The following story was submitted by Nic Soontiens, winner of Natural Calm’s 2016 Trip to Africa Contest.
When my 11-year-old daughter and I popped into Nature’s Way Select Foods & Brewing Supplies in Kemptville, never would we have imagined that we would walk out of the store with a FREE TRIP TO AFRICA!
Well, we didn’t exactly know that we had won a trip until several months later but to this day we still think, “what are the chances!?”
Nature’s Way was having a customer appreciation day in 2016 when my daughter and I stopped in to pick up some items for the pantry as we had just moved to the area a short time prior. Seeing the store decorated with banners and balloons and various door prizes to be won certainly got our attention.
As we nibbled on free samples here, filled out some ballets there, we noticed this one eye-catching enticement: “Win a Trip for 2 to Kenya, Africa!”, sponsored by Natural Calm Canada. I filled out a ballot and having secured our groceries, we went on our merry way.
Several months later we received a call from the Natural Calm Canada head office indicating that I had won the national grand prize: a trip for two to Kitale, Kenya, including a safari! After my immediate interrogation of the poor woman on the other end of the phone to confirm this was not a scam and that I did not actually have to give her my credit card number, I was dumbfounded and over the moon all in one! That one phone call started a chain of events that brought us to the amazing continent of Africa, on a trip that my wife Jules and I will not soon forget.
Dale and Linda Bolton are the co-owners of Natural Calm Canada and every so often, they sponsor a trip such as the one that we were a part of. One of the reasons they do this is to raise awareness of the non-profit organization they founded called Organics4Orphans (O4O), funded by the proceeds from Natural Calm. O4O has one lofty goal: to end extreme poverty.
With the opportunity to participate in a hands-on way during our trip to Kenya, Jules and I saw the direct impact that O4O was having overseas, and as I scrutinized the model that they are using to achieve their one goal, I remember thinking that it just makes so much sense!
O4O has a training school in Kitale, Kenya where they teach students, young and old, how to grow organic food at low cost. Those graduates then work with others in their respective communities to start up community gardens and build nutritional awareness to promote a whole foods diet. Also while at the training centre, the students learn about food security, income generation, and disease prevention.
As we got to visit several of these community garden projects and connect with the locals who were involved in growing their own food, even despite the harsh conditions of the dry season, it was clear that O4O is having an impact. The graduates teach the members of the community the skills they have learned and in so doing, the community members have nutritional food to eat and are able to grow healing, immune-building foods, and as a result, are healthier.
We saw this “win-win-win” model at work in particular at the Kitale Prison. This community garden project was started in the prison by a very special Kenyan girl named Joyce. She was only 19 when she started the prison garden project and at the time of our visit, it was an incredible thing to behold.
Because of O4O, Kitale prisoners had something very positive with which to occupy their time in jail, and upon release, they had transferrable skills and the capacity to generate income. They were eating their own healthy, organic food, which meant lower food costs for the prison and fewer inmates at the infirmary. After seeing the multi-faceted benefits of this particular project, Jules and I believed in the model that Dale and Linda are using to reach their goal of ending extreme poverty.
It was incredible to participate in this amazing journey where we saw once-sick people healthy again, hopeless people with a passion for the future, and countless lives transformed. Jules and I still think about all the lives that Natural Calm through Organics4Orphans has impacted…though we are not sure which lives were impacted more – theirs, or ours!
Nic Soontiens is an infantry officer with the Canadian Armed Forces. He lives in the Kemptville area with his wife Jules and their children.