Do you like to travel? Then you need to meet our founders, Floyd and Kathy Hammer. They have been traveling all over the world for decades, but it was a trip in 2003 to Tanzania in East Africa that caused the formation of The Outreach Program.
They recently traveled back to Tanzania to the roots of Outreach and this series of stories, photos and videos captures their journey and the amazing work they have done to change the future of the world’s most vulnerable children and families.
For some background to the story, it’s important to note that Floyd and Kathy started the first plastics recycling plant in America – then owned several in various international locations – but then sold out with the intention to retire. These landlocked Iowans loved to sail and, after sailing in the Columbus 500 in 1992, dreamed of sailing around the world in their retirement.
But as Floyd often says: God had a plan.
In 2003, a physician friend of theirs convinced them to go with him to Tanzania in East Africa.
The purpose of this trip was to aid in the remodeling of a leprosy clinic to an AIDS hospice in the remote village of Nkungi, a 16-hour trip from the airport in Arusha down the rough back roads of Tanzania.
The village of Nkungi originally was built upon around a leprosy hospital. Leprosy is a contagious, horrific disease and has historically caused its victims to be ostracized from society.
A hospital was built to help the victims, but, as is the practice of most hospitals in developing countries (it’s not politically correct to call them third-world countries anymore), a patient’s family has to provide food and bedding.
So, Nkungi sprang up out of nowhere on the African plain as families moved nearby the hospital to take care of their loved ones with leprosy.
However, the AIDS epidemic in Africa roared through the bush like a wildfire decimating a generation of people. In fact, 76 percent of the population in Tanzania is under the age of 30 because of AIDS.
Floyd and Kathy spent two months in 2003 in Nkungi helping on the construction project. Both Floyd and Kathy have considerable experience in the construction industry, so they fit in quite well.
They returned to life in America, yet the pull of Nkungi and the wonderful people they met grew stronger in Kathy as the months went by, then one day she suggested to Floyd they return. And return they did. (Photo of Nkungi)
However, they were not prepared for what they encountered. Nkungi village was in the middle of a 3-year drought and people were suffering. There are two basic ways people die from the effects of hunger: one, by not eating enough to keep them alive so vital organs shut down; two, by desperately eating something that kills them.
While they were in the village, Floyd and Kathy witnessed five children die of hunger-related issues. When the fifth one died from eating something that had killed him, they realized they had to do something but they didn’t know what that something was; there was no food in the village.
Now, this is the part of the narrative of this story that needs special music because what comes next is one of the most transformational stories in humanitarian aid that you will ever hear. In fact, what Floyd and Kathy did next eventually gained them an invitation to the White House for a special ceremony by President Obama and H.W. George Bush where those two presidents presented Floyd and Kathy the 5,000th Points of Light Award.
But, first, to understand the impact of their unique reaction, it helps to understand the world of humanitarianism – a world that Floyd and Kathy knew nothing of because they were businesspeople and, historically, business and humanitarianism (charity) are two different things.
There are two concepts in providing aid for the world’s most hungry and impoverished: relief and development. On one hand, Relief is what you would say is giving a man a fish; it’s a hand-out. Development, on the other hand, is teaching a man to fish; it’s a hand-up. Historically, most of humanitarian aid is in the context of relief.
However, what Floyd and Kathy did was to provide both relief and development. Yes, they provided immediate relief in the form of food to prevent more deaths through hunger-related issues, but they also provided the people long-term solutions so they could rise above the abject poverty and hunger.
Thus, was born our mission to provide safe water, food, medical care and education to those in need both at home and abroad.
This return trip to their roots will highlight why, and how, their brilliant decision to bartering grain for baskets provided transformational impact that is abundantly evidenced today. You will meet the children and families whom they helped then who now have successful careers in technology, health industry, education, and entrepreneurship.
Floyd and Kathy have changed the future of hundreds of the world’s most vulnerable children and their families. You will see that on this trip.
The best part is, you can become a part of their story, too; they are relentless in their pursuit of helping the world’s most vulnerable and rely on people like you to help them. As they often say, “Together, we make a difference!”
Up next: Bartering Baskets for Grain: Mixing Business and Charity