Plant Sciences International is proud to announce our partnership since 2007 with Lifesong For Orphans, an international organization dedicated to serving orphans in need around the world. As an agricultural partner, PSI seeks to amplify Lifesong's effectiveness in serving the world's orphans by targeting and supporting specific agricultural needs such as sustainable development in food production and teaching sustainable skills to provide a future and a hope for the orphans and their communities. PSI supports lifesong in these specific areas:
Lifesong for Orphans is an integral part of Tree of Life Ministries (TOLM) near San Jose de Copán, in southwest Honduras (approximate latitude 15 degrees north). This orphanage and school ministers to approximately 600 children, ages 10-18 years old. These highly-vulnerable children are from the streets, villages, remote mountains and hidden reaches of the Mosquito Coast. They receive care, state-of-the-art education and vocational training. Staff members from Plant Sciences, Inc. (PSI) have visited the facilities and children several times, and have taken part in their outreach ministries to remote mountain villages. As part of the Lifesong alliance, PSI has spent time assessing the potential of building a sustainable farm business to contribute support for the future of TOLM children. To date, PSI has tested the soils of the low- and high-elevation farm sites, selected the site for a strawberry trial, and continues to work through the process of importing plants and Plant Variety Protection in Honduras. PSI partners in Spain and client growers in El Salvador are assisting in logistical support, to help make the berry farm a reality for Lifesong Honduras.
The Lifesong orphan camp in Kharkov, Ukraine is located near the northeast border of the country, close to Russia (approximate latitude 50 degrees north). To the west, Ukraine is bordered by Belarus, Poland, Romania and Moldova. The orphan camp serves 1,200 children from seven national orphanages during their one-week furlough from the institutions. The director, Denis Poshelok (a horse veterinarian), and his family and staff (many of which are orphan grads) provide a safe haven for groups of 50+ children each week. They are surrounded by a loving staff, the adventure of horsemanship, sports activities and music. The camp provides a nurturing environment of small groups with one-on-one contact, which is rarely experienced in a large orphan institution. Camp experiences leave lasting impressions, and many of the children aging out of these Ukrainian orphanages then seek out Lifesong Transitional Home Ministries. These are safe homes in which older orphans live during the aging-out, transitional year. House parents mentor up to 12 orphans per house, providing care and support within a spiritual foundation.
PSI’s alliance of partners and the Lifesong Ukraine farm have initiated a 5-acre strawberry and raspberry trial farm in Kharkov. The goal is to build a sustainable, world-class farm to train the older orphans who have an interest in horticulture, sales and marketing to provide a sustainable source of funds for the camp. In 2011, PSI evaluated the farm site and soils. In 2012, PSI and its partner El Pinar Medioambiente in Spain assisted Lifesong Ukraine in establishing a trial nursery for strawberry varieties. In addition, raspberry trials were started for fruit production. Attorney Ronald Korenstra (from Algemeen Octrooi- en Merkenbureau in the Netherlands) assisted with direction and support in the arena of Plant Variety Protection in Ukraine, which is currently underway for four berry varieties. In 2013, the nursery plans were replaced with the vision of a commercial berry farm, after finding that PSI raspberry varieties excelled even in the harsh winters of Lifesong Ukraine’s latitude! Market trials were promising and hydroponic trials were also initiated. We are encouraged by the installation of high tunnels for plant/fruit protection, and plans for expansion of the farm in 2014.
Lifesong Zambia serves about 360 orphans and vulnerable children near Kitwe, bordering the Democratic Republic of Congo. This fertile land has been called the “breadbasket of sub-Saharan Africa.” The school, medical and farm facilities have blossomed under the directorship of Shane and Mitzi McBride from Texas. The care, schooling and nurturing of these vulnerable children, ranging from 4 to 16 years of age, is the primary focus of Lifesong Zambia ministries. Plant Sciences and its partners, Môrester Estate - Landgoed, Stargrow Nurseries and Windsor & Associates (all in South Africa), El Pinar Medioambiente (Spain), German Epple (Chile), Scotts and Koppert (both in the Netherlands), rallied to assist Lifesong Zambia in developing a working berry farm in 2011. In that first year, a trial strawberry farm, under the leadership of Luke Gudeman, proved to be highly fruitful and an astounding success. Luke, a graduate of Purdue University in Indiana and a third-generation popcorn farmer, developed a thriving berry farm business in support of the Lifesong Zambia children and facilities. The Ministry of Agriculture has recognized the success of Plant Sciences and Berry Genetics varieties, and has paved the way for the commercialization of berries in Zambia. Through Lifesong donor gifts, the farm expanded to nearly 10 acres in 2012, a processing building with coolers and freezers was completed, a new borehole began pumping adequate water, and the working staff (including relatives of the children) was expanded significantly. Previously unknown to the children, strawberries are a welcomed treat and healthy addition to their daily diet. Additional fruit crops from Stargrow Nurseries, including stone fruit, citrus, and grapes, were included in 2013. With the expanding marketing efforts of Sheila Schwab from General Mills, additional Farm Manager Erik Wiegand and Sales Director Shane McBride, we look forward to a landmark and sustainable farm for Lifesong Zambia.
If you're interested to learn how you, too, might partner with PSI and Lifesong around the globe, please contact Dr. Judith Johnson at email@example.com or 831.728.7771 x204.