go check it out. We're going to do our very best to try to start doing blog posts and updates from the Farm and all of these programs now, because we're getting really just a really good number of photos and videos from various parts of the the effort now. So we'll try our best to make sure that it's a lively and vibrant site where people can find out more, learn about the program work. We are going to end up writing the story of these programs and have that be available as an eBook as well. And so, we're looking forward to having people check that out.
So many good and exciting things to kick off 2022. That's just really wonderful. Jason, thank you so much for your time. And thank you so much for your efforts on behalf of hungry children in Lusaka. I mean, these programs are just amazing. Thank you.
All right. I'll talk to you soon. Bye-bye.
If what you've heard today inspires you to want to make a difference, I urge you to explore the Sew Powerful website at www.sewpowerful.org That's SEWPOWERFUL dot ORG. The website has great information about the organization. It's where you can download the free purse patterns or even make a donation. We hope you will join us again next week when we bring you another Sew Powerful story. Thanks for listening. Now, go out and have a Sew Powerful day.
ABOUT THE HOST
Jan Cancila has been making purses for Sew Powerful since 2014. She serves the organization as Director, Global Volunteerism, the Area Manager for Shows and Events-Mid/South USA and as the Houston Regional Coordinator. She was a public speaking major at Hanover College and holds an MBA from Our Lady of the Lake University. Jan had a 25-year career with The Coca-Cola Company before owning and operating a linen and party rental business in Houston. She is married with two grown sons, a lovely daughter-in-law and two remarkable granddaughters. Jan’s published work includes more than 100 online articles for Examiner.com. Reach Jan with comments or suggestions at firstname.lastname@example.org.