Kisumu, Kenya, lies 9,385 miles southeast of Davis. The equatorial port city is home to exotic wildlife, fertile land and breathtaking views of Lake Victoria.
But it is also home to poverty, starvation and AIDS.
According to a 2009 CIA estimate, 6.3 percent of the adult population of Kenya is infected with HIV, which causes AIDS, while roughly half of the same population lives below the poverty line.
No one person can solve all of their problems, but a recent UC Davis graduate is trying to help make life better for some residents of Kisumu.
Courtney Price, 25, is attempting to raise $20,000 for her project: the Rita Rose Garden and Sustainable Farm, a sustainable food and water source for a clinic that serves more than 700 Kenyan orphans, vulnerable children and their caregivers.
The vast majority of these caregivers are HIV-positive women who are widowed.
Originally from Southern California, Price is driven to help others because she can relate to their struggles through her own impoverished upbringing in which her mother dropped out of high school and could find only minimum-wage jobs to support her three children.
Price got involved with the project through a fellowship with the Mama Hope organization, a San Francisco-based nongovernment organization that finds African community-based organizations and works with those organizations to develop their own community projects.
As the sustainability officer for the project, Price’s job is to improve the current assets and to ensure the sustainability of the farm by planning for the next two to five years.
“This farm has incredible potential,” says Price, who is nearing the end of her three-month stay in the East African nation. “While in Kenya, I’ll be working on improving crop yields, standardizing honey production, scaling up training on drip irrigation and distributing kitchen garden kits, restoring fish ponds and investing in income-generating activities.”
After a yearlong stay in Ghana during a study-abroad program facilitated by UCD, Price knew she wanted to work in Africa, but she didn’t exactly how.
“I never thought I’d end up working on an agriculture project,” she says. “It just goes to show that the universe works in mysterious ways.
“Every day I am faced with the knowledge that small farms in Africa face a great deal of challenges, and I theorize and strategize to meet those challenges with the committed Kenyans I work with.
“These challenges can be frustrating, but it’s the 90 women who care for the farm, and their families, without knowledge of where their next meal will come from, that keep me energized and excited to try again another day.”
So far, she has raised $10,943 toward her goal, working with the nonprofit Kenyan organization Our Lady of Perpetual Support for the People Living with HIV/AIDS and Orphans, or OLPS.
OLPS, which was founded in 1992, serves roughly 15,000 Kenyans while preaching values of responsibility and self-sustainability.
Every dollar donated will go directly toward funding the farm, which will directly fund strategic planning, improving honey production, buying a second greenhouse, restocking fish ponds and developing and distributing drip irrigation kits for home use.
“As we approach Thanksgiving — a time of bounty, harvest and gratitude — I think about how I’ve never raised my food,” says the 2011 honors graduate, who double-majored in African-American and African studies and international relations. “I’ve never wondered whether there would be a meal for Thanksgiving.
“I’m very blessed to be in Kenya, and ask that in this time in Thanksgiving, people donate to ensure these families will not worry about their next meal.
“I believe that every person is significant. Every person is capable. And every person is powerful. But no person is an island. We all need encouragement and support.”
Those who wish to donate can visit Price’s website at www.stayclassy.org/ritarose. Price has extended her fundraising campaign through World AIDS Day, Dec. 1.
— Evan Ream is a freelance journalist based in Davis. Reach him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @EvanReam