Open Hands recently partnered with AGRA, the largest retail/wholesale farm goods supplier in Namibia. This article appeared in their monthly newsletter.
AGRA LIVESTOCK TAKES HANDS WITH OPEN HANDS PROJECT
Agra livestock took hands with Open Hands to Africa in their
endeavour to make a difference to the less privileged.
Open Hands To Africa was co-founded by Larry Sherman from
the United States of America in 2008 and is registered both in the
United States and Namibia as a non- profit charitable organisation.
Their mission is to provide "Seeds of Hope" to the poorest
families in Africa by providing opportunities for spiritual,
educational and economic development.
Larry stated that the organisation offer a "hand up, not a hand
out" by helping people to help themselves. They work through
local community and ministry leaders who seek to empower children through education; responsible entrepreneurial individuals through micro-business subsidies and destitute farmers through
environmentally sound principles in animal husbandry and
Sherman has been visiting Namibia regularly since
2002. In 2010, Larry retired from a 36 year career with the
U.S. Customs Service and decided to exchange success for
significance during the last third of his life. Larry says: "My
family is secure and my savings throughout a lifetime helped
me self-fund most of our operations in Namibia." He is
stationed in Okahandja, from where the project is run.
One of Open Hands to Africa's most successful programs has
been with their livestock initiative of which Larry says: "The
concept is simple." They provide capable farmers without
resources, with pregnant sheep, goats, cows and even pigs.
The farmers then receive training in animal husbandry
principles and techniques. At the time of birth, after weaning,
the farmer returns the first born to the project leaders to pass
on to another and keeps the mother and all other babies
without any further obligation. Follow up and relationships
continue to grow in the aftermath.
Agra's livestock services is the selected partner in the
marketing of animals by the project. At one of the auctions
in Okahandja, Agra's agent Jaco du Preez learned about the
project and after consultation with management, decided that
Agra will provide livestock marketing services to Open Hands
for Africa in Namibia, without charging any commission on the
animals sold at an Agra auction.
In recognition of the agreement and partnership, the trailer
used to transport the animals are branded with the Agra logo.
Top Left: Larry Sherman (left) and Agra Livestock agent in Okahandja, Jaco du Preez with two of the beneficiaries of the OPEN HANDS TO AFRICA Project.
Top Right: Taking Hands for OPEN HANDS, Jaco du Preez and Larry Sherman.
Bottom Left: Jaco and helpers fasten Agra logo on the trailor.
Below Right: A post of Larry on his FACEBOOK page. “Meet Fransika Goagoses, the proud new owner of one fine pregnant goat. It even looks like the goat is trying to say ‘Eat more chicken’”.
A Portrait of the Himba People: The past and present live together in Africa. There is no more visible example than the Himba people in Namibia on the southwest coast of Africa. They have preserved their ancient lifestyle, appearance and traditions, even though the world has changed dramatically.
Several thousand Himbas live in small settlements hidden in the Kaokoland region of northern Namibia, an arid wilderness known for its rugged mountains, desert elephants, giraffes, zebras and black rhinos. They are a pastoral people who live like their ancestors hundreds of years ago.
Most Himba men wear Western-style shorts and T-shirts and tend herds of goats or travel to find work to support their families. Goats are valued highly not only for their milk, meat and hides but also as a form of currency used to buy other items.
The round huts in Himba villages have cone-shaped thatched roofs and are constructed of sticks covered with a mixture of mud and dung. They have dirt floors and open windows and doors. All cooking is done outside, and trees, strung with cooking utensils, serve as kitchens. Goats’ milk is kept in large gourd containers with corn-cob plugs. The gourds are hung from low tree limbs with strips of leather and swung rhythmi- cally to make yogurt.
Himba women cook, clean, sew, look after the children and spend a considerable amount of time each day caring for their appearance. Most wear only loincloths and short goatskin skirts, but they color their upper bodies red, showcase ornate hair- styles and adorn themselves with large pieces of traditional jewelry.
Each morning, the women rub their skin with a mixture of ochre, animal fat, herbs and the fragrant resin of the Omuzumba shrub. Ochre is a pigment obtained by washing red clay to separate the sand and then evaporating the water in the sun. The mixture gives their skin a rich reddish glow and is considered beautiful. It also keeps the skin clean and provides protection from the sun and mosquitoes.
Geoff in Rwanda
Every trip to Africa is a blessing. A blessing of new friendships, laughter, cries, physical exertion, conquering fear, and miracles. And often the blessing are not recognized in the moment but later, sometimes years later. The blessing of changed lives.
With Open Hands to Africa in 2011 I had the opportunity to visit Rwanda for the first time. It was quite a surprised to find a country that two decades before was ravaged by genocide and the worst of humanity, was now such a beautiful country with amazing people that love deeply and have such generous hospitality despite the poverty that still shackles their lives.
It was a visit to Mosassa, a small coffee community a serious, 4x4-days drive into the mountains outside of the capital Kigali, where I experienced one of these miracles that convinced me the work Open Hands to Africa does is awesome. It was here I met Odetta and her family. Odetta is a widow whose husband passed in the genocide. She has four grown children and heads up the women’s enterprise at the nearby coffee cooperative. I lived with Odetta and her family for a week during coffee harvest. The work was hard picking coffee and helping on her small farm of 800 coffee trees, some banana trees, avocado, cassava (a root - starch that is pounded, boiled, and a staple to the diet in many parts of Africa), as well as grass for the cow - Feza. Yes, that’s right, the farm grows grass for Feza the cow.
Feza, which means gold, was gifted to Odetta by Starbucks Coffee Company and Heifer International in 2009. Open Hands had an opportunity to partner with Heifer and make several additional cow loans to coffee farmers in Mosassa. Odetta, being involved in the coffee cooperative and head of the women’s group that wove baskets and made soap to sell, was so supportive of the cow program because of the blessings it has brought to her family. She helped us identify several families in need and work through the process with Heifer International.
The gift of a cow was life changing for Odetta and her family. Not only the milk that she now had for every meal, Feza produced enough to take to the local market to sell. With these proceeds Odetta was able to pipe water from a new well to her home, connect to local electricity, and easily pay school fees for the children It completely changed the way her family lived. She became a leader in her community and a resource for many other women in the area. In addition to the milk, Feza created beautiful manure that was mixed with compost to create a nutrient rich fertilizer that she spread around the farm. In two years, because of the manure, her 800 coffee trees doubled their production as did the banana and other plants on the farm. Odetta’s life continues on a different path today.
Jump forward to 2013 when Lee and I visited again our friends in Rwanda. We visited Emanuel and his family, who we had loaned a cow to in 2011. It was the same story. Instead of scraping by, life on his farm was different now. The cow had delivered a baby female cow, which as payback for the loan he passed on to a neighboring farmer, and his small farm had been transformed into a beautiful garden. Like Odetta, lush coffee trees with healthy leaves and bright red cherries were growing down his hillside farm, awesome banana with giant bunches that needed to be held up by 12 foot posts, and Emanuel had even begun experimenting with a small orchard of African almond trees. His life transformed. His kids in school and his home expanding.
It is amazing to see what a $1200 investment in people can do. The cow loan included materials to build a barn, veterinary services, training for the farmer on how to care for a cow, a large supply of vitamins and medicines to keep the cow healthy, and yes, grass for the cow to eat. And of course the blessing of changed lives.
Betsy's Call to Africa
My call to Africa came in a way that was unmistakable. In my prayer time, God had been telling me to prepare. I wasn’t sure what He meant until one Friday on the way to work He told me clearly to “Get Ready! I’m about to take you out of your comfort zone.” I had no idea what this meant, but prayed He would make his direction clear and give me a willing heart. That night at dinner with Geoff and Nancy Allen, they invited me to go to Namibia. I knew immediately this was God’s will and agreed.
We travelled to Namibia on February 21, 2008 until March 8. I tried to question what we would do, what were we trying to accomplish. Geoff and Larry said God would show us each day. It was a great lesson in faith which rewarded me every day with an opportunity to witness how these beautiful people who have so little worship in the purest way I’ve ever seen.
Namibia is a country of roughly 2.1 million people. About 4,000 (mostly white) commercial farmers own more than half of the arable land. The Pastors we met had churches in squatters camps. These are communities built of tin huts where thousands of families live. Namibia has the 4th highest HIV/AIDS populace in the world.
On Sunday we travelled into the bush to pick up some of the church members for church. The first camp was the home of Emmanuel and Lucia. They have four children who they do not see but maybe twice a year since they are in school. School is not available without cost anywhere in Namibia. Their children’s schooling is supported by ministry. They were provided with a pregnant cow as well as some chickens and seeds. They now have 4 cows and the chickens provide eggs and have planted a garden with the seeds. It was beautifully tended and filled with corn, pumpkin, tomatoes, beans and watermelon.
The church services held in these remote, poor communities are the most inspiring I’ve ever witnessed. The Namibians are a beautiful people with shining, happy faces and filled with the Holy Spirit as they sing and worship.
One day when going into town to buy supplies, we noticed some young boys outside the store begging. Geoff indicated they are “dump” kids. These are children whose families have died and no one has taken them in which makes them outcasts and they live at the dump. In Namibia, when your family dies, a relative will generally take you in to raise with their own children. One of the pastors we met supports 18 children from various family members who have died.
In the camp where we travelled, I learned funerals are only held on Saturday. Each week they dig 12 graves since that is the average number who die in that camp weekly.
The most valuable lesson I learned on this trip was the “give a man a fish and he will eat today, teach a man to fish and he will eat forever”. A pastor we met in Windhoek shared that if the people can not sustain whatever help we provide after we are gone, we have only enable and crippled them.
Open Hands to Africa provides basic needs to “the least of these” and instruction on how to multiply these meager resources to provide for their families. The goal is to teach them sustainability and provide them the tools to provide food with enough surpluses to sell so they can provide education to their children.
In His Name,
The miracle of an Open Hands to Africa trip for me is not only what it does for the people we meet but how it has changed me…I wonder sometimes who really gets the blessings.
Lee's Trip Summer 2010
During the summer of 2010, I traveled to Namibia with Open Hands to Africa. This was the second time I was involved in a service trip with the organization. We met with a number of contacts and followed up on a lot of projects. One of the things I was particularly excited about was the trip we made to see the Himba.
We drove all the way up to the northern part of the country and when we reached them we were five hours away from the nearest gas station. We were out there. Our goal was to survey what the situation was like in the area where the Himba were located. It was our hope that we could potentially start the foundation for a comprehensive water well project. We used local contacts and people involved in the local ministry to understand what to expect. The reason we wanted to get involved was because of the circumstances these people lived in and how little representation and support they had in their own country. Their land was being taken from them and as a nomadic tribe, sources for water became fewer and fewer.
I was surprised to see how meager their conditions were. They use and share one water source among each other with their animals. I witnessed kids playing and bathing in the water. The animals would wade and drink in the water. Their lives depended on a small source of water that would eventually dry up and they would have to move on and search for another.
We stayed there for five days meeting with village elders and looking at potential areas for a water well. We had to put into question the impact this project would have on their culture and them as a nomadic people. When asked what they prayed for their response was “more faith”. Out of all the things they asked for, it was strength in these conditions.
In the end we had to leave because we ourselves were running out of clean water. I will never forget the time I spent with these indigenous people. I was touched by their culture, the faith they had in God, and the pride they had in each other and especially their cattle.
Today we are continuing to work with team members on the ground and local coordinators to facilitate the water well project for the Himba. Funding has been a challenge and as well as, administrative support. It has been a slow process, but what makes it so challenging is how remote these people are. It is my hope that I can make a trip back to see the Himba.