Everyone's lives changed because of COVID. I am no exception. There is a saying "Good or bad, who knows." What I can say is that I would not have started Growing Hope without what happened in the world over the past 2 years.
In March 2020, I was in Panama (yes, like Panama Canal, Panama) and I had been there for 2 months researching and investigating and deciding if I was going to immigrate there (for a number of reasons). Then I received word that I had been accepted to a university in the USA (UWM) to their Masters of Sustainable Peacebuilding program - on a full scholarship and that I would be paid for my work there! SCORE!
Then all shit broke loose March 16th and I got one of the last few flights out of Panama to the USA (on my tourist visa) before the standstill.
I was then for all intents and purposes STUCK in the USA for 5 months - not being able to stay and go to university (wrong-visa-red-tape-bureaucracy) and I couldn't leave as almost every flight to ANYWHERE was grounded and South Africa had closed it's doors - even to her own! So there I was in a pandemic, not able to go anywhere and wondering WTF had happened to the world and my life.
I was able to repatriate home August 2022 ($1000 for a one way flight) only to be escorted by police into government quarantine for 10 days, and having nurses visit daily at the crack of dawn in full hazmat suits to check my symptoms and temperature. Fast forward a couple months and I had decide no way in hell after living from a suitcase for over a year (I started that trip in August 2019) was I going back on a plane to the USA to start my Masters program in a university setting in the middle of a pandemic - where even the top experts were fighting about how to manage it. So I unpacked my storage unit I had rented for over a year, and moved into a cottage in the hills of KwaZulu Natal, South Africa, imagining that perhaps in 2021 I might go back to the USA to university!
Well, 2021 had others things in store for South Africans and from a country wide lockdown to a provincial shutdown. EVERYTHING WAS CLOSED! Shops, fuel stations - and buildings were on fire. July 2021 was the moment I came face-to-face with one of my greatest fears of being South Africa (and why most emigrate) - safety! It seems from the video and photos flying around Whatsapp and social media that everything in KZN was on fire! (Even the storage units where I had kept all my things while travelling for a year) and I had just months emptied mine out to room and make a home in (and peace) with South Africa.
For 2 nights I was so scared that I stayed on the phone all night with a friend. After 2 days of anxiety even though I had food for weeks - I knew and could see people around me were already hungry and crying and that what did it matter if I had food and everyone around me was suffering. I spend the next week working myself to exhaustion to help others access food by leveraging every contact, network and means I had. Some friends from abroad sent money. And from that experience (and many others) I felt compelled to put more of my FIRE into inspiring people to grow food gardens and to help those who really need support to do so. Eventually I met a young man passionate about the same who had figured out a "wild style" of efficiently starting a permaculture food garden that we could replicate quickly and not only teach people how to grow, but begin to repair the soil and hopefully feed a few people and inspire a few people as we went along - and GROWING HOPE (South Africa) was born.
I'm not sure I have worked this hard, for this little "money" since I was a teenager, but I have never felt so alive, so driven, so much meaning, and feeling so compelled to make something happen! Knowing I can't do it alone. I need support. We all do. And perhaps when we remember that, we can come together and solve some of the massive problems our ancestors and WE OURSELVES have created and we can do it for the children here now, the children yet to be born - we will do it because we must. Because there really is no more time for f*cking around!!!
Will you join us?
PS: Even liking, sharing and telling a friend or your local business about this project goes a long way! Thank you!