Seeds of Hope

A long-shot trip to Africa results in new gardens, food, and goodwill for African orphanages.

  • The vegetable garden at the Kabwata Orphanage is Lusaka, Zambia, in it's beginning stages.
    Photo Courtesy
  • The children of Kabwata Orphanage in Lusaka, Zambia, plant seeds in their newly tilled garden.
    Photo Courtesy
  • The garden at the Kabwata Orphanage in Lusaka, Zambia.
    Photo Courtesy
  • The children of Our Own Home, in Jinja, Uganda, hold up seed packets from Baker Creek.
    Photo Courtesy

Our African story begins in Zambia with a boy named Gift Simuzazu. Gift’s parents died of AIDS when he was young. He was sent to live with his uncle’s family in a nearby village where he was abused. At the age of 12, he borrowed his uncle’s bicycle and accidentally broke it. His uncle locked him in a hut, and later that evening, set it on fire. Gift was burned on more than 70 percent of his body. Angela Miyanda, director of Kabwata Orphanage in Lusaka, Zambia, then became Gift’s new family, and the orphanage his new home.

In May 2009, with the help of The Alkare Foundation (, Gift was able to come to Santa Rosa, California, to live with the Afman family — Kirk, Renee, and their twin teenagers, Karla and Garrit — while being treated at Shriner’s Hospital in Sacramento. Fifteen months and five surgeries later, Gift was restored in both body and spirit, and ready to go back to the Kabwata Orphanage in Zambia.

Renee and her daughter, Karla, escorted Gift home and stayed at the orphanage for two weeks. They experienced life in the orphanage and met children who were full of life, love, and energy! The children understood the importance of being able to provide for themselves and their future families and were eager to learn.

A Seed is Planted

After hearing Renee’s account of her experience in Africa, Gwen began thinking. The vegetable seeds from Baker Creek need to be in the hands of these children, along with someone who can share their knowledge and experience growing vegetables. Combining over 40 years of experience and horticultural knowledge, we — Renee and I — could share this knowledge, which includes all phases of seeding, growing, soil building, maintenance, harvesting, and most importantly, saving seeds.

But first things first … how could we raise more than $5,000 just for airfare alone? Fundraising! After selling hundreds of vegetable starts at The Seed Bank in Petaluma, California, pruning hundreds of roses and fruit trees, and with the gracious donations from friends, family, and many churches, we succeeded in raising our airfare, plus enough money to buy an irrigation system, soil amendments, and garden tools for Kabwata Orphanage’s vegetable garden. With vegetable seeds in hand that we knew would do well in Zambia and Uganda, donated by Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, on June 11, 2012, we were on a plane headed to Zambia.

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