Cameroonian women support US women

Women’s empowerment is the main aim of Sacred Link Jewelry, a micro-enterprise initiative that provides technical training, business skills and market linkage for handmade, natural jewelry. The project is based out of the Himalayan Institute’s community center in Kumbo, Cameroon.

Recently, Himalayan Institute Cameroon’s Sacred Link Jewelry program has helped empower women outside of their West African community. Two US-based organizations, Child and Family Services of Buffalo, NY and the Victims’ Intervention Program of Honesdale, PA, received some of their handmade jewelry.


Child and Family Services reached out to the Himalayan Institute for help with their Havan House Shelter, a project that provides services for women and children who are victims of domestic violence. The Himalayan Institute responded by donating Sacred Link Jewelry from West Africa to be used for fundraising. The jewelry was sold at an event at Himalayan Institute Buffalo and 100% of the proceeds went to the Havan House Shelter.

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Jewelry was also donated to the Victims’ Intervention Program, an organization that aims to educate the community on issues of domestic and sexual violence. This is a beautiful example of women empowering other women.

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Our humanitarian programs provide training and opportunities for others to build a better life for themselves and your donations allow us to reach others in the most effective way.

Staff Spotlight: Steve Odnoha

Welcome back, Steve!


After working at the Himalayan Institute’s newest campus in Khajuraho, India for nearly six months, Steve Odnoha is back at the Humanitarian HQ in Honesdale, PA.

What does Steve do? 

Well, technically speaking, Steve is the “Technical Projects Manager” for the Himalayan Institute’s Humanitarian Projects. Steve’s job is to determine what innovative technologies can be applied to increase our program’s effectiveness. Steve O. is often lovingly referred to as “MacgyvO” because of his knack for simplistic ingenuity, i.e., building something out of nothing! This ability is quite useful when working at our projects sites around the world, which often lack adequate industrial materials.

Steve has built solar power stations, wood drying kilns, ultra-sonic cleaners and even a gas laser! His credentials go on and on…

What are some fun facts about Steve?

  • Favorite food: Pizza
  • Favorite movies: Gladiator and Chicago
  • Favorite sport: Martial Arts
  • Places Steve’s lived prior to the USA: Bahrain, Korea, The Bahamas
  • Passions: Traveling, mission-based work and using his skills to make positive changes in the lives of others
  • Latest technical project: Wood drying kiln in Cameroon, West Africa
  • Upcoming projects: Installation of an industrial wood planer at our Cameroon carpentry school

Want to know more about Steve and his exciting adventures?

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Carpentry School Expansion: Help us grow.

We are looking for donors to help our carpentry school grow and  acquire a much-needed piece of equipment. As a donor your name will be engraved on a plaque and installed next to the machine! Once installed we’ll email you a personalized photo >> DONATE TODAY


A Wood Drying Kiln for Cameroon

Thanks to the support of donors like you, our center was able to construct the first wood drying kiln in the North West region of Cameroon in a town called Kumbo. 


getting wood ready for drying in the new kiln

When the School of Carpentry and Construction (C&C) opened in 2009, local carpenters revealed that they were using unseasoned lumber to build furniture.  Unseasoned lumber is wood that is still green and contains moisture. Furniture made from unseasoned wood falls apart as the wood dries and begins to warp and twist within a few months, finish peels away.

 WiseGeek notes that without the proper humidity controls, the wood could still warp as it contracts. 

Using seasoned wood was time-consuming and expensive – it can takes 6 months for properly stacked wood to air dry in Cameroon which is cost-prohibitive for carpenters. To remedy the situation, the C&C, with local labor and a little innovation, constructed the first wood drying kiln in the region!


The custom-made kiln, constructed with readily available material, is an enclosed space with temperature and humidity controls, provides the ideal wood drying conditions year-round. The large metal building is lined with wood panels that provide strength and insulation for stacked wood. The roof, made of corrugated sheet metal (painted black to help absorb solar heat) and transparent panels, installed at regular intervals, allows the sun to heat the sealed space.  Electric fans, installed at strategic locations, circulate the air and facilitate the removal of excess moisture from the lumber. Hot air is funneled in to the top of the kiln from the heater and cool air is circulated out of the kiln by way of a vent near the floor. For a solar design that you could build yourself, see what the folks at American Woodworker have to share.

Each type of wood has its own characteristics (based on species, moisture level, thickness of the cut, density) so the heat is adjusted to quickly evaporate the moisture from the surface of the stacks of wood, drying the lumber as evenly and as quickly as possible without warping, cracking or case-hardening. Engineers use a chart, like the one provided on the Structural Engineering Blog, for taking a range of tolerance in to consideration when selecting standard connectors for construction.


A custom-built brick structure next to the kiln houses the sawdust burner. Sawdust, which is available in abundance from C&C, provides additional heat for the kiln. The sawdust burner, another local innovation, constructed from a 30-gallon oil drum encased in a 55-gallon oil drum – provides clean, renewable heat to take over for the sun in the rainy season.


constructing a double-barrel sawdust burner

The double-barrel design that prevents the outside metal surfaces from getting too hot also prevents carbon monoxide poisoning, and prolongs the life of all the components.  To use, the removable inner barrel is filled with compacted sawdust that is lit with kindling in the ash cleaning draw.


sawdust burner – close-up of outer barrel

Two exhaust pipes (also custom-made, local innovations), attached to the side of the large barrel, exhaust the smoke and allow for easy control of the heat level.


sawdust burner: close up of ash cleaning draw


On the day of the initial testing, the temperature of the stove quickly reached 750 degrees and stayed hot for hours, burning efficiently and cleanly. For kicks, our staff put a kettle on the burner to boil water.
People still come from all over the region to marvel at the wood drying kiln which dries wood in 4 months or less, is very cost-effective to operate, and consistently dries wood throughout the year. That’s progress!

Gracias Liz and Honesdale High School

Honesdale High School Senior, Liz Lepro, organized a delicious and successful benefit dinner to support VIDA in Mexico. She involved her classmates, fellow Interact Club members, high school faculty, Rotarians and a crowd from the Honesdale community, raising awareness and financial support for the VIDA Project.

Liz greeted guests and served tacos with a smile

Liz greeted guests and served tacos with a smile



Liz thanked the community for their support and shared a special video “Thank you, Honesdale HS” sent by VIDA Managers Geovanni and Arizsandy from Mexico.


Guests viewed a special video thank-you sent from the VIDA project site in Jonotla, Mexico

You can view the video here:


The beautiful Mexican-themed buffet line


Big smiles greeted the guests as they entered the dinning room


3 big mustaches and a sombrero joined the festivities

Behind the scenes: Himalayan Institute residents contributed to the dinner

Behind the scenes: Himalayan Institute residents contributed to the dinner

IMG_3753We still need your support!
As we approach Cinco de Mayo we are half-way to reaching our goal of sponsoring 2,500 people in this life affirming program.
Your $50 contribution sponsors a family through the VIDA program. Please donate today!

VIDA Dinner: Save the Date

We are so pleased to present a local high school student who has become an activist for VIDA. We would like to introduce you to her and the fundraiser she will host this month.

VIDA still needs your support! Do you have any ideas you can turn into a fundraiser?  We are at the half-way point in meeting our goals. Please contact us to turn your ideas into a fruitful activity –

Meet Liz Lepro:


Honesdale High School senior Liz Lepro is using her graduation project to make a difference in the lives of people two thousand miles away.  On Sunday, April 28th, she’ll be hosting a Mexican-themed dinner fundraiser, “La Cena” from 5-7 pm at the HHS cafeteria. All proceeds of the event will go to the Himalayan Institute, a nonprofit based in Honesdale, especially for their VIDA project in Totonaca, Mexico.

 “The VIDA project combines a lot of my interests,” said Liz.  “I hope to study International Relations in college and to learn to speak Spanish fluently.  After speaking with [Humanitarian Project Manager] Jeff Abella, I can really see myself working for a project like VIDA.”

VIDA is a program that partners trained nutritional counselors with impoverished families in Central Mexico to combat dietary disease and malnutrition with high-yield home gardens.  By overseeing the growth of these gardens, VIDA’s counselors make fresh fruits and vegetables available to at-risk groups like women and children who would otherwise be unable to afford them.

Liz is also drawing on local recipes gathered by volunteers of the VIDA project for a delicious and authentic meal, including an assortment of tacos, tostones, Mexican desserts, and more.

The state of Pennsylvania mandates that all high school seniors complete a culminating project displaying an ability to synthesize information and communicate knowledge. At HHS, the project typically involves an exploration into a career path of interest.  Events like La Cena are optional, but are encouraged for exceptional students.

“I’ve never taken on a project this big before,” Liz admits.  “I’m keeping my fingers crossed that we’ll be able to raise awareness as well as make a donation to this cause.”

To pull it all together, Liz has enlisted the help of the Honesdale Interact club, a group of students affiliated with the Honesdale Rotary who engage in local and international charity projects throughout the school year.

The price of the meal is $10 for adults and $8 for students with tickets available at the door or from members of the Interact Club. We hope to see you there!

Meet new sponsors

The VIDA Project would like to introduce you to 2 sponsors who have extended our reach to 20 more families in rural Mexico.


Do you have any creative ideas for raising donations?

We still need your support.

Every donation dollar goes to support The VIDA Project in rural Mexico.

No More Poverty is a non-profit organization, headquartered in California, that seeks to provide relief for the multi-faceted dimensions of poverty at home and abroad. They chose to support The VIDA Project and feature the Himalayan Institute on their website. We are proud to be among the impressive charities that they support and thus to be part of their efforts in alleviating human suffering.

The progressive congregation of the Unitarian Church North in Wisconsin selected The VIDA Project to be the recipient of their Share the Plate collection. One of their members, a student of the Himalayan Institute, was impressed with  the humanitarian work in Mexico and brought this project to their attention. They collectively raised donations and awareness for VIDA for a month!


These innovative fundraising efforts move us closer to our goal of providing 500 families with nutrition counseling, high-yield home gardens, and other means to spiral out of their impoverished conditions. Contact us at if you need help turning your ideas into successful fundraising!