Largest group of volunteers in 35 years heading to Kenya

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In January, a group of 20 volunteers from Farmers Helping Farmers travels from P.E.I. to Kenya – the largest delegation since the first group traveled to Africa more than three decades ago.

The group includes nurses, FHF members and four volunteers who are part of a new project with Veterinarians Without Borders-Canada.

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Nursing students from UPEI will conduct home and school visits to determine family and child health status and provide treatments and advice toward disease prevention, including de-worming, hand-washing hygiene and preventing malaria.

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Retired nurse Nancy MacFadyen will accompany the group who will also be distributing mosquito nets at schools in the Meru area. They will hand out almost 2,000 nets over the 3 weeks they are in Kenya.  Prince Edward Islanders have already contributed more than $6,000 towards the nets, with a fundraising campaign underway in 2016 to pay for the rest.

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Farmers Helping Farmers volunteers will also be visiting schools, women's groups and dairies who are partnered with the P.E.I. organization.

“We will be overseeing the installation of water tanks, donated during the recent Holiday Fundraising Campaign, on women’s farms so they can store water they collect during the rainy season," says group coordinator Teresa Mellish.

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"We will also carry letters from Island twinned schools to Kenyan schools," continues Mellish.

"We are also looking forward to the opening of another school cookhouse funded by the Souris Village Feast," adds Mellish.  The cookhouse will be located at Kiirua Primary School, which is twinned with the school in Souris.

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This is also the first partnership between Farmers Helping Farmers and Veterinarians Without Borders-Canada.

The Island team of four is among the first group of more than 100 Canadians who will take on volunteer assignments around the world over the next 5 years. They will work on VWB projects in Uganda, Tanzania, Ghana, Laos and Vietnam - as well as Kenya.

Dr. John VanLeeuwen, a veterinary professor at the Atlantic Veterinary College in Charlottetown, was instrumental in developing the new volunteer project. He's one of the founders and currently the chair of VWB Canada. He has travelled to Kenya almost 20 times through projects sponsored by the University of Prince Edward Island, Farmers Helping Farmers and Vets Without Borders Canada.

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In Kenya, the VWB volunteers will work with dairy farmers and a Dairy Co-op which purchases and sells the farmers’ milk.

"This five year project in Kenya will enable our partners to manage their farms better so they can double or even triple their milk volumes and grow crops better for family nutrition," explains VanLeeuwen.

"The extra milk will lead to more income, leading to sustainable livelihoods for these families, with spin-off benefits to the communities in which they live," he adds.

On this upcoming trip to Kenya, the volunteers recruited through Farmers Helping Farmers will include a bookkeeping specialist, a horticulturist, and dairy management specialist plus a veterinarian.

VanLeeuwen will also be traveling with the group, along with three of his vet students.

"The goal is that they will use their skills to provide training and mentorship to improve local cropping and dairy farm management," explains VanLeeuwen. "We also hope the volunteers will learn new intercultural, communication and leadership skills and ideas to bring back home to Canada."

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In Kenya, the VWB volunteers will team up with staff and volunteers from Farmers Helping Farmers to exchange knowledge, experiences and lessons learned in order to take advantage of the synergies produced with multiple groups implementing multiple projects simultaneously.

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The veterinarians and vet students will be treating sick animals, conducting herd health activities, and training farmers and animal health personnel on best management practices for health management and disease control.

The bookkeeper will provide training to farmers and Dairy Group employees to develop better accounting practices.

The horticulturist will be examining crops and cropping practices and providing advice and training on best management practices for horticultural and fodder crops.

In total, there will be more than 32 volunteers traveling to Kenya in 2016 through Farmers Helping Farmers, including pre-service teachers, nutrition specialists and students from UPEI, as well as more veterinarians.

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