On July 29th, 2013, I leave for East Africa. I’ll be facilitating two African Women’s Leadership Summits, then visiting the farms and projects of many of these women leaders. Also, I will finally meet, in person, hundreds of generous, caring farmers who prayed for my survival during my battle with terminal Cancer!
Our Goal: Establish a Women Leaders Cooperative Throughout East Africa.
Women’s Leadership Summits
In 2005, I was one of twenty women in the inaugural Women Leaders for the World (WLW) training program at Santa Clara University. This program, conceived by the Global Women’s Leadership Network, was designed to further empower women leaders in their work, locally, nationally and internationally.
The training helped me to expand my work as the voice for tropical vanilla growers worldwide, many of whom I met while doing research on vanilla in Mexico, and many of whom I have met through my business. Over the years, I have come to be known worldwide as “The Vanilla Queen” for my work representing and working with the farmers.
I have helped three women leaders attend the WLW training. Mariam Mukalazi of Uganda and Theresia
Ndirangu of Kenya, whom I met through my business and who both work with women farmers in East Africa, were unable to secure visas. Finally, I made the decision to go to Africa this summer to meet these amazing women in person.
Initially, I planned to facilitate a one-day gathering of women leaders in Kampala, Uganda. The project quickly grew into two two-day African Women’s Leadership Summits – one in Uganda, the other in Kenya.
Our ultimate goal is to establish a loosely-knit women leaders’ cooperative throughout East Africa. To this end, our proposed summits will add value in the following ways:
* Women who have gone through the WLW training will bring women leaders they know to the summits.
* We will teach the most relevant segments of the WLW training, as well as create a directory of resources and a network of support.
* The owner of the largest certified organic vanilla farm in continental Africa has committed to teach interested women farmers the technology for the labor-intensive curing and drying of vanilla beans. As we are again facing a shortage of vanilla worldwide, this could be an extremely helpful revenue stream for the women and their families.
* Should our project be fully funded, we also plan to professionally document the summits, farms and projects.
The Magic Has Started
The WLW leaders in Kenya and Uganda and the women leaders they have invited are over-the-moon excited! They have begun the arrangements for the summits. Some of these women will travel hundreds of miles to attend. We want this to be the beginning of a larger conversation for setting up future women’s programs in the developing world.
The women attending the summits work to support food security, healthy families, social justice, human rights, financial independence and personal empowerment. They are the future of Africa and a powerful voice for empowering women, not only in Africa, but throughout the developing world.
In addition to filming the summits, women’s projects and farms, I will be collecting research for my next two books. One is a memoir of my work with farmers, traders and others in the vanilla industry. The other, Dreaming of Miracles, is a personal exploration of how we look at life, death, healing and curing through the lens of different cultures. As a senior and a cancer survivor, I am grateful to be alive and excited to bring these and future projects to fruition.
In order to make this journey possible, the women leaders, the farmers and I invite you to lend your support.
We need to raise a minimum of $7,500. Any leftover funds will be applied toward the next steps in creating the documentary.
Want to Support Us But Don’t Have Funds?
Please tell friends about us. Post about us and add the link that follows on your Facebook, Twitter or Google + pages: igg.me/at/awls
Tell your church or other community groups. Together we can bring the change we wish to see for a healthy, peaceful planet!
How to Support Us
In honor of the cows Mariam Mukalazi was ready to sell to come to the WLW training, we are selling Cow Shares. Cow Shares are an ideal gift for family and friends who support educations.
For more donation options visit us on Indiegogo. There are lots of options with donation incentives next to our story.
If you wish to make a private donation, please send to Patricia Rain, The Vanilla.COMpany, P.O. Box 3206, Santa Cruz, CA 95063.
Thank you all for your support in this venture to support women leaders, farmers and workers throughout the developing world!
In 1967 I saw my first vanilla bean. I was already 24 years old. This shouldn’t sound remarkable but it actually is because even finding a vanilla bean in San Francisco in 196y took some effort.
I had a friend who had lived in Italy and traveled a great deal in Europe. He and I were in a coffee and spice store and he bought me a vanilla bean. I was enchanted by the aroma but completely puzzled about how to use it. He told me to put it in my container of coffee beans and the vanilla would perfume the coffee. So I did. It wasn’t until 1985
Recipe Follows this Blog
Spring weather is so fickle. Balmy and beautiful one day, windy and wild the next. But here on the California Coast, the first organic strawberries are being picked on our local farms, unusual this early, but oh, so welcome, and perfect for a holiday dessert.
When I think spring and summer cakes, I think angel food, sponge or chiffon. Light, airy, the perfect foil for berries and other summer fruits. I decided on chiffon.
My friend and colleague Shirley Corriher, has this to say about chiffon cakes in her book, BakeWise :
From Desserts in Jars: 50 Sweet Treats That Shine, by Shaina Olmonson; Harvard Common Press; 2012
There are several layered desserts in this book, such as the Banana Buttermilk Trifles and the Peach-Raspberry Verinnes with Lemon-Thyme Cream. Jars lend themselves well to these kids of desserts, where each layer showcases a different ingredient.
By Shaina Olmanson; Harvard Common Press; May, 2012
Looking for a creative, playful cookbook as a gift for a friend? One that doesn’t break the bank but is filled with great ideas? If so, I recommend Desserts in Jars!
When I first learned about this totally fun book, my
assumption was that it would be filled with gift ideas to make and then give to friends. The gifts would then be baked or prepared by the recipient.. While one chapter in the book is dedicated to just that, the majority of the book
is about creating delicious and fanciful desserts and either serving them in any of a large variety of Mason (or other) jars or baking or freezing the desserts in jars as gifts.
This report comes from Aust and Hachmann, Canada and is based on the North American Vanilla Bean Importer’s
Association (NAVBIA) report. I am adding to this report the latest information on Mexican beans.
Mexico had a disastrous year in 2011 due to extreme heat and drought, and had 10% of their normal crop. 2012 was far less hot and there was ample rainfall. Unfortunately, the plants were so stressed from the previous year that the crop was again 10% of normal. There will be very few beans coming from Mexico this year. Hopefully there will be enough to produce extracts, but at this time we simply don’t know what to expect. [PR]
As farmers anywhere in the world can testify, as the climate changes, so does the health of their crops. For those of us who are not farmers, we hear a lot about the effects of climate change in the arctic and antarctic but we don’t hear much about what’s happening in the tropical regions of the world. Unfortunately, the temperature has risen about 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) in the last 25 years or so, which is significant for coffee, vanilla and cacao. Here is one man who is doing what he can to bring change to southern Mexico. This article is from the Nature Conservancy. [PR]
I’m away from home, staying with friends for the next two weeks as I’m part of a research study at UCSF (San Francisco). Cooking up a blog or two is not an option but writing them is, so I’m sharing information that apparently isn’t as well known as it should be. So, even though this blog isn’t filled with sexy food pictures and mouth-watering recipes, it’s really important if healthy eating matters to you.
Like most of us “foodies,” I’m constantly reading recipes. Something I’ve noticed is that the vast majority of recipes that call for oil list canola oil as a primary ingredient.
A few months ago I read about a Facebook friend’s dessert at a Mediterranean restaurant. Apricots stuffed with pistachios and drizzled with pomegranate molasses.
In 2011 I went to Italy and Greece with some dear friends. We had a marvelous time eating our way from one region to the next. I especially enjoyed the Coastal areas of Italy where lemons are the big thing. When I say big, I mean lemons that weigh a kilo. Big!! I had some magnificent desserts along the Amalfi Coast (and elsewhere too, of course), but the irony of this story is that the dessert that most won my heart was in a small coffee shop in London. It was extraordinary. Called a Sicilian Lemon Tart, I saw it beckoning to me in the case. I offered to share it with one of my friends, which turned out to be a big mistake as, after I tasted it, I wanted all of it.