Thursday, April 23, 2015

Introducing Peter Wentworth

"Thumbs Up" for Peter's photography

We’d like to take a few of our next posts to introduce our newest board members here at EPN. The first is Peter Wentworth, a good friend of Eliminate Poverty NOW, as well as John and Judy.

Peter brings a wealth of knowledge and aligned personal values to Eliminate Poverty NOW. He has almost 30 years business experience primarily in the consumer healthcare and pharmaceutical industries.  As a senior HR professional with diverse global experience, he is skilled in building organizational capabilities to drive business growth, identifying and developing exceptional leadership talent, and leading complex change initiatives in global organizations.  He is results-oriented and pragmatic, just as we are at EPN. 

Peter and John met 20 years ago when they both worked at Warner Lambert Company.  Their careers took them in different directions, and they stayed in touch.   Throughout his career Peter had the opportunity for extensive global travel, which has shaped his perspective and influenced his priorities.  He is inspired by the extraordinary resilience of people around the world who, despite their daily adversity and challenges, share the same values, the same spirit, and the same hope for a brighter futures as we all do.  Their drive for success and self-sufficiency has impacted him deeply.

Peter meeting his Little Rock Scholar Daniel Mburu at Langata High School

Peter contributes a significant amount of his time to mission-driven organizations such as Habitat for Humanity, and now EPN.  He serves as President of the Board for Habitat for Humanity in Morris County, New Jersey, whose mission is simply “to create a world where everyone has a decent place to live”.   He has been watching with interest the growth and success of EPN, and both he and his wife Diane began supporting the work of EPN several years ago.  

This past year Peter and John started conversations about the vision for EPN, and the aspirations for deepening its reach and impact in Africa.  Energized by the vision, it was only a matter of time before Peter decided to engage further with EPN, an organization that shares his core values of empowering others, being self-sufficient, and providing sustainable advantage to those in need.

Peter agreed to join the EPN Board of Directors last December, and has been actively involved since then, including going with John to Rwanda and Kenya recently to review several projects underway.

On a personal note, Peter has a management consulting practice and enjoys traveling, skiing, tennis, and photography. He resides in New Jersey with his wife Diane, a professor at a local university who shares his passion for “giving back”.  They have two children – a son who graduates this Spring from medical school, and a daughter in graduate school.

Peter holds a Ph.D. and M.A. in Industrial/Organizational Psychology from Wayne State University, and a B.A. in Psychology from the University of Vermont.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Into Africa

Carol (left) with one of her new friends (right) 

I am not a traveler.  I have vacationed in Bermuda and twice in the Bahamas, but except for a trip to Israel with my mother in 1989 and a 3 month stay with a family in the Philippines in 1963, I have seen little of the world.  Thus, my trip to Rwanda and Kenya with my brother John and his friend Peter was anticipated with both excitement and a wee bit of trepidation.  However, we arrived in Kigali, the capital of Rwanda, after two flights and many hours in the air, without incident.  It was dark when we deplaned, so I had little opportunity to see much on our short ride to a new, very luxurious hotel, the Grand Legacy.  
The following morning, while John tended to some business, I checked with the front desk to see if it would be safe for me to explore several blocks around the hotel on foot. No problem I was told, so off I went.  I knew of the horrible genocide that had taken place in Rwanda in 1994, so I was surprised to find the streets not only safe, but also the cleanest I have ever seen.  Even as I ventured into some of the poorer sections, everything was immaculate.  Later that day, John and I toured Kigali with a local guide who had lost his father and older brother in the genocide. We learned that not only had plastic bags been outlawed in Rwanda several years ago, but also, on the last Saturday of every month, all citizens are required to clean the streets from 9 to 11 in the morning.  What a concept---and it really works!
Traveling with John, I met many extraordinary people in Rwanda and Kenya, both African nationals and westerners.  All were bright, educated, committed, and very caring individuals who were living their dream to make Africa a better place.  In Rwanda, we visited the Millennium Village in Mayange where innovative farming techniques are being passed along by the lead farmers program.  Eliminate Poverty Now is financing this project.
Goals in both Rwanda and Kenya are improvement in infrastructure, medical services, farming techniques, education, and economic opportunity. Nairobi has it’s own problems with traffic, garbage, and Kibera, one of the largest slums in the world.  However, with all that I experienced, it was the children that gave me the most hope.

Carol leads a song and dance with Little Rock pre-schoolers

Today, we live in a world filled with violence, hatred, and intolerance. Terrorism and the resulting fear it is meant to cause, is rampant. However, the children I encountered in Rwanda and Kenya were well-behaved, happy, smiling, and eager to meet new people.  In Kenya, John, Peter, and I visited an elephant orphanage and a giraffe sanctuary. We were joined by scores of elementary school children dressed in their various school uniforms, children full of laughter and joy.  Hopefully, their schools are encouraging tolerance and acceptance of other’s beliefs as part of the curriculum. In Kenya, on the outskirts of the Kibera slum, such a school already exists.
The Little Rock School is one of the most amazing, heart-warming places I have visited.  It opened its doors in 2003 with an enrollment of 12 children.  Since then, it has moved twice and now provides schooling and lunch for over 400 students, most of them preschool age.  A third of the student body is made up of special needs children who are included in regular classes wherever possible.  But before one can fully appreciate the tremendous success of Little Rock, a walk through Kibera, home to most of these children, is essential.
No photograph can depict the poverty that defines Kibera.  Without the smell from rotting garbage and open sewers, the sound of buzzing flies and infants crying, the feel of slimy mud beneath your feet as you wend your way down narrow garbage filled allies, can you understand the conditions in which over a million people live.  The small one or two room homes, made mostly of tin and wood with rusty tin roofs and dirt floors, are crammed together. There is no running water and limited electricity.  Yet from this slum the children, guided by parents or older siblings, dressed neatly in their clean school uniforms, come by the hundreds to Little Rock, an oasis of hope.

Life in Kibera

As a teacher, Lilly Oyare saw the need to reach out to children at the pre-school level. In addition, she wanted to provide support for older students so that they could continue their secondary school education.  Eliminate Poverty Now provides funding for tutoring and tuition so that qualified students can continue their education at secondary boarding schools.  I began my involvement with EPN by funding a 4-year high school education for Victor Andiva.  I then learned that he had a sister, Theresa, who wanted to attend nursing school.  Little Rock provided the day care for her 2- year-old daughter; I provided the tuition.
While in Nairobi, I met Theresa and her now 3-year-old daughter.  Together we walked to her home in Kibera, and I am humbled by the hard work and sacrifices she is making to both raise her daughter and attend school.  Often, we feel that there is little we can do to really make a difference in this world.  By supporting EPN and the Little Rock School you can see your dollars at work. YOU CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE.
John promised me an unforgettable experience and he was true to his word.  It is one thing to look at photos and listen to heartwarming stories, but nothing is more inspiring and energizing than to see places like the Little Rock School in real time.  A special thanks to my sister-in-law Judy, cofounder of EPN, who volunteered to baby sit for my house, 4 dogs, scores of plants, and wild birds who expected their feeders and water to be filled on a daily basis.  When she suggested my going in her place she had no idea that she would also be “enjoying” the worst winter in Boston history.  Thank you John and Judy for making possible this life-changing trip.
Carol and John

The World's Newest Superfood

In our series on EPN Hero Dov Pasternak, (check out Part 1 here and Part 2 here) we've been sharing his work in the Sahel, including his role in developing crops for the region. We've also shared a story on his fruit, the Pomme du Sahel. Next up, we'd like to introduce you to an amazing plant called Moringa and the important role Dov has played in producing it.  

Moringa Leaves

Greens - the leafy vegetables - seem to be everywhere nowadays. Fitness and health enthusiasts can't get enough of them. Blogs and peer reviewed journals hail their nutritional value. Athletes swear by greens and “juicing”. Smoothie shops capitalize on their popularity. The health benefits are so great that dietitians have started calling them “superfoods”. Here in the U.S. we typically hear about greens like spinach, kale, and collards. 

We'd like to introduce you to a new superfood called Moringa; one that happens to be grown by participants of our Farmers of the Future program. Dov Pasternak developed an excellent new variety of Moringa (the major vegetable for Niger) and it spread like fire! Tens of thousands of people are growing it and millions more are eating it. 

Dov's preferred Moringa variety, PKM-1
Did we mention that Moringa is arguably the healthiest food in the world? A recent analysis of the leaves found that Moringa contains more vitamin A than carrots, more iron than spinach, and more potassium than bananas. It also packs as much protein as milk or eggs. The seeds are even used in soaps and scrubs, because Moringa oil can lift dirt off skin without drying it, much like olive oil. The plant has benefits across the board.

Moringa is not only a superfood, it's a super cash crop. It's a perennial, tree-like plant that tolerates Niger's harsh climate.  The leaves can be harvested and sold up to 10 times per year, providing year-round cash flow -- a big deal for farmers who live on the razor's edge.  The shade from Moringa leaves provides relief from Niger's powerful sun and the opportunity to grow vegetables that would not otherwise survive. This too is a big deal.  Growing and selling vegetables in scarce supply is a perfect strategy to maximize income from small plots of land. So you won't be surprised to learn that Moringa has become the cornerstone of our FOF vegetable gardens.

Moringa is a versatile meal; here is a group from the Sadore village
along with Robin from Pencils for Kids and our Helen sharing a Moringa / couscous dish

Moringa's market potential is massive. The plant is already in markets all over mid- and northern Africa, but has not reached as many people globally. The same type of popularity surge that kale saw during the mid-2000s may soon happen with Moringa. This means African farmers growing this plant, like our Farmers of the Future participants, may be on the ground floor of the world's next health food craze. How about that!!

Have you heard of Moringa, or tried it before? Have you seen it in the United States? Comment below with your thoughts on the Moringa!