We arrived at their house thinking we knew the story already. Their kid was sick, their garden helped their kid get healthy again. When I got there and did the math, I realized in the interview that our assumptions had been wrong. I asked how many kids she and her husband had and she responded, truthfully, one. Their daughter was too young to eat vegetables, so I was confused for awhile. Finally, I asked more questions and realized that they care for a child that is like their son and that he had the health problems. So many times, I think I know something or I assume someone else has made a mistake, but really, I just ask lousy, incomplete questions. This was for Vita Gardens/Africa New Life partnership. Photo by Esther Havens.
Since they were married in 2013, Kampire and Feliciane have weathered many challenges together. Though their firstborn died in childbirth, they now have two children in their care, one daughter and one nephew. They raise Kampire’s sister’s son since she couldn’t care for him. They also provide a home for her mother, Vivian. Kampire and Feliciane take turns finding work where and when they can, both committed to providing the best life for their family.
Theo trained them and helped plant their keyhole garden of kale and spinach in October of 2014. Now, family life revolves around the garden. Dorcas, their one year-old daughter, is the same height as many of the vegetables. She pulls kale straight from the stalks and gnaws on it, but her mother snatches it away, trying to get her daughter used to the idea of letting the garden grow. Feliciane is a day laborer for other people’s farms and finds work occasionally. When he is working, Kampire tends the gardens. If Kampire finds work, Feliciane will stay home with the children and take care of the garden. Vivian, Kampire’s mother, is a strong and determined woman who has lived over 70 years (she doesn’t know her exact age) in Rwanda. She works around the yard determinedly, hoeing weeds and pulling underbrush. Everyone in the family contributes and benefits in their own way.
Their family exemplifies how gardens are affecting the health and well-being of people in Kageyo. Feliciane said that since having the garden, “There are so many changes in my wife and the children.” Years ago, their nephew Eric was sick and had a fever. When they took him to the hospital, the doctor explained that there was no medicine to prescribe. The family simply needed access to good food. Now, the garden provides Eric with regular nutrients and has kept him healthy. Dorcas was born prematurely and suffered a lot of health problems. Kampire’s breast milk has been more plentiful since she started eating vegetables, which has strengthened Dorcas’ immune system.
Kampire gained a lot from Theo’s class, and is eager to pass it on. “I learned how good vegetables are in our body, how they help us be strong and how to share and teach others,” she explained. “If you are my neighbor, I have a responsibility to teach you so you can have it too.” When friends ask about her garden, she explains that it is great for families with babies. She highlights the nutritional benefits — better breast milk and more energy for children. Her husband Feliciane agreed that greens “give me energy and appetite.” It was common to hear that once a family started eating vegetables, they had an appetite for more food. Talking about the future, Kampire said hopefully, “I wish my family would be a good family that lacks nothing.” She and her husband are working hard together to ensure that their garden and their family continue to flourish and stay healthy.