We Know How To Fight Hunger!

Mary Bitoni, above, just after creating her victory garden on November 9, 2017

Last November, Mary Bitoni created an organic victory garden next to her house. Returning to Malawi this week, I met Mary again — actually she ran for us to make sure we saw her garden.

Just two months after she broke earth, her lush garden provides food every day. She didn’t spend a penny and she now harvests over 7 kinds of vegetables.

In Mary’s community, Face-to-Face has created over 700 victory gardens since November 2017.

We know how to fight hunger.

And Mary’s tremendous smile keeps us moving forward.

Mary on January 17, 2018 in her lush new garden

F2F Expands Its Victory Garden Campaign

Face-to-Face recently launched its Victory Garden Campaign in the southern district of Phalombe. The Campaign aims to create 15,000 gardens in two years.

On November 11th, 17 chiefs and an inspiring, spirited crowd witnessed traditional dances, garden tours, and testimonies of the benefits of relying on yourself to grow the food you need to feed your family. This was the first event for, and hosted by, the local villagers who have just been trained to be victory garden facilitators.

It was dynamic. It was clear in its message. And It made us proud. 

This campaign will succeed because the community wants families to be able to feed themselves, to earn income by selling surplus vegetables, and to break the cycle of extreme poverty. 

We're loving the fact that they're creating hundreds of new victory gardens in a matter of weeks.


Bun Thet and Thorn

Thorn, 13, and his brother Bun Thet, 9, spend long afternoons on a boat setting nets in Tonle Sap, Cambodia’s largest lake. After a nap, they wake at 2am to check for fish, which they give to their parents, who rejoin them as the sun rises to take the family home to eat and rest.

The parents don’t force Thorn and Bun Thet to work when school is in session, though the boys help whenever they can. The family is very poor, for sure, and fishing is hard work. But the boys exhibit a remarkable work ethic born out of a strong family bond. 

Face-to-Face’s Siem Reap Center helps children consider their poverty not as their fate but as an opportunity. Providing rice and fish, constructing roads, sewing clothes — these are things that all people need. 

Thorn loves music, and wants to learn guitar at our music program. Bun Thet likes growing vegetables in his own organic garden at the Center. We encourage their parents to visit the Center, witness, and be proud of their boys.

Someday, Thorn and Bun Thet may be leaders in a sustainable fishing industry. Or a farm-to-table family business. They have ample hands-on experience —lacking in most industry owners — and an inspiring work ethic.

Our job at the Center is to give them support, encouragement, and possibility. Let them learn to speak with confidence, laugh with abandonment, and dream outside the box. Let Thorn and Bun Thet know that we respect who they are. 

And however they might change their world.


9-year-old Dara often misses state school because his mother, a garment factory worker, struggles to pay his school fees.

Even if she had the money, education in Cambodia, like lots of other places, rewards those children who get the best grades — and can afford additional classes, tutors, and sometimes bribes. For very poor children, this system pushes down their confidence and self-worth. For them, education isn’t fair.

In tourist-strong Cambodia, speaking English gets you jobs and opens opportunities. That’s why F2F’s school, in one of Phnom Penh’s poorest neighborhoods, gives children like Dara the confidence to speak English without worrying about grammar, sentence structure, spelling, making mistakes — things that inhibit children from speaking English. 

State schools teach English the old-fashioned, test-heavy way, which results in students inability to have a simple conversation even after years of study. 

F2F gives Dara an education that mirrors how children learn language in the first place. No competition, grammar tests, or over-correcting. Instead, lots of talking, activities, building confidence, and all delivered with kindness and joy. That’s how children learn best. 

Dara, by the way, never misses a day of school.

*Special thanks to the Church-in-the-Garden and participants of the Beer-in-the-Garden event on October 1, 2017.

I'm HIV+ Woman, Hear Me Roar

Eneres and other mothers disclosing their HIV+ status in Mwanamanga Village

Before a crowd of hundreds and over 50 chiefs, our Strong & Positive Mothers Club announced in August that they are all HIV+.

Never before had this audience heard of such a thing. 

The mothers urged everyone to get tested at the mobile HIV testing table that was set up for the day. 

112 people got tested. 4 tested positive for HIV.

If the audience thought HIV+ people are weak, the mothers dashed that idea by dancing strong and proud in front of everyone. 

And with a joy that spread throughout the crowd.

Eneres and mothers dancing at Mwanamanga Village

More Than Just About Food

Ownership and responsibility— a garden can give that, even to young urban men like Steve Lano. A member of Face-to-Face’s HIV+ Teen Club, Steve learned to created a victory garden from three of our rural village facilitators.

Programs can make other programs better. So F2F connects our HIV+ youth with our HIV+ mothers club and both connect with our big Victory Garden Campaign.

Now Steve has a garden — a garden to call his own. May the beans, squash, okra, and mustard greens grow quickly, and may Steve also find joy in feeding his family.

P.S. Special thanks to BMB Gym and Chrigu Imhof in Bern, Switzerland for your dedication and support of the  HIV+ Teen club and Rising Stars.

Steve Lano in his new garden

Because It Tastes Better

F2F's Executive Director, Ken Wong, was just back in Malawi and touched base with our team that is working with villages in the Phalombe district. It's a 7-hour drive away, but we’re here because the villagers have asked us to teach them how to create their own victory gardens. And we're happy to.

Since February, about 100 gardens have been created, and four women are training to be local garden facilitators. 

Besides more food and extra income, villagers said the vegetables taste better because they don’t have chemicals on them.

You can really taste the difference? 

Yes! The soup is clearer and mustard leaves are delicious. 

Villagers like Grace Kauya, believe this. And that makes us feel good.

Grace Kauya from the Phalombe district in her victory garden

Food For Thought

The underlying belief of our Victory Garden Campaign is simple -- anyone, even the poorest villager, can grow plenty of food to feed their families. 

We met Selina yesterday. 3 months ago, her family was malnourished. Today she has tomatoes, beans, squash, cassava, sweet potato, leafy greens, okra, and more. 

Selina didn't spend a penny to create her garden. No chemical fertilizers. No inputs. And now she has food.

Good, nutritious food.

Thank you, my friends. For Selina, and the many other Malawians, your support has made this possible. 

On The Ground Fighting Hunger: Peer-To-Peer, Face-To-Face

Face-to-Face is delighted to announce we have partnered with the Ekari Foundation to bring Victory Gardens into the Phalombe district in Southern Malawi. 

At F2F, we believe in peer-to-peer teaching to train locals to become garden facilitators who then teach fellow villagers how to create home gardens. These chiefs and leaders then work with other tribal districts, in this case Phalombe, generating a collective sense of inspiration and motivation as villages across Malawi learn that they can grow enough food to eat. 

Last week, F2F brought 4 of our local facilitators to conduct a 3-day workshop near Mulanje, Malawi's highest mountain. After a warm, exuberant welcome, 35 Phalombe villagers created low-cost high-yield Victory Gardens, friendships were formed, and a promise was made that all 225 families in Phalombe would have gardens by July 2017.

F2F Surpasses 2,700 Victory Gardens

F2F arrived in Malawi earlier this week and we wanted to update everyone on all the amazing progress going on in the field. As of February 3rd, 330 NEW Victory Gardens have been planted since our last count in early January.

We have now surpassed 2,700 Victory Gardens created in our three tribal districts since the Campaign's launch in July 2016, and that number is constantly growing.

We are bowled over with the lushness of many of the gardens, and with every garden created we are one step closer to winning the war against hunger. 

More updates to come over the next week, but we wanted to share this very exciting news with everyone who helped make this possible. So thank YOU for your ongoing commitment to F2F and here's to 2,000 more!

Victory Garden Progress in Siem Reap

Amazing progress report from the SCC*F2F Community Center in Siem Reap. Organic gardens, using all natural processes and utilizing very basic permaculture and organic gardening practices, were created by the children of the community center on January 6th. Now, not even a month later the gardens have produced lots of vegetables that you can eat every day, providing good, varied nutrition.

Check out the before and after pics!

Getting a Good Education & Enjoying It Too

So our Cambodia education program began with a pilot school in Phnom Penh 9 years ago, and here's 2 bits of good news. 

  1. The government still hasn't forced families out and bulldozed their houses down to build luxury condos. 
  2. We have proof that our program works.

The 6 students here spent years at this school. Because of the music skills, teamwork, and friendship developed at our school, they all received scholarships to a well-respected private school. Doctor, teacher, interior designer -- these are some of the aspirations they have. 

In the meantime, the 75+ younger children at the school, all from the poorest families, continue to show a curiosity, earnestness, and energy that motivate them to discover and learn. Together with nearly 150 other children in Battambang and Siem Reap, F2F continues to stress that a good education is far more varied —and enjoyable — than what children normally get at regular school.

Gratitude to all who participate in our child sponsorship program, and a special call-out to the World Service Committee members from the Church-in-the-Gardens in Forest Hills, New York and their years of generous support. 

Victory Garden Campaign expands to Nkhata Bay

Face-to-Face, with the help of 3 chair facilitators, begins teaching low-cost high-yield victory gardening to 21 chiefs and leaders from TA Fukumaphiri in Nhkata Bay on Lake Malawi in early December. 23 gardens were created, with plans for the 21 participants to help create hundreds more in the coming months. 

This workshop also marked the first time that the chair facilitators, themselves local villagers, taught people outside their respective chief districts. It was also the first time that they saw Lake Malawi with their own eyes.

Welcome F2F's Newest Board Member, Chrigu Imhof

F2F would like to extend a big welcome to our newest board member, Christian (Chrigu) Imhof. 

Chrigu has been an integral part of the F2F team even before becoming an official member of the board. He has not only worked since 2000 as a project manager and team leader at an engineering office, but is the founder of BeastMode Bern Gym, in Bern Switzerland. BeastMode Bern has raised over $25,000 dollars for The Face-to-Face Project since 2012, through a variety of events, including their 24-in-24 workout challenges. This past year alone, BeastMode's events raised $8,470 in support of our Ticket to Success / Rising Stars HIV+ youth program. 

Chrigu has already visited F2F's field projects in Malawi 3 times, and plans to return in February 2017. We couldn't ask for a more dedicated advocate, and look forward to working together with both Chrigu and BeastMode Bern gym in the coming years.

Where There's A Will, There's A Way

So it's started!  100+ local facilitator training groups of villagers learning how to create home Victory Gardens. 

Over the past two days 132 gardens were created. 

By the end of the month, over 700 new gardens will be planted. And this will continue through 2017. 

We are going to win the war against hunger, because for the villagers with some new knowledge, where there's a will, there IS a way.

Rising Stars!

Not sure I know another place that has more joy, even though they've had very dark hardships here. This is the Teen Club, aka the Rising Stars, F2F’s HIV+ youth group in Lilongwe that we’ve worked with for many years.

They’ve come a long, long way, and the reason is that it’s a family of love and trust.

*A special thank you to Chrigu and BeastMode Bern for your amazing support to this group.

Update From The Field: We Can Learn!

We Can Learn.

Her grave situation made worse by a crippling drought, HIV+ Silva wondered if she and her family would survive the famine of 2016. As part of F2F’s Victory Garden Campaign, other HIV+ mothers and F2F volunteers helped Silva create a no-cost high-yield home garden in August.

By September, Silva’s garden thrived, even though the practices were very new to her.

November 8, this is Silva, in her garden. Silva helped neighbors create their own victory gardens. Silva and her village are surviving the biggest humanitarian crisis in Malawi’s history.

So many people are angry that their government isn’t doing anything for them. Being just angry, and voting with anger, doesn’t solve long-term problems. Doing things for yourself and your community does, and Silva knows she now has food to feed her children.

Compared to August when no one had victory garden, a whopping 60% of homes in Silva’s village now have victory gardens. While millions of bags of food relief for Malawi pile up in distribution pile-up, Silva and her village are counting on themselves to control their future.

We can all learn from this!

Toms Box CrossFit Gym in Bern set to hold its 24-in-24 event

TomsBox CrossFit Gym set to hold its 24-in-24 workout challenge this coming Saturday and Sunday, October 1 & 2. Twenty-four workouts in 24 hours -- all to help raise money for Face-to-Face's Victory Garden Campaign to spread the life-saving high-yield no cost home gardens in Malawi. Support Tom and his staff, and their athletes,  by visiting this site: