A Kitchen Inspired by the Spirit of Kenya
I want to share with you a moment. It was one that changed my life and shifted my perspective in ways that I am continuously realizing. This day came halfway through my experience with the Whole Foods Market Team Member Volunteer Program in Maai Mahiu, Kenya. It was a perfect day. Sunny, warm, full of kind words, smiles, laughter. Women in colorful clothes worked tirelessly, their hands moving in quick rhythmic thumps as they kneaded, folded, and fried traditional Kenyan chapati. Music, a mix of Kenyan rap with a little Rhianna thrown in, played loudly while we worked and danced our way through the set up for the day’s festivities.
It was a day of celebration for Café Ubuntu, a program of CTC International. The café was celebrating its second anniversary with a party that we were lucky enough to be a part of. I was there as a part of the volunteer program which gives Whole Foods Market team members the unique opportunity to travel abroad with Whole Planet Foundation. During our time abroad, volunteers learn about Whole Planet and meet microcredit clients, witnessing the transformative power of microcredit. We also see where and how WFM products are grown, provide community service and learn from the cultures we experience.
Midway through the day’s festivities, the performances began. One by one, groups of women began to sing, each group delivering a unique and bombastic performance. I was overcome with emotion experiencing the song and dance of the women in the GAPA program, just one of the projects managed by CTC International. Although a language barrier made it impossible to understand what they were singing, the energy that radiated from the group as their voices boomed moved through my bones.
The women who sang are part of the Masaai Tribe, a semi-nomadic people known for their pastoral lifestyle and being great warriors. While they are strong, the Masaai face challenges and high incidences of HIV-AIDS due to the culture’s age-old traditions, namely polygyny which allows men multiple wives. Because of the HIV-AIDS epidemic, many grandparents are left caring for as many as eight children. “GAPA focuses on grandparents who are not just facing the grief of losing their own children but must now face the additional psychological hardship of raising their grandchildren with little to no economic resources. In many cases, grandparents inherit the additional responsibility of caring for orphaned and vulnerable children of friends and relatives. GAPA aims to combat poverty among the 150 grandparents through sustainable entrepreneurship skills to improve livelihood.”
The beautiful bracelets through LIFE Line are the work of these courageous and beautiful people. One large cuff bracelet can take them up to eight hours to create; truly a brilliant feat when you consider these ladies are also caring for several children at a time. When you and I buy these, we are directly impacting their lives. When we are sharing their story, we are sparking an opportunity for impact. It makes a difference.
The food we ate in Kenya was fantastic and ranged from freshly squeezed tropical green smoothies, breakfast pizza with drippy eggs, the most decadent avocado salad I had ever eaten, traditional Kenyan recipes like Sukuma Wiki, and lamb that had been slaughtered just that morning and roasted over an open fire. But the food isn’t my focus here because; despite being delicious, this experience inspired me far beyond my plate.
Spirit. This is what I take with me. The spirit of the organizations helping to create jobs, the spirit of the people who go above and beyond to host guests, the spirit of happiness and drive of the people who live here, the spirit they have when sharing beautiful stories, the spirit behind the food we buy and the impact it makes on lives, the spirit of love in the work we do and the food we cook. Every day, both in and out of the kitchen, I try to keep this spirit with me.
Whole Planet Foundation and its international partners do incredible work throughout the world by providing grants to microfinance institutions in Asia, Africa, the Americas and the Middle East, who in turn develop and offer microenterprise loan programs, training and other financial services to the self-employed poor. 100% of donations to Whole Planet Foundation help people around the world make a better life for themselves.
I encourage you to keep this spirit with you. And if you have the time, do yourself a favor and spend a day preparing a feast of chapati bread and matoke, a bone-sticking dish made of spicy plantains and potatoes.
Where do you find your spirit taking you? Send us an email.
With “A Kitchen Inspired” we will share with you the current and up and coming ingredients, products and cooking methods that inspire our team members, chefs and the kitchen at Whole Foods Market Dublin.
Founded in 1980 in Austin, Texas, Whole Foods Market (wholefoodsmarket.com, NASDAQ: WFM), is the leading natural and organic food retailer. As America’s first national certified organic grocer, Whole Foods Market was named “America’s Healthiest Grocery Store” by Health magazine. The company’s motto, “Whole Foods, Whole People, Whole Planet”™ captures its mission to ensure customer satisfaction and health, Team Member excellence and happiness, enhanced shareholder value, community support and environmental improvement.