Vernon and Bertha Campbell give the gift of a dairy cow every Christmas. Not to Island family or friends, but to a family in Kenya.
And what makes this gift even more special is the way that it keeps on giving, thanks to the work of Farmers Helping Farmers.
"It seems that both Vernon and I, neither want nor need, anything at Christmas," explains Bertha Campbell. "So, feeling pretty blessed, we thought it would be nice to take part in the Farmers Helping Farmers gift program."
"We have so many cows on our farm, and some Kenyan families have none," Campbell continues. "Both of us, having grown up on small mixed farms, know the value that a cow brings to a family, and so we are happy to do this."
"One of our sons actually visited Kenya, and he saw the need firsthand. Anything we do is very much appreciated! " Campbell adds.
When the Campbells donate $400 to the Farmers Helping Farmers Holiday Campaign, the money is used to purchase a dairy cow at one of the dairies that the P.E.I. non-profit organization works with in eastern Kenya.
Purchasing a dairy cow is one of ten options available through the Farmers Helping Farmers Holiday Campaign. New this year is the choice of a $40 donation to purchase a solar light for a Kenyan family.
The solar lights are a fundraising initiative from Roger Henry. He travelled to Kenya with Farmers Helping Farmers in 2013. He is now raising money through FHF so that all the members of the Ruuju women’s group will have a solar light for their family home.
“There is no end to what one could give them but I decided on the solar light for several reasons,” says Roger Henry. “It allows them to have light in the home after 7:00 p.m. when it is dark, and it has an outlet so they can charge their cell phone .”
Roger Henry explains that the women do all their business on the phone so the cell phone has become a valuable tool. Cell phones are much cheaper than in North America but without electricity in their homes, many of the women have to travel to villages and pay to have them charged. And the solar lamps have also, anecdotally, led to better results at school for families who have them.
“Light in the home after dark means the children can do school work,” Henry points out. “Because if the child had to walk 45 minutes or more to get home and school is not over until 4:00 p.m. and it is dark at 7:00 and there is supper and chores, there is little time for school work before dark.”
“The light is portable along the design of the old kerosene lantern used in PEI before electricity,” he continues. “So if the women need to go to the outhouse after dark, or check on the animals or scare away a wild animal attacking their livestock a light would be very useful.”
Roger Henry says it will cost approximately $2600 to purchase enough solar lamps for the sixty-plus members of the Ruuju women’s group. He has raised about $1900 so far and is hoping donations to the Farmers Helping Farmers Holiday Campaign will help him reach his target.
Another key goal in this year’s campaign is raising money for rainwater storage tanks for Kenyan families. Farmers Helping Farmers has just started working with four new women’s groups, connected to dairies that the organization is associated with.
Water tanks have a huge impact, explains Farmers Helping Farmers Project Committee Chair Ken Mellish.
"Without the water tanks, the women spend hours going to get water, "Mellish explains. "Once they have water, they can move on to other things, like working in their kitchen gardens and improving their field crops so that they can provide healthy fresh food and generate income for the family."
The concept of the water tank is simple. Pipes collect water that runs off the roofs of homes during the rainy season and funnels it into the tank. The water is used for drinking and cooking – usually after it has been boiled.
"The rainy season goes from October through December and then March and April," says Mellish. "They will stretch this water – most of them have 4600 litre tanks -- to make it through the months when it’s not raining. "
So far, Farmers Helping Farmers has funded the purchase of 30 water tanks for the four new women’s groups. But there are 160 members in total. That’s where the Holiday Campaign comes in.
"Water can make such a difference," says Mellish.
Anyone who sponsors a water tank will have his or her name painted on the side of the container. Mellish says it’s exciting to travel through the region and see all the familiar names from back home on Prince Edward Island.
As well as the dairy cow, solar light and water tanks, Farmers Helping Farmers offers other options of all sizes for donors this holiday season. They range from a mosquito bed net for a child to prevent malaria at $10, to milk for ten school children for a month at $30, to schoolbooks for $100, to a school garden for $1000, and many more options in between.
Farmers Helping Farmers offers gift cards, and donors are encouraged to contribute in the name of family, friends or clients. And there are also tax receipts for all donations. The group asks that you make your contribution by December 15th if you would like a gift card.