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Couple's chance encounter completely changes the course of their retirement: 'That's our focus for the next three years'

"We have other ideas beyond this little farm."

"We have other ideas beyond this little farm."

Photo Credit: iStock

A North Dakota couple turned their retirement into a mission to help a group of Liberians ensure their livelihoods.

Tim and Christine Burchill first wanted to donate an acre of land to be farmed, but the idea morphed into a six-acre venture, The Jamestown Sun reported in August. It all started when Bill Woyah — the son of Tim's former coworker, Mary Dahn — was seeking a student visa to come to the United States.

Woyah's application was denied in 2021, so the Burchills decided to help in another way. They started a nonprofit, later named Living is Giving by volunteers who work the farm to provide for their families "because they want a better future for their children with education as the main goal," Sun editor Kathy Steiner wrote.

"We want to provide food security with that six acres for as many families as we can and ... we have other ideas beyond this little farm," Tim said.

Liberia was the second Black republic in the world after Haiti. The West African nation on the Atlantic Ocean is home to 5.5 million people, four million of whom lived without electricity as of 2020. A high maternal mortality rate is compounded by female genital cutting, which affects two-thirds of women and girls, according to the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency.

It is "an obstacle to formal classroom education" for girls, and the Sun reported food insecurity and poverty are barriers to education as well. Of the farm's 26 volunteers, 23 are women, and most are single parents, according to the Sun.

The farm is located near Frank Town, outside the capital of Monrovia. The land is cultivated by Farming God's Way, a method taught by missionaries all over the world. There is no plowing, and mulch is used to manage erosion and weeds. Its first crop was cassava, which can be grown twice per year and is "a staple in the Liberian diet," per the Sun.

"To have these 26 people that are working to see a better future is incredible," Christine said.

There were plans for sweet potatoes, corn, and beans, as well as animals and livestock, to improve the nutritional value and food security of the farm, but funding was an issue. The focus last year was on making economic and production progress.

"And I think that's our focus for the next three years, which would include getting to the point of having a living wage for the people that are working the farm," said Deb Denny, a Living Is Giving board member.

"... One of our nonprofit's goals is to raise enough funding from some sources so we can pay a modicum of wage to Bill as well as to the volunteer women at some point. ... We really believe in entrepreneurship and empowering individuals to make their own financial decisions."

Longer-term goals for Living Is Giving include opening a school and medical clinic, constructing living quarters at the farm, and providing small business assistance programs for women, the Sun reported.

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