Plant sale offers new hope for Rwandan widows and orphans

Beach Drive plant sale set for Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. each day

John Jordan stands with some happy moms whose children were sent off to boarding school in Rwanda earlier this year.

An impressive home garden on Beach Drive produces more than 1,000 new plants a year.

Twice each year, Toni and John Jordan sell off the new growth in ongoing support of their project to aid widows raising families in Rwanda.

Each January, John Jordan heads to Rwanda for a couple months. It’s something he’s done for six years, each time adding to the economy of the people there, before heading home to Oak Bay.

“Every year we rebuild the broken-down houses of about 80 to 90 widows. Every year we put 70 to 80 kids into boarding school and university,” Jordan said. “That’s the most powerful work that we do, but every year we try to initiate a new technology into the project.”

In the past they incorporated water catchment systems, eco-stoves and tree nurseries – all projects geared to a price level Rwandan widows can afford while satisfying a survival need. The simple technologies, once established, tend to spread with solid reputation.

“This year we succeeded in initiating a project for adolescent girls – to provide them with reusable, washable, hygiene pads,” Jordan said. “That enables girls to go to school.”

Introduced last year, he took 500 of them – made by Victoria area women – on his annual pilgrimage in January. That pilot project “won everybody over,” he said. “So we stared production in Rwanda in these little sewing shops.”

It’s a prime example of the simple technology they can integrate with big impact. Another project last year were composting toilets, with compost collected and used in gardens. The standard North American pit toilet is a vast improvement from logs across a pit, Jordan said.

“It takes a little time for people to trust that process, that it’s clean and sanitary,” Jordan said. “When I got there this year … They said ‘We love it. It gives us some dignity, it’s secure from the weather, it’s safe for our children’.”

They were pleased that extracting the buckets doesn’t smell because of the composting process of covering waste with ash and leaves. They led him to their gardens and lauded production as double previous years thanks to the compost.

“So the ultimate magic of this is that which was wasted a year ago – was in desperate need but they didn’t recognize it – is now doubling the crops in their little garden plots that produce a significant part of what they have to eat,” Jordan said.

The first plant sale of the year to provide for the Rwanda Prjoect is this weekend. Toni’s Plant Sale for Rwanda runs May 9 and 10 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. each day at 178 Beach Dr.

Last year’s plant sales raised more than $5,000 for the mission to deliver sustainable technology that lifts families from subsistence to sustainability. All donations benefit widows and orphans in rural Rwanda. That project now boasts seven groups of 12 landless widows who now cultivate leased fields for their own crops and income.

Visit innovativecommunities.org under ‘Widows and orphans rebuild in Rwanda’ to donate and receive a tax receipt, and read regular personal updates from Jordan. View a plant list at toniinthegarden.blogspot.ca.