Monday, September 5, 2011

Building Bridges and The 26 Day Challenge

Building Bridges and the 26 Day Challenge

Imagine your teenager allowing the entire family to sleep in her room for the night, your twelve year old son eating on less than $2 for the day, your youngest using no electronics after sundown during summer break, and your husband going the day without his phone!  When returning from Kenya I wanted to do more than repeatedly remind my family to appreciate their home and meals, and to NOT waste water.  Learning about the 26 day challenge for Carolina for Kibera ( was a way for me to do just that and bring my experience in Kibera as a ONE Mom home to my family.

Only three days post trip we were signed up and ready to begin each day with ONE new challenge.  We had it in our heads, ‘piece of cake’, until the day we had to eat on less than $2/day or go with one meal.  That was when this experiment opened our minds, our hearts, and our wallets.  So, on day 25 we wrote our $26 check to The Full Belly Project ( a local non-profit whose mission is to design and distribute income-generating agricultural devices to improve life in developing countries. (You must read Rye Barcott’s book ( to understand why $26.)

Not only were we reminded of hunger during our 26 days, but we tried out life in small living quarters (the typical size for a family of 5 in Kibera is 10 feet x 10 feet), tolerated the noise pollution for a day (one of my toughest days!!!), washed our clothes by hand, used one bucket of water for all of us to bathe, did not throw anything in a trash can for a day, cooked everything on one burner, and shut down electronics.  Even if you do not do them all, I encourage everyone to try a few—it will open your eyes!!

In Kibera it is not only about going without.  What I was struck with while I visited was the sense of community. This is something that we often lack in our fast-paced, busy lives here in America.  Incorporated in the challenge were days of chai with friends, borrowing from a neighbor, playing soccer with a Kibera made soccer ball, and volunteering in our own community.  It is all part of building bridges, both here at home and across the globe!

In all honesty--there were periods during the challenge where one (or all) of us became irritable, and some dropped out of that day’s challenge, but I believe that is what made it effective.  It was those moments when we sat down, talked about why we were doing this and what actions we can take right now to make a difference in the world.  Going to and adding your name to the petition for the crisis happening in the horn of Africa, and signing up for the 26 day challenge at are things you can do right now.  Remembering that the families in Kibera face ALL of these challenges every single day and by participating for only 26 days and sharing it with others through conversation and social networking we can give a glimpse of a family's daily life in Kibera that hopefully will inspire others to join the conversation and take action!


  1. Thanks so much for sharing this. As a parent, it is one of the most important things to me that my children become compassionate and caring beings.

    The challenge you took part in is, I believe, along the same lines of what many learn from practicing fasting.

    I have family that are Muslim and growing up, though we celebrated Eid just as we did Christmas, it never really meant anything to me.

    This year was the first time I truly understood from a humanistic perspective how something like this can really open up your heart and your eyes.

  2. Heidi--

    Your comment is inspiring and uplifting. Often we only see the anger and discontent in the world. When I read words like yours I know that the world is a kind, caring place.

    Thank you so much for sharing.