Let’s Roll With Confidence
The idea for the St. Catherine Greenhouse Project spawned before I even knew what St. Catherine was. The orphanage and school in the Kibera slum of Nairobi, Kenya houses 23 children and provides primary schooling for over 200 others. The founders of the home, Pastor James, George, and Reagan, crafted a vision for St. Catherine to become self-sustainable by buying a plot of land, building a greenhouse on it, and using the goods to feed their children and sell into the community to provide a steady source of income. This blog is intended to keep the reader informed of the project’s developments, and also offer a personal spin on the journey I’ve been on in tackling this project.
“Let’s roll with confidence” are the words that Reagan often says before we go some place. They’re a nice reminder of what it takes to get things done, and a nice morale booster if things are moving slowly. I’m sure Reagan, the only Kenyan I’ve seen traveling around with a mzungu (and not just accompanying one), understands what confidence means.
In our context, it’s the reason behind a couple of things. Why we are only a few short days away from procuring the title deed to a piece of land near Migori. Why we’ve brought in significant money even in the last week, as a response to my previous blog post. Why we will therefore be able to get started on the second phase of the project — construction of the bore hole, the water source — before my departure next Friday. And why this whole project will get done by this time next summer.
Last week, we had identified a promising piece of land and were ready to begin the verification process when we found out that the owner had just the previous day sold it to another party, one willing to forego the verification process. Such a promising journey to Migori, a town in western Kenya about 6-7 hours away from Nairobi by bus, turned into a huge disappointment. Still, we enlisted Emmanuel, the broker, to do what he could to identify another plot of land that would suit our needs, and hoped for the best.
This past weekend, Reagan and Emmanuel talked; he had a few pieces of land to show us. Not wanting to waste time or to relive another adventure like we just had, we boarded a bus for Migori on Monday morning and saw the most promising site that afternoon. It was adjacent a small stream, meaning we wouldn’t have to dig too deeply to find water when we were putting the borehole in. It was on a wide access road, but a few kilometers off the main road, meaning it was accessible but safe from potential expansion near the Tanzanian border. It was a little more than two acres, meaning we’d have plenty of room for a greenhouse (or maybe two), a caretaker’s house, and land for open farming and for grazing. And it was way cheap — around $6,000 USD as opposed to the $17 or $18 we had originally thought.
Best part? The verification documents were all set for us to see on Tuesday. We met with Reagan’s grandfather, who is also giving input (strictly in Swahili, which I don’t understand — a reality he’s trying like hell to ignore), and the owner of the land. That afternoon, we had a meeting with the Ministry of Lands to ensure everything was legitimate. They just needed a signature from the owner verifying his willingness to partition the land as advertised (he owns surrounding plots as well, and this one needed to be legally differentiated from the others); they got the signature yesterday.
So, we are this close to owning the plot of land on which St. Catherine’s greenhouse will sit. Here, usually, is where the caveat would come.
There isn’t one. Pastor James, Reagan’s dad and the Co-Founder and Director of St. Catherine, is traveling to Migori himself tomorrow to see the land and meet with the owner and the Ministry of Lands; a surveyor will be brought in either this weekend or on Monday to confirm the acreage; we’ll pay and they’ll hand over the title deed, with a lawyer presiding over this final piece of the process. Phase one of the St. Catherine Greenhouse Project, complete.
Now, I hesitate to write with such confidence until everything actually happens. But persistence pays off, and what you believe can happen usually can. So, “phase one, complete” is not, at the moment, a report; it is, though, a very real, very close probability. I hope I can entitle my next blog post “Phase One, Complete.” I hope that I can write it on Monday. I hope I can write it with all the confidence my fingers can muster, on one of these keyboards whose keys sometimes don’t want to bend, in one of these cyber cafes whose connections sometimes don’t want to work. Mostly, I just hope.
The other day, in some personal reflection, I wrote a list of things I missed about America. Mostly they’re creature comforts — flushing toilets, public transit where a taken seat means no one else can sit there, that kind of thing. The thing I will miss the most here is my friend Reagan, and his words of continued hope. Let’s roll with confidence.