Pay It Forward: Self-Reliance and the Gift of a Chicken

While visiting Feed the World’s self-reliance training centers in Kenya, one man learns how to turn a generous gift into an opportunity to “pay it forward.”

Those who travel to villages and towns as part of Feed the World often come back with interesting and inspiring stories. Recently, our Director of Operations, Lonny Ward, shared with us one such experience that he had while visiting a small village in Kenya. While there, Lonny met with local Feed the World teams whose job is to teach the people self-reliance by maximizing the resources they have available to them. Such teaching sessions in our projects throughout the world help people in developing countries to create their own sustainable agriculture, raise animals to provide them with the proper nutrition, and live healthier and happier lives.

Often, the people express extreme gratitude for the lessons they have been taught, but not often do they present such precious gifts to their teachers as Lonny was given.

After completing a sustainable agriculture training session, viewing the community garden, and talking with the people, Lonny was offered a chicken by one of the village leaders, Sub-Chief Tsuma. To understand the worth of this gift, you have to understand the type of life these people live. Most homes are very small and made from sticks, mud, and dried grasses for the roofs. When they do have food that needs to be cooked, they have to do so over open fires. They have no bathroom facilities or other utilities that those in developed countries think of as necessities. To them, a chicken is not just a chicken. It is the only source of animal protein that a family can often get. Villagers are nourished by the precious eggs that the chickens lay, as well as the meat of the chicken when its laying days are over. “To give one of their chickens is a fortune,” says Lonny, “I felt very honored that they appreciated our teaching so much.”

Stunned by the generous offer, but knowing that he could not possibly take a chicken back to the United States with him on a 38 hour trip, Lonny had an idea. He realized that this chicken could become “the gift that keeps on giving” by asking Tsuma to offer an opportunity for self-reliance to another villager by “paying it forward.”

Lonny says, “I asked him to choose a person in the village, give them the chicken in my name, and train this person on the proper care of the chicken.” Lonny told Tsuma that when he returned to the village, he would like to be introduced to the person who had received the chicken. Together they would be able to see how receiving this precious gift had changed the person’s life and helped them develop self-reliance.

Tsuma showed extreme gratitude and generosity by eagerly accepting this invitation to use the chicken to “pay it forward.” He is a great example of someone who started with very little, but is willing to learn, take chances, and improve his life. By doing so, he is improving the lives of the people of his village and learning to sharing the gift of self-reliance with others.

Tsuma (far right) and a group of villagers pose next to their community garden in Gona, Kenya.

Sub Chief Tsuma (far right) and a group of villagers pose in front of their community garden in Gona, Kenya.

Read more about Lonny’s adventures in developing countries on his blog,

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  1. […] In May, we shared a story about a man named Tsuma, who is one of the village leaders in Gona, Kenya. He had offered the precious gift of a chicken to Feed The World’s Director of Operations, Lonny Ward, in gratitude for the lessons he had been taught about sustainable agriculture and beekeeping. Humbled by the generous gift, but knowing that a chicken could not be easily taken on a plane back to the United States, Lonny had suggested that the gift be “paid forward” to someone else. Tsuma gifted the chicken to another villager, and taught that person how to properly care for it. (See “Pay It Forward: Self-Reliance and the Gift of a Chicken”)  […]

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