Three generations of the Mellish family are in Kenya this month as part of the first large group of Islanders to return to the country with Farmers Helping Farmers since the COVID-19 pandemic.
Ken and Teresa Mellish have been travelling regularly to Kenya since the P.E.I.-based non-profit group was established in the early 1980s.
This month, their daughter, veterinarian Dr. Martha Mellish will be part of the group, along with their 16-year-old granddaughter, Victoria Mellish and her mother, Shauna Mellish. Both Shauna and Martha have been to Kenya on previous trips.
Victoria Mellish says her trip was planned very quickly, after her grandmother asked her — when was she coming to Kenya.
The family had been hoping that Victoria could travel to Kenya in 2020, when she was in Grade 9, but the COVID-19 pandemic derailed those plans.
Now, in Grade 11 at Montague Regional High School, she says the time feels right.
“I’ve always wanted to go with Farmers Helping Farmers and my teachers have been very supportive and accommodating of the trip,” said Victoria Mellish.
“Although I couldn’t go in grade 9, the chance to go before university is perfect.”
Victoria will spend much of her time volunteering at schools that are partnered with Farmers Helping Farmers, including distributing the letters written by Canadian students for their friends in Kenya. Letters have been going back and forth between the two countries since school twinning started almost 20 years ago.
“There is so much to look forward to,” Victoria Mellish said.
“I’m keen to see the schools, and meet the women’s groups, not to mention the opportunity to travel and experience a new culture and climate with my family.”
Farmers Helping Farmers has won awards for its work in Kenya. The group’s goal is to assist Kenyan farmers in becoming more self-reliant in agricultural food production, and work with dairies, women’s groups, schools and farmers.
Victoria’s grandparents are delighted that she will be able to see the work of Farmers Helping Farmers in person.
“We’ve taken our children to Kenya previously, and it’s wonderful to take our oldest grandchild
to Kenya,” said Teresa Mellish.
“Our grandchildren have heard so much about Kenya, and I think it’s important for her to see it through her own eyes.”
Ken and Teresa Mellish were in Kenya in November, the organization’s first trip to Kenya since March 2020. They visited partners and projects, along with the group’s staff who have been supporting the work of FHF on the ground in Kenya through the pandemic.
They also witnessed firsthand the impact of the worst drought in decades on the area, Meru County, where much of the work of Farmers Helping Farmers takes place.
“It was tough to see hungry children,” said Teresa Mellish.
“However, it was great that we could help them over Christmas by keeping the school feeding program open during the holiday period.”
Farmers Helping Farmers just wrapped up its 2022 Holiday Campaign, which raised almost $90,000 in support for FHF projects in Kenya.
Growing up in New Perth, Victoria Mellish helped at Farmers Helping Farmers fundraisers on P.E.I., including the annual Beef Barbecue in Harrington.
She says she’s looking forward to seeing the money raised put into action.
“I’ve seen lots of amazing pictures from the work of Farmers Helping Farmers, but to see it and the work of my grandparents in person and to be a part of it will be incredible,” said Victoria Mellish.
“I’d love to see the water tank I donated, and the family it was given to.”
The P.E.I. delegation includes Dr. John Van Leeuwen and three students from the Atlantic Veterinary College.
The group from P.E.I. will spend three weeks in Kenya working with FHF staff and partners with women’s groups, schools and dairies.