EDITOR’S NOTE: RLC is glad to be able to partner with World Vision to share with you this story of hope from their work in Kenya. This story was contributed by World Vision staff member, Paul Newnham.
I’d like to introduce Erastus.
Erastus is 24 and he has a dream: building a home for himself and his six siblings. But for Erastus, as for many Kenyan youth, dreams take second stage to the challenges of present reality. He lives in a very poor community that has regular food insecurity, meaning there is no reliable, regular source of food. There is no HEB, Kroger, or Costco on the corner.
We met in June, when a colleague and I visited Erastus at his home – an isolated community inland from the Kenyan coast.
I was visiting Kenya to check out some existing World Vision food programming in the field for a new approach to eradicating hunger I’m working on with my team. Ensuring that food production can be successfully combined with income generation is vital to our new approach, and it was important that it build onto what was already working within existing programming. We were keen to see examples of this in the field.
To my surprise, Erastus himself turned out to be one such example.
Erastus is an orphan, as so many young people are in this part of the world. In Kenya, 42% of the population is under 14-years-old. He has cared for and looked after his siblings in his parents’ absence for some time now, the responsibilities of adulthood thrust upon him before he’d even had the chance to be a child himself. However, there’s one way Erastus is a little unique: before his parents passed away they worked very hard so that he was able to complete school.
World Vision supported Erastus’ family with a program run in partnership with the World Food Programme called Cash for Assets. This program targets at-risk families and provides cash for them to purchase food, and in exchange for the cash input, the families work on building community assets or projects to improve the community. The assets often generate or increase personal income, as well. Erastus’ family was involved in a farming technology to improve production.
With the extra income he made from the community project and some of the cash his family generated, Erastus has started a small chicken business. Beside his small 2-room house he has built a chicken coop where he raises the chickens, then sells them for profit. His business is growing very quickly as chickens are a popular commodity, and Erastus is using the money he makes to pay for his siblings to finish school. As we chatted during our visit, I could see that, despite his difficulties, he had a powerful inner hope – and when he invited us inside his modest home, we saw evidence of this that will stay with me for a long time.
Right inside the door was this plan.
Drawn in impressive detail is the floor plan of the house he hopes to build with the profits from the chicken business. He explained the layout to me, including the key and all its varying elements, and the excitement he had was infectious. I was so encouraged to see his dream coming to life on the page right before my eyes.
What’s more interesting is that Erastus’ dream is a dream we all have in some way: to prosper, to move forward, to be successful and to provide for our families. He is working incredibly hard to make his dream a reality. Dreams are important for us all. No matter where we start in life and no matter what we have, having a dream helps us to work hard and move forward, without continually looking back.
Erastus has every right to be mad at the world. He has every right to not want to be the parent and make such huge sacrifices for his siblings. He has every right not to dream – yet he has chosen to be thankful for what he has and set goals for his future.
Meeting Erastus, watching him work, and learning about the way he works was an absolute privilege.
Erastus was one example of the success that we’re seeing as a result of existing programming, and this is what we hope will be the core part of a new initiative called HungerFree. We plan to partner Cash for Assets’ work with a youth viability training program called Youth Ready to help build skills for people like Erastus, so they can better manage their assets or business and thus achieve their dreams. Additionally, we will build off of over forty years of work in over fourteen countries where we’ve been fighting hunger through programs like the 30-Hour Famine, furthering their impact by bringing in new groups to help us finish this work.
As the newly adopted SDGs rally people around the fight against poverty, we hope this HungerFree program will become part of the fight to achieve Sustainable Development Goal 2 over the coming years – to permanently eradicate hunger.
You can join us this World Food Day (October 16) and throughout October. We are encouraging people to celebrate food with their loved ones as a way to help others have that same opportunity. Simply share a meal with your friends or family, and when you’re finished, double up on your meal – that is, take what you spent on your meal and donate it to the movement to support these programs in Kenya and South Sudan.
Already, thousands of people from more than 50 countries are committing to double up this October.
We dream of a world that’s hunger-free. By helping us fulfill our dream, you give young people like Erastus the opportunity to do the same. Join us, and together, let’s fight for a HungerFree world.