Toni Jordan prepares some of the several hundred plants for her plant sale this weekend. Proceeds from the sale support initiatives in the small African country of Rwanda spearheaded from Oak Bay by husband John

Toni Jordan prepares some of the several hundred plants for her plant sale this weekend. Proceeds from the sale support initiatives in the small African country of Rwanda spearheaded from Oak Bay by husband John

Oak Bay garden grows hope in Africa

The Jordans’ eighth plant sale runs from Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 29 and 30, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at 178 Beach Dr.

  • Aug. 26, 2015 5:00 p.m.

When John and Toni Jordan moved into their south Oak Bay home 11 years ago, the garden amounted to a large expanse of lawn dotted with a few trees.

Toni soon started changing that.

Fortunately, beneath the grass was good soil, and the plants she added grew quickly. The space now thrives as a mature garden that belies its relatively young age.

So well do her plants grow, in fact, that the Jordans expect to sell hundreds this weekend as a fundraiser for their initiative to help build sustainable capacity for widows and children in Rwanda.

The Jordans’ eighth plant sale runs from Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 29 and 30, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at 178 Beach Dr. While the May sale raises more money – more than $4,000 this past spring – Toni has hundreds of plants potted up and ready to find a new home, just in time for fall planting season.

“A lot of these were just taken out of the garden so they’re in very good shape,” she says during a stroll around the garden,  still overflowing with shrubs, perennials, fruit and vegetables.

The sale is one of a variety of initiatives the Jordans undertake through the year for projects in the small African nation. “Everything we make goes to Rwanda; John’s expenses, everything we pay for,” Toni notes.

Administered through the Innovative Communities Foundation, the project’s roots reach back to 2008 when John met a Rwandan grad student who was studying here; he spoke about his village, a seven-hour bumpy bus ride from the capital of Kigali, and particularly those widowed and orphaned during the 1994 genocide.

“In 2009 I went for the first time and I have been now for the last seven years, for two months,” John says.

Initial steps included helping the widows – some in their 70s at the time – fix their grass-roofed homes. Then came simple technology that was easy to adapt to the setting and needs of the villagers, like efficient, smoke-free stoves, water catchment systems and raised bed gardening, in addition to educational support for teens, John says.

While Rwanda has free education for younger students, secondary education is only offered through a boarding school format, that costs about $300 per year – an amount out of reach of many.

While the Jordans began by helping around a dozen children, today, through fundraisers like the plant sale and support from Oak Bay Rotarians and others, the two are today helping about 70 children and many more widows.

“People like to know I didn’t just go once, that I go back and I know these people,” John says. “When someone gives $250 or $300 for a child’s education, I can tell them the child’s name.”

When John is back home in Oak Bay, a team of young Rwandans in the village of Kibogora, near Lake Kivu on the Congo border, continues to oversee the work on the ground, connecting several times a week by phone.

One of the challenges for many Rwandans is that they were essentially left to raise themselves following the genocide, Toni says. The result is that much knowledge and experience has been lost, compounded by the daily struggles of subsistence living. That’s where the Jordans hope to make a difference, boosted by the long-term continuity of years on the ground and follow-up.

“This is really home-grown, adapting technology and refining it the following year and refining it again. Our legacy is not roofs and stoves, our legacy will be (helping) people create grassroots development and know how to account for what they spend,” John says. “I want people to see they can make a difference in a place like Rwanda.”

The Rwandan people have also given the Jordans much in return. “You take a picture of a kid at 3 p.m. and at best he’s had a half a bowl of porridge in the morning and he’s waiting for his one meal of the day, but he’s smiling,” John says. “A child or adult [here] will look at the picture and say, ‘What is he smiling about?’”


The Jordans appreciate the opportunity to view life through a different set of eyes. “There are just so many stories,” Toni says. “It gives you a very different perspective of our lives here.”



Just Posted

Oak Bay police issued these surveillance images after a theft from the Cork & Barrel liquor store. The bottle of stolen whisky was valued at $4,636.99. (Courtesy Oak Bay Police Department)
Suspect swipes $5,000 bottle of whisky from Oak Bay liquor shop

Fiat towed after driver fails field sobriety test

(Black Press Media file photo)
University of Victoria clears parking hurdle for new Indigenous laws building

Oak Bay approves parking variance for new National Centre for Indigenous Laws

Victoria police found and returned this tricycle to a local graphics company after it was reported stolen in downtown Victoria last week. (Photo courtesy of VicPD)
UPDATE: Police find stolen tricycle, return it to Victoria company

The three-wheeler was taken from the 2100-block of Store Street on June 17

Mieran Loira, who works at Moxie’s restaurant on Yates Street, was named a winner in the BC Restaurant and Foodservices Association’s #StandUpForService campaign. (Courtesy Town Hall Brands)
Victoria Moxies server can’t hide her smile, earns provincial kudos for pandemic work

Personality, charisma shine despite masks, coronavirus challenges

Swanwick Ranch in Metchosin, featuring an award-winning home on 67 acres of property overlooking the ocean, recently sold for a record-setting, yet undisclosed amount. (Sotheby’s International Realty Canada photo)
Sale of oceanfront property in Metchosin yields new record for Greater Victoria

Listed at $14.1 million, Swanwick Ranch sold to an undisclosed buyer

A person stands in a tower on the perimeter of the Number 3 Detention Center in Dabancheng in western China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region on April 23, 2021. Human rights groups and Western nations led by the United States, Britain and Germany accused China of massive crimes against the Uyghur minority and demanded unimpeded access for U.N. experts at a virtual meeting on Wednesday, May 12, 2021 denounced by China as “politically motivated” and based on “lies.” THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Mark Schiefelbein
VIDEO: Trudeau demands truth from China about Uyghurs

PM says Canada has admitted broken Indigenous relationship, unlike China on Uyghurs

Council members and witnesses from the Hupacasath First Nation, left, and Tseshaht First Nation, right, prepare to raise their respective flags in front of Port Alberni City Hall on Monday, June 21, 2021. The flags will permanently fly as part of the city’s reconciliation work. See more coverage from the flag raising ceremony on page A5. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)
Vancouver Island First Nations flags to fly permanently at city hall

Addition of flags are one Port Alberni response to reconciliation

Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran, middle right, participates in a ribbon-cutting ceremony in honour of the launch of Kelowna’s plasma donor centre at Orchard Plaza Mall on June 22. From left to right: Canadian Blood Services’ business development manager Janna Pantella, Canadian Blood Services’ operational excellence manager Tyler Burke, Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran and Canadian Blood Services’ centre manager Janine Johns. (Aaron Hemens/Capital News)
B.C.’s first dedicated plasma donor centre opens in Kelowna

The Kelowna location is the third dedicated plasma donor to open in Canada

Children walk with their parents to Sherwood Park Elementary in North Vancouver for the first day back to school on Sept. 10, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Study reassures parents, teachers that COVID-19 infrequently shared at school

Federally funded study in Vancouver finds risk in the classroom and in the community identical

Conservative MP Kevin Waugh rises during Question Period in the House of Commons Tuesday April 13, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Single-game sports betting about to become legal in Canada

Senate passes bill to take sports gambling away from overseas agencies

Point Roberts is part of the mainland United States but not physically connected to it, to reach the community by land one must pass through Canada. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Closed Canadian border leaves Point Roberts’ only grocery store on verge of closure

‘We’re Americans but we’re not attached to America. It’s easy to forget we’re here,’ says owner Ali Hayton

The Somass Sawmill sits idle in early May 2021. While the kilns have been in use occasionally, and the lot has been used to store woodchips this spring, the mill has been curtailed since July 27, 2017. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)
Port Alberni to expropriate Somass Sawmill from Western Forest Products

Sawmill has been ‘indefinitely’ curtailed since 2017

Robin Sanford and her fiance Simon Park were married in an impromptu ceremony at Abbotsford Regional Hospital on June 16. (Submitted photo)
Mom dies day after witnessing daughter’s hospital wedding in Abbotsford

Nurses help arrange impromptu ceremony in 3 hours for bride and groom

B.C. Finance Minister Selina Robinson with Premier John Horgan after the budget speech Tuesday, April 20, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. home owner grant won’t be altered, despite expert advice

Tax break for residences worth up to $1.6 million too popular

Most Read