Teach A Child To Garden

14-year-old Michael Labisoni loves his garden. Without spending any money on seeds, fertilizers, or tools, Michael's garden is flourishing, providing his family with corn, tomatoes, mustard, indigenous greens, and other good, nutritious vegetables. 

Michael has also sold some of his surplus vegetables, enabling him to buy a new school uniform and workbooks. Teach a child to garden and he eats for a lifetime (...and goes to school too!)

Face-to-Face has taught hundreds of Malawian children living in poverty to create victory gardens, and with your help we can make that tens of thousands. Support F2F in teaching other children like Michael to develop the tools and resources they need to win the war on hunger.

Bringing The Victory Garden Campaign to Cambodia!

F2F is thrilled to announce that we are bringing our Victory Garden Campaign to Cambodia! On October 4, 2018, we conducted our very first day of workshops with permaculture expert, Cristiano Marinucci, from Cultures Permanentes.

We started off creating a garden -- no wasting time getting our hands and feet dirty -- and are excited to kick off the Campaign with 30 very enthusiastic trainees. 

It's wonderful to be working with Cultures Permanentes once again, and with our new partner, Sustainable Cambodia. We look forward to a collaborative and productive partnership that aims to create 5,000 Victory Gardens over the next 2 years.

143 Chiefs Want Victory Gardens

Above: Group Village Headman of Kazitenge Village —
Addressing Crowd at F2F Victory Garden Event

Kazitenge Village Chiefs Dancing at F2F Event

Overlooked by government and large charities, tribal chiefs are traditional leaders in the everyday lives of villagers. Chiefs command respect and support, and that’s why F2F works closely with them.
In the past 2 weeks, 143 chiefs came to F2F victory garden events. They all know F2F doesn’t provide handouts or material goods, and they understand that we require them to create victory gardens at their own homes.
The head chief of Kazitenge village, in a red coat above, celebrates with fellow chiefs because most of his residents have victory gardens. He tells other chiefs that his people are growing their own food, without spending money. He explains that villagers are healthier, children go to school, and crime has gone down.
Chief Kazitenge urges other chiefs to follow his lead. In 5 districts in Malawi, that’s exactly what chiefs are doing.
Demand for victory gardens is sky high. And F2F believes the sky’s the limit.

Saukani Does the Math

Above: Saukani Chatha and one of his daughters in his dry maize field.

Like millions of African subsistence farmers, Saukani Chatha depends on growing maize in the short rainy season to feed his family through the year.
This year was difficult. Saukani’s small plot yielded 3 bags of maize, worth $24. His expenses — seeds, sacks, milling — was $16. His own labor isn’t part of the calculations. 
Three months later, no one is surprised that Saukani has no maize to eat. That’s because this is the reality, year after year, of most villagers. Maize as a cash crop has never worked, and it’s clear it never will. The chemical fertilizer and pesticides alone, which burn the soil, make it harder to grow maize with each passing year. 
This year, Saukani learned to create a F2F victory garden next to his house. Within weeks, he was harvesting food. In a couple months, Saukani realized he could feed his family of 5 and earn $1.25 a week selling surplus vegetables. 
$8 from his maize cash crop. Or $1.25 x 52 weeks from his victory garden.
You can do the math.

Honor Your Roots, Eat Your Vegetables

Above: Traditional Tchope Dance & Victory Garden Vegetables
at F2F's Mtambalika Event in Phalombe

Malawians believe that maize = Africa = life. 
But maize came from the Americas and doesn’t grow well in Malawi’s dry climate. That’s why F2F’s victory gardens promote faster, more easily grown leafy greens and grains that are indigenous to Malawi. 
These plants like Malawi’s climate, and they’re high in nutrition. Plus, they taste great too!
Because many villagers have forgotten how to eat these plants, we re-introduce them in events that feature traditional dust-raising, crowd-thrilling dancing.  
Honor your heritage, stomp your feet, and eat your vegetables. 

Emily Creates 355 Gardens

F2F Garden Facilitator, Emily Kayama, poses alongside husband and wife, Jessie and Shadreck Chindiwo, in their garden in Phunduma village, Malawi.

Emily Kayama, above wearing black, is one of 30 villagers who first learned about victory gardens in November 2017. Emily loved the idea of growing vegetables at no cost next to the home so much, that she asked to be a garden facilitator to help her fellow villagers.  

Emily and 3 other team members have created a whopping 355 gardens in just 8 months, including helping Jessie and Shadreck Chindiwo, pictured here, create their garden. The couple now harvests over 10 vegetable varieties, giving the family good, nutritious food, and saving them from buying food at the market.

Growing Stronger With Victory Gardens

We are so excited to announce that since we launched The Victory Garden Campaign in July of 2016 in Malawi, 15,000 gardens have been created, reaching 1,089 villages, and helping 45,000 families.

Big thanks to all of our amazing supporters. Because of your generosity the Campaign has had a real impact, helping people not only grow enough food to eat, but also earn an income, improve nutrition, lead healthy lives, and become self-reliant. Thanks for being our Champions of Change!

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.