Archive for June, 2011

The Mango Seller

June 18, 2011

The Mango Seller – as told by Balbir Mathur, Trees for Life

In the fall of 1982 I was invited to an Africa-America conference hosted by the government of Zimbabwe.

The top echelon of African ambassadors and politicians were at the conference, along with their entourage. The American delegation included members of the state department, high-level politicians and businessmen.

This was my first trip to Africa. When I landed in Harare, the capital of Zimbabwe, it represented all of Africa to me. I was eager to explore “Africa,” so I hired a taxi and requested a tour of the city.

“What would you like to see?” the driver inquired.

“Show me everything,” I said.

The driver took me to the best parts of the city, where the rich and powerful lived. After an hour or so, I asked him to show me where the poor lived. He turned around in disbelief and said that was not a good idea. I could understand his reasoning. Racial tensions in Zimbabwe were very high, and this was not a good time for a foreigner to be cruising around all by himself. But I persisted.

The slum was not far away. It was obvious the taxi driver was not going to take me inside the slum, but I was grateful that I could at least view it from the outskirts. Small shacks with tin or thatched roofs—symbol of poverty and slums throughout the world—were scattered all around. This was Sunday afternoon, and people were sitting in groups under shady trees or leisurely walking about.

The scene was a stark contrast to the rich areas I had just visited. There I had seen large, impressive British bungalows with manicured lawns and luxury cars in the driveways. There had been practically no people on the streets.

Here, in the midst of poverty, there were people outside mingling with one another.

As we drove along a bumpy dirt road, I saw a woman selling mangoes. I expressed a desire to stop and buy some of this fruit. Again, the taxi driver told me it was not a good idea. He even offered to deliver mangoes to my hotel. But again I persisted.

Reluctantly, he parked on the side of the road. I got out and walked across a patch of bare earth to the mango seller, about ten yards away. Dressed in traditional clothing, she sat on the ground beneath a tree, with a couple dozen mangoes scattered in front of her—a common sight in most developing countries.

By this time, the sight of a foreigner getting out of a taxi and walking toward the mango seller had attracted attention. Several bystanders crossed their arms and eyed me with suspicion, as if to say, “Who do you think you are?”

I threw a glance at the taxi driver. I could see nervousness on his face…….

The rest of the story is a chapter in the new book Hope for Africa and is available from

To order your copy:


June 9, 2011

What do you do after 5 days in a new country? If your Mozhdeh Mobayen you go to Trees for Life to volunteer. Mozhdeh who had arrived in Wichita from Iran less than a week ago knew that, as in Iran, she wanted to volunteer. Mozhdeh had been a volunteer  in her community and knew that helping others was part of her life. Before moving to Wichita, Mozhdeh had been an English elementary teacher in Tehran for 6 years and now she and her husband Hessam were relocating to Wichita for Hessam to complete a Ph.D. at Wichita State University.

Hessam & Mozhdeh Mobayen w/ Balbir Mathur


June 6, 2011


The University of Nicaragua, the Water Resources Research Center, Nicaragua-based NGO Comities of Potable Water and Sanitation and Trees for Life International have formed a partnership to conduct a research program to develop and implement a process to promote the degradation of fecal material with inoculation or a seeding mechanism to ensure that suitable microorganisms are present that continually break down human waste and improve sanitation conditions.

The rapid degradation of fecal matter is extremely important for countries like Nicaragua that are prone to frequent tropical storms and hurricanes. The approach that we are developing involves the utilization of locally produced plant-based enzymes that are readily applicable to any type of latrine, are environmentally sustainable as they enhance the natural degradation process.

In Phase One of the project will be primarily directed toward gathering information related to the technical aspects of the project. Phase Two will consist of full-scale field studies to assess the effectiveness of the concept.


June 2, 2011

A group of children in Kansas are helping save the lives of children around the world.

The 23 children aged 5 to 9, from 1st United Methodist Church of Wichita, have been raising money to help plant Moringa trees as part of their Day Camp activities. The students first learned about the highly nutritious Moringa tree and its potential health and medicinal properties for fighting hunger and disease in developing countries. The students then gave presentations to the numerous adult Sunday school classes in their church and collected donations.

The students came to the Trees for Life office in Wichita to present the funds they had raised – a check for $2,501.10. They were thrilled to learn from David Kimble, Executive Director of Trees for Life, that each dollar they raised and donated represented one tree to be planted, so their efforts could help thousands of children around the world.


 Why did they do it? The students were articulate in answering this question:
“Because it will help lots of hungry people.”
“The Moringa tree is really good for your health.”
“Moringa has lots of good nutrition, and it can prevent diseases.”


The students and their teachers then spent the rest of the afternoon working with Pat Felton, Volunteer Coordinator, on preparing the Moringa tree booklets that Trees for Life distributes around the world. For those couple of hours they filled the room with their joy and enthusiasm for helping others.