What happens when an outside source not only believes in you, but supports your cause? You are able touch the lives of a few to many.
This is exactly what occurred that allowed me to execute the Soy/Tofu project. I was doing online searches and networking via Linkedin.com during my hiatus from my internationalesawyer blog when I across VegFund.org merit based awards. This award for the perfect fit for a particular project I had in mind from several months prior. The pending project which was my soy/tofu project was a relatively low costing project compared to larger ones. Although, relatively low costing, funds were still needed to start it up. Also it is a project that has great lasting impact on the community and its members.
My project was on promoting soy based food products to members of a rural community in Burkina Faso, West Africa. In addition, to promoting soy products, I included an element of animal protection and veganism. Why because in the village where this project was launched, the majority of children suffer from either mild or acute form of malnutrition. Families are heavily dependent on their harvest to feed them for at least 6-7 months out the year. Furthermore, children and adults alike do not get the vitamins that are required to live strong and healthy lives. I learned this first hand as I spent 2 years living in Tcheriba as a Peace Corps Volunteer. By the end of my two years, I was severely vitamin deficient. I lacked protein, iron, B6, and 12. I learned first- hand what it means to have a low vitamin diet. My eyesight decreased, I lost all muscle tone, was always lethargic, exhausted, and the smallest activity rendered me completely useless physically. Finally when I had a full medical exam, what I feared was confirmed; “you are vitamin deficient and need to have a vitamin rich diet.” Having discovered this, I knew that something must be done to combat this in the village. Although, I was no longer living full time in Tcheriba, I still had a duty to serve others help themselves (one of Peace Corps’ mission). This is when I started to put full thought into the Soy/Tofu project.
In addition, people in this rural village have poor nutrition, and little to no income (especially women and children). The ones that cannot afford meat either go without, or go to extreme measures (i.e. eating donkey meat or lizards) in order to obtain sustenance. I long discussed soy/ tofu products, however needed to do more research to see the feasibility. Most importantly, I had to assess the willingness of the population to try something new (which is often the hardest part). I thought about how I can present the idea of soy for many months. Having lived and studied in this village, I knew what the needs were, but needed to connect them into a meaningful communitywide outreach project. Finally after much reflection and discussion with community members, it came to me…people want to make money and eat better. They can’t eat better because they don’t have income or low income and they are not aware of how to eat better with the resources they have access to. Therefore, I combined all the ideas (soy/tofu product making for nutritional and IGA objectives, while teaching about animal protection and soy benefits). This is where VegFund.org came played an integral role in the implementation stage of this project. I applied for one of their merit based awards and in a relatively short period of time, I was granted the award. I wasted no time in starting the project because the planning and analysis stage was thoroughly completed before even applying for the award.