The Indispensable Escapes: The Experiences of a Refugee

Photo Credit: Maria Runggeary, 2012

Photo Credit: Maria Runggeary, 2012

You are reading this brief disclosure because of your interests in refugees and displaced persons. No one wants to be a refugee! It is a very painful life mostly fill with lots of sufferings. So, we should continue to embrace those who are refugees and other displaced population not because we feel sorry for them, but because they are humans like ourselves with emotions, hearts, souls and spirits, desires of belonging and to call a place “home.”  Thus, we should continue to give our best to those in need, because the moment we stop doing that we miss the meaning  of humanity. It is our responsibility (believe it or not) to take care of each other in times of needs, wars and conflicts.

It is my desire and goal to keep creating awareness and education of refugees’ issues globally, but local first. In this process, it takes me great pleasure to announce today that I am almost done with the manuscript of a book based on my experiences as a refugee and those of my siblings as I reflect and recapture the many episodes of escapes from Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea, Ivory Coast and eventually settling in the United States.

I have tried on several occasions to avoid reflecting on my experiences and those of my siblings as we escaped together, but the desire to narrate this story with the goal of helping others learn from what we went through to help with their own stories of whatever they are going through in their own lives continue to upset me why I have delay this for so long. I started writing few months ago, sometimes staying up too late to make sure that this book is ready to come out in later part of 2017.

It is with great pleasure that I would like to announced that the table of contents, which I think best described every segment of the text is now out published here. I hope in the next few months that the remaining chapters can be completed and release to potential individuals who have contacted me with interest to help proof read the initial manuscript.

If you are interested to be one of the reviewers (which is voluntary by the way), please feel free to contact me and I will include you on my send list when the final manuscript is ready for reviewers to read and make their comments. All reviewers’ contribution to the final text will be duly acknowledged.

The Indispensable Escapes: The Experiences of a Refugee

Book Chapters

Table of Contents




Chapter 1. Introduction

Chapter 2. Prior to the War: The Days Before Christmas

Chapter 3. 1st Escape: The Beginning of Life on the Run

Chapter 4. The Flight from Cape Palmas, Maryland

Chapter 5. Life at 5th Street Sinkor, Monrovia

Chapter 6. 2nd Escape: Monrovia – The Ball of Fire

Chapter 7. 3rd Escape: Providence & the Ghost of Bodies

Chapter 8. 4th Escape: The Thousands Unforgotten Steps

Chapter 9. Bomi Hills: Life in a Rebel-held Zone

Chapter 10. 5th Escape: Almost Dead at Midnight

Chapter 11. 6th Escape: The Bravery of a Sister

Chapter 12. 7th Escape: Exit from Bo to Kenema, Sierra Leone

Chapter 13. 8th Escape: The Frozen Exit from Sierra Leone

Chapter 14. The Tai Massacre: Neighbor Became Executional

Chapter 15. 9th Escape: The Light of Ghana

Chapter 16. Life at the Buduburam Refugee Camp in Ghana

Chapter 17. Resettlement to the United States of America

Alcoholism and the Addictive Paradigm: Etiological and Epidemiological Perspectives

Theatrical Release Poster

Theatrical Release Poster

This post examines, summarizes, and reflects on the connection between the addictive paradigm, alcoholism, and “alcoholic” family dynamics. These processes essentially feed into each other, addictive thinking is what allows alcoholism to develop, and alcoholism reinforces and strengthens the addictive thinking. An “alcoholic” family functions in a similar way, as each family member plays a role which he or she contributes to the sustenance of the dysfunctional dynamics and thereby the maintenance of the addiction illness. Key concepts in the addiction field, such as the addictive paradigm, and addictive system are defined and framed. The post also describes the elements of an addictive family system.

A paradigm is the social lens through which we view the world. It is compose of our belief systems, thoughts, and worldviews which subsequently shape our attitudes and behaviors. The addictive paradigm or “addictive thinking” is the lens through which an addict looks at the world which consist of addictive thoughts, behaviors, and habits. The addictive paradigm fuels the addiction and shapes the addict’s perception of reality. His perception of reality is blinded by addictive thoughts. Through the addictive paradigm the addict sees himself to be shameful and not guilty of his or her acts (Twerski, 1990). By not feeling guilt, the addict’s thoughts of reality along with their ethnical reasoning are distorted and he or she continues to pursue their addiction. “Denial, rationalization and projection are core characteristics of addictive thinking” (Twerski, 1990).

LEAVING LAS VEGAS – Trailer ( 1995 )
Trailer for Mike Figgis’s film

Further, their denial that the addiction exists, also forms a part of the addictive paradigm, keeps the addict out of touch with reality, and distanced from their true feelings. Addicts depend on chemical substances, whether it be alcohol or other drugs, to feel “normal”, in order to numb their feelings. This may be because their emotions may be too intense or they may doubt their ability to manage their emotions effectively (Twerski, 1990). One theory is that those who are addicts are hypersensitive to emotions; they feel everything at a heightened intensity as compared to non-addicts (Twerski, 1990). This theory indeed explains the addict’s need to distance themselves from reality and from their emotions. Addicts may also use projection to prevent dealing with uncomfortable feelings such as fear, anger, and jealousy. They accuse other people of having these emotions, as a way to avoid admitting to have these feelings themselves. These aforementioned elements of the addictive paradigm not only contribute to the development of an addiction, but prevent the addict from moving towards the process of recovery.

A system can be defined as an entity that consists of both content, including ideas, roles, and definitions, and processes. A system must also be complete in itself (Schaef & Fassel, 1990). Although a system is made up of many parts, it functions independently from the individuals within the system. For example, a corporation can be thought of as a system, because it has certain rules and norms that exist apart from the current employees of the corporation and that persist over time. Systems can be characterized as either open or closed systems (Schaef & Fassel, 1990). Closed systems do not allow or recognize information that does not fit with existing paradigms, while open systems are more flexible and are open to new information as a means to beginning the process of change. Change exists in open systems. However, all systems reinforce behaviors and processes from those individuals within the system which are consistent with the system, although this may occur subtly and not explicitly (Schaef & Fassel, 1990).

An addictive system can be described as a closed system, as it leaves very little room for change. The addictive system in our society only calls for addictive behaviors and does not allow individuals within the addictive system to have alternative roles and behaviors. It solely promotes addictive thinking and processes and due to the fact that we live in this addictive system, we possess many of the characteristics of the addictive system. The addictive system possesses many of the elements that individual addicts often exhibit, including denial, confusion, self-centeredness, dishonesty, perfectionism, illusion of control, rationalization, projection, and ethical deterioration (Schaef & Fassel, 1990).

The element of denial contributes a great deal to the closed aspect of the addictive system, as it causes individuals within the system to simply ignore what is happening before their very eyes by simply claiming that it does not exist (Schaef & Fassel, 1990). Another characteristic, confusion, keeps us trying to figure out what is going on, and thus makes us powerless and ignorant (Schaef & Fassel, 1990). Self-centeredness causes the addict to define every event in their lives as either “for” or “against” the self (Schaef & Fassel, 1990). This is not mere selfishness, but also a perception that the self is the center of the universe and that nothing else matters. Dishonesty is also a key element of the addictive system, as addicts are often described as “master liars.” There are three levels to an addict’s dishonesty: they lie to themselves, lie to those people around them, and lie to the world at large by putting up a façade of who they really are (Schaef & Fassel, 1990).

Perfectionism is another characteristic of an addictive system. The addictive system falsely assumes that it is possible to be perfect, and thus expects individuals within the system (addicts) to know all the answers and never make mistakes (Schaef & Fassel, 1990). This explains why addicts perceive themselves as failures and are quick to cover up any mistakes rather than constructively learning from those mistakes. The addictive system and addicts also possess an illusion of control, as the addictive system promotes the belief that it is possible to control everything. Addicts often believe that they can use substances to control their feelings, but are often out of touch with their true feelings; this is called “frozen feelings” (Schaef & Fassel, 1990). The sum of all the elements of the additive system can only lead to ethical deterioration (Schaef & Fassel, 1990), addicts have no sense of what is wrong and right, and are consumed in lies, attempts to control everything, and selfishness.

In the 1980s the field of alcoholism began to give increasing attention to the influence of alcoholism on the family, and alcoholism began to be referred to as a “family illness” (Kinney, 2006). Prior to this, alcoholism was mainly studied with regard to its physiological effects. With regard to work in the family therapy field, increasingly a systemic perspective has been taken, which proposes that changes in any one family member affect all the others (Kinny, 2006). Research on addictive family systems suggests that there are 3 roles that family members may take, keeping out of the way of the addict, caregiving, counseling and controlling, or withdrawing and putting up a façade (Kinney, 2006). Usually the spouse of the addict will take on the role of the caretaker and becomes almost like a single parent in the family, although this often only occurs when the addict is the husband (Treadway, 1987). The addict will increasingly feel isolated from the family as a result of their drinking (Treadway, 1987) which will further reinforce their dependence on alcohol as an outlet. The children in the addictive family system will learn how to ignore the chaos within the family and become self-sufficient (Treadway, 1987). Although the non-addict parent serves to hold the family together, they also support the behavior of the addict and thus contribute to the confusion of the children.

The children in the family take on one of 3 roles in the addictive family system, the hero, scapegoat, or the lost child (Treadway, 1987). The “hero” is often the oldest child, and acts like an assistant parent in the family, and defines his or her identity in terms of his or her ability to serve as a caretaker of the younger siblings (Treadway, 1987). It is not surprising that the “heroes” often end up with addict spouses themselves and continue their role as caretakers as adults. The “scapegoat” child acts out and takes the blames for the family problems, and thereby diverts attention from the addict parent. They are also often the first family member brought in for treatment, but when not helped develop a high risk of being alcoholics or drug dependent as adults (Treadway, 1987). Finally, the “lost child” who is often the youngest child, tries to remain uninvolved with the family and seeks out other adults and families as surrogate caretakers, these children will likely find it difficult to develop close relationships as adults (Treadway, 1987). It is clear that the different roles taken on by the children as well as the spouse serve to maintain the addictive family system and prevent it from changing. By failing to hold the addict accountable for their actions, the family reinforces their addiction. However, it is interesting that these roles that are taken on by the family members also serve as coping mechanisms, as a way to deal with the addict’s behavior and its negative influence on the family. It must be very difficult to break out of those roles, as the addictive system is a closed system and prevents change from any individual within the system.


Schaef, A.W., and Fassel, D. (1990). The Addictive Organization: Why we overwork, cover up, pick up the pieces, please the boss, and perpetuate sick organizations. New York, NY: Harper & Row.

Twerski, A. (1990). Addictive Thinking: Understanding Self-Deception. New York, NY: HarperCollins.

Kinney, J. (2006). Loosening the Grip: A Handbook of Alcohol Information. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill

Treadway, D. (1987). The Ties That Bind: Both Alcoholics and Their Families are Bound to the Bottle. Boston, MA: Networker.

12 Tips to Turn Your Kitchen into A Sustainability Hub


I have a passion for cooking because it is a good thing mentally, environmentally and it protects your health and that of your family given that you HAVE CONTROL over what you eat. Well, it should be noted that sometimes we cook stuff that aren’t that healthy for our bodies, but at least we cooked it, thus we have the control and we made a choice. Everyday we have to eat and that is a fact that we cannot escape. Any discussion about environmental sustainability that doesn’t capture the scope and impacts of our kitchens’ emissions will be a wrong idea. I am narrowing this discussion to the impacts that our cooking behaviors have on the environment and how we could turn our kitchens into a sustainability hub. This is important because those who cook at home especially those with children know that it could be a learning curve to teach our kids about sustainable practices at home especially our activities in one of the beautiful places in the home….’the kitchen.’

Our kitchens may be one of the least thought about places in our homes compare to our bedrooms, living rooms, etc. Physically, each sector of the home is furnished differently with wide range of household furnitures, appliances, hardwares, etc, which meet different aspects of our aspirations on how our home should be developed over time. Some of us place more emphasis to one or more areas in our homes than others and in mostly instances, when it comes to the kitchen, we grab and drag stuff in there putting little seriousness and thoughtfulness in the process. However, it is a very important area in the home.

Sustainability can be defined differently and over the years continues to be a debated term along several fronts. The term sustainability has now emerged and continue to emerge with a more complex interdisciplinary scope, which encompasses several theoretical and practical ideologies. For the purpose of this post, sustainability within the context of the kitchen environment is being defined as any practice or practices, which conserves resources (natural or man-made) now for the use of others in the future, thus saving us money, time, energy, and keeping us healthy. You can expand on this definition to include anything that promotes the judicious use of resources, while making the most important meals for your families. A kitchen as a sustainability hub is a system in which energy can be reuse, recycle, redistributed and reallocated throughout the natural systems, while supporting a family unit.

Given this scope, allow me to suggest few practical and resource conserving tips that could turn your kitchen into a sustainability hub, which doesn’t only protect your bank accounts or pockets monies in this hard economic times, but also teach your kids at home behaviors that could transform their lives, if they choose to remain to those paths, keep them healthy from indoor air pollution, protects and conserves resources, while limiting our ecological footprints and transforming our kitchen into a living and life-supporting system. Here are the tips along with some reasons why we should act.

1. Buy energy efficient appliances

With the gas or oil prices increasing and our reliance on fossil fuel driven energy production, distribution and consumption, it makes a lot of sense to not only buy fuel efficient hybrid cars, but also energy efficient kitchen and other households appliances. The initial cost to transform your kitchen into an energy efficient consuming appliance hub would be high given the cost of these appliances, but the long term benefits are amazing. Most of us the in US, loves to have a television set in our kitchen, if that is totally necessary in your individual case, purchase energy efficient flat screen instead. I would rather use my laptop or an iPad if you have one to avoid the extra cost, since most homes in the US has more the one television set. Change the light bulbs in your kitchen and elsewhere in your home from CFL to LEDs. LEDs saves you big time! Installing motion detectors with your lighting systems allow you to add another energy savings feature to the existing energy efficiencies capacities of LED lights.

2. Use water wisely

The tap water use in the kitchen and dishwasher kills our pockets when we receive the water bills from the city. It would do your savings and the health of the environment best if we limit our kitchen water use. Installing tap water flow regulators not only allow you to monitor your water use, but also keeps you inform how tap water is been used in the kitchen and throughout your home allows you to match demand with supply and budget accordingly. It saves the city at the larger end a lot of resources, which provides water to individual homes and this has a longer positive impacts on the natural systems, which includes surface and groundwater resources where some of our household water supplies are processed and distributed from. Take few days out of your weekly dishes washing adventures to hand wash your dishes instead of putting those into the dishes washer. This allows you to complete a win-win-win-win solution, by saving you money for water, electricity, saves water and keeps our environment clean from GHG. Air drying your dishes after hand washing allows you to save further dollars. Also, this could be a training exercise for your kids by allowing them to wash and stock the dishes themselves, off-course with less parental supervision.

3. Don’t only compost kitchen residues, biochar them as well.

We all know that recycling our kitchen organic waste is a great thing not only for the soils in our gardens, our neighbors’ or community’s gardens, but also reducing the total waste that ends up in landfills or waste processing plants, which release significant amount of pollution when processing these wastes. At the household level, this trend could be reverted significantly, if we all not only turn our wastes into compost, but also biochar them. Composting is a green thing; however, it also has its own short falls just like other recycling green processes. Composting helps improves the soil organic matter, which also improves soil nutrient status along with other parameters. However, compost decomposes naturally and when this happens, it releases CO2 back into the atmosphere contributing to more warming, but at a lesser scale than other sources of pollution. Also, the stability period of compost reduces in the soil as the years progress meaning we always have to add compost to stabilize the balance soil nutrients, organic matter, etc, thus contributing to the same old cycle.

Unlike compost, biomasses used to make compost could be turned into char [biochar] and apply back to the soil. The biomass after going through pyrolysis captures the CO2 that were to be released if they were to be applied naturally [compost/manure,etc] into carbonaceous material that is called ‘biochar.’ The biochar is carbon in black and when applied in soils has lots of environmental benefits. There are lots of homemade pyrolysis systems that can be used to produce biochar at home to convert kitchen wastes into biochar for your gardens and flowers. Youtube has some great videos on how to make your own mini-pyrolysis system at home. However, be caution that if you would like to build a bigger pyrolysis system and produce biochar for a larger garden-scape, you might want to contact the Department of Parks and Recreation and or Public Works for the necessary licenses to control the fire if there should be an incident. If you build a good system and monitor the process effectively, this shouldn’t be the case. But make sure first if you need one. Safety first at all times. You could also use green kitchen wastes as green manure and apply those to your potted flowers or hanging gardens. You could also add egg shells as well.

4. Buy or make green kitchen/household products

There are lots of green kitchen products out there in grocery stores and supermarkets throughout the country and they come in several brands too! You could also look for green products at a local cooperative store in your neighborhood. If there are none available, there are several options online you could sort from. I would rather prefer buying locally than online to reduce emissions associated with transportation and also it would be a great idea to support a local economy by buying and staying local. The issue of control of what you eat and use is very important in this world where everything at the shelves of a typical Wal-Mart store are imported from thousands miles away and that could also potentially be from abroad.

Alternatively, you could make your own cleaning products yourself. There are several DIY approaches from experts that you could try to fit your own need. I love DIY stuff, because it allows you to show your own engineering spirit that is in you and when you do it yourself, you feel it and that feeling is good and inspires you. provides some useful tips and alternatives to make your own household or kitchen cleaning products. You can access more information at:

WARNING: Never combine ammonia-based cleaners with chlorine bleach or products containing bleach, such as powdered dishwasher detergent. The fumes they’ll create are extremely dangerous. Before doing any mixing, read the product labels first ( Accessed: 07/15/2014).

An other excellent source for DIY approaches for all household needs is I hope you like these. There are many more out there!

5. Connect your kitchen to a household/kitchen garden

I wrote a previous post about survival gardens a concept that could also be used to connect your kitchen to a garden in your backyard or somewhere in or around your home. Your garden could take several shapes or forms and size doesn’t really matter. It could be small or big or medium and it all depends on how well you utilize your available spaces, your design and time. But the most important point here is that, having a garden that connects to your kitchen allows you to transfer your compost, green manure, biochar or other forms of yard waste to support ecosystems services in your garden or at your household level. These when processed by the soil and taken in by the plants produces organic vegetables, which can be used in your kitchen to prepare great meals to continue to keep your family healthy, strong and reduce your emissions at the household level. This is what I meant by connecting your kitchen to a household/kitchen garden. Your household/kitchen garden can also be used as a learning adventure for your children or children in your neighborhood! Children loves gardens and they also love getting dirty too, which reinforces learning at a significant scale.

6. Do ‘green things’ when in your kitchen

Since this post is about kitchen, it would be right to say that whenever you are in the kitchen especially with your kids, do green things. Well, you may ask, but what do you mean by doing green things? This is exactly what the post is about. Do all of the above and those not mention here as well as those you already know. Don’t limit yourself to what is written here. Some of the green things that you should do while in your kitchens are: don’t leave the light bulbs and kitchen fans on when no one is there. If visibility is best, turn off the lights likewise with the fan, if there is enough fresh air circulating. Open the windows (not during winter though) to allow fresh air to circulate in your kitchen when you’re cooking. Turn off your kitchen television set if not in use, use your laptop instead if you feel the need to browse while cooking as I sometimes do. Hand washing your dishes after use is necessary and could reduce your overall kitchen water and electric use. This list could go on and we could write an entire post on these aspects, but you know what’s up to here.

7. Buy in large quantity and cook in bulk (as needed!)

This may seem unrealistic to some; however, it makes perfect sense. Buying in large quantities doesn’t mean buying the entire supermarket or grocery store and not to mention ‘unnecessary stuff.’ Look at it this way. The less you buy, the more you spend. You spend time driving, pays a lot for gasoline to drive to and fro each time you shop/week, you could be doing something meaningful and prices increase as well. Depending on your family’s budget and needs, buying your kitchen supplies in large quantities save you a lot. It would be unjust to your pockets and nature to buy something that you can’t consume within the required time or before they expire. This is why before you buy make a comprehensive list of your needs and make sure that those can be consumed within the budget timeframe or before they expire. Cooking in bulk also saves you in the long run. Just as much as you have to plan on buying how much you can eat within the budgeted time, it is also wise to decide how much you and your family can eat if you cook in bulk. Planning efficiency at the kitchen also means purchasing and cooking efficiencies. If done well, you could be saving money, quality time, labor, reducing your impacts on the environment and most of all significant stress reduction.

8. Use re-washable kitchen towels instead of paper towels.

You can see the economies of scale in this point. A re-washable kitchen towel as the name depicts last longer, because when dirty it can be rewashed and reused several times. You can get several good and high quality re-washable kitchen towels at affordable prices in almost every supermarket or grocery store across the country. Unlike re-washable kitchen towels, paper towels take a lot of energy, trees and other recycling paper materials to produce and are not reusable at least at the household levels. They can be recycled though, but in no way is that making any significant difference in the pockets unless some kind of micro-level recycling arrangements is made with a recycling company in which case you must have a lot of paper waste to make this fruitful. This point is you will always keep buying paper towels and will always have to budget to them. So, changing that paradigm could make your kitchen headed towards a green kitchen, saves waste from ending to a landfill or processing plant, saves the environment and leaves you with extra money, because using reusable kitchen towels you don’t have to purchase paper towels anymore. Makes sense? I think so too!

9. A green kitchen also means a kitchen that is literally clean

This point is as simple as following these steps along with other good clean behaviors you already know and have used for years. Keeping your kitchen clean of dirty is a clear indication of your kitchen cooking behavior and your respect for the space that you use to cook your family’s meals……everyday! It also keeps your family healthy.

10. Reused empty jugs and containers that can be reused.

One good habit in a green kitchen is your ability to reuse used jugs and containers for storage needs of your kitchen. I love washing up used jam jugs and ice-cream containers, which can be used as appropriate storage containers for some kitchen products and they come handy too! Especially ice-cream containers could be used for your homemade lunch at work and comes ready to package leftovers after a meal or household parties.

11. Buy locally for your family kitchen

Buying locally is a great way to save money and reduce our emissions. What we eat is important and knowing where it comes from and how it is grown/produced is as important as other aspects of our homes. Look around in the local newspapers and magazines for community gardens and farmers’ markets where you and your family can go and buy freshly grown vegetables and herbs for your kitchen. Having control of what you eat involves knowing where it was produced, how it was produced and who the producers are? Answers to these kinds of questions are lacking or rarely available when you decide you buy from Price Choppers or Wal-Mart for example, even if their products are organically grown or labelled as such.

12. Use a piece of charcoal/biochar in your refrigerator

This one of several environmental benefits of biochar …aka charcoal. The list of some of the benefits of biochar keeps growing as researchers from several disciplines continue to investigate the worth of biochar. Biochar has performs several wonders, which people of long benefited from for centuries in the Amazon, Africa Japan and other parts of the world. If the air in your refrigerator is smelly and contaminated having a piece of biochar/charcoal in an appropriate corner of your refrigerator can decontaminate the air in your refrigerator (
Do you wonder why your fresh fruits and vegetables spoiled as soon as you stored them in the refrigerator thinking they would last longer? Well, don’t blame yourself because that is not your problem. However, you could work on keeping your stored fruits to last much longer and fresh instead of they ending up in your compost pile or the worst case….your garbage. Your fruits when store emits ethylene gas, which makes things like fruits (bananas, tomatoes, eggplants, etc) aged faster. So, sucking out the ethylene gas from the refrigerator allows these precious consumable fruits to last much longer than just few days before they spoil. How do you do this instead of just stocking your fruits in the plastic store bags or fruit bowls or baskets? If place in the refrigerator alone with fruits and other food items, while biochar decontaminates the air in the refrigerator, it also absorbs the ethylene gas that makes your fruits and vegetable aged faster. This reinforces your food preservation needs allowing your fruits and vegetables to last much longer than usual.

Survival garden: What is it and how can I set up one in my home or community?

Youth Grow Farm, REC, 2007

Youth Grow Farm, REC, 2007

Youth Grow Farm, REC, 2007

Youth Grow Farm, REC, 2007

What is a survival garden?

Three girls take me to their family survival gardens in Ghana

Three girls take me to their family survival gardens in Ghana

Survival gardens, as the name depict are gardens that are meant to serve as an immediate source of food, nutritional supply and a supplementary source of income for a household. While generating income may not necessarily be the primary motivation for setting up a survival garden, in most developing countries and in situations of refugee camps, it usually turns out to be the case.

How big should my survival garden be?

A survival garden can take several forms and shapes. It can be established anywhere in your house or in your yard. While some survival gardens maybe planted once in a life time by some people, to others it is a way of life, which is part them. A survival garden maybe established on a piece of landscape as (1m x 2-3m) or it could be done in several flower pots, planted in boxes made from wood, used car tires, on the shelves of your kitchen, garage, in your porch, along the walkways leading to your front/back doors of your house, on the roof top of your home provided the infrastructure is strong to support the addition of soil, etc. In essence, a survival garden can be established anywhere in your household.

My wood box (1M x 3m) survival garden planted with collard green, sunflowers, tomatoes, basel, mint, pepper, and cilantro  in Worcester, MA

My wood box (1M x 3m) survival garden planted with collard green, sunflowers, tomatoes, basel, mint, pepper, and cilantro in Worcester, MA

Sunflower from my survival garden.

Sunflower from my survival garden.

Usually, the size of the survival garden depends on the available space, your time, resources and your interest. However, the appropriate use of horizontal and vertical ‘spacescapes’ of your garden area can yield substantial returns in terms of overall productivity should you use these spaces judiciously. I have set up several survival gardens over the past few years in Sierra Leone, Ivory Coast, Ghana and in the United States. It is the passion to see life grows and develops into something unique, special and natural and it is this love that drives the motivation to set up survival gardens, which may differ from individual to individual. However, the core is that it is much more than just a typical ‘backyard garden’ or something of such. It connects you back to nature and reality.

A gardener makes use of a termite hill space to extend his survival garden.

A gardener makes use of a termite hill space to extend his survival garden.

A survival garden shown to me here was planted with potatoes grown for both the tube and leaves as it is commonly eaten in West Africa.

A survival garden shown to me here was planted with potatoes grown for both the tube and leaves as it is commonly eaten in West Africa.

How can I setup a survival garden?

Survival Garden with Drip Irrigation, Green Mulching and Collard Green, Accra, Ghana, 2008

Survival Garden with Drip Irrigation, Green Mulching and Collard Green, Accra, Ghana, 2005

Making a survival garden at first may require some sort of expense, but not that much. If you have access to finance, it would be appropriate to first test the soil that you would like to use for your garden. This first step is important when doing any form of gardening. The recommended soil tests should consider the levels of some of the listed parameters and off-course you could always add or subtract from the list of tests as you go along. Some of the main parameters for soil analyses should include: pH, lead (you don’t want your kids affected by this), Nitrogen, Phosphorous, Potassium, Magnesium, Calcium, Sulphur, Chlorine, Zinc, Copper and Iron. This list is not exhaustive. There are series of ‘do it yourself’ affordable test kits you can use to do the analyses yourself with your kids helping and learning in the process. Most of these kits are USDA approved and recommended to be used at home, but with care and some levels of caution. The kits come with the required materials you will need to conduct the test as well as the analyses. There are usually color-coded charts, which come with each system to explain the results to you. In the process, you and your kids become the soil science experts, which is cool because you all learn and you know what the soil in your garden looks like and is compose off. You can always ask a community-based group specialize in soil analysis if you need extra help.

Survival Garden with Eggplant irrigated using Drip Irrigation Systems, Accra, Ghana, 2009

Survival Garden with Eggplant irrigated using Drip Irrigation Systems, Accra, Ghana, 2006

Complex tests such as lead assessment and others should be done by taking soil samples at the laboratory. In most developing countries, some of these services are not available, however, people tend to know nutrients deficiencies based on some visual symptoms such as leaf color, stem appearance, fruit size, flower, etc. Nature sometimes is its own expert. We just need to listen, look carefully and interact with it to be able to understand it. You may also want to test the physical state of your soil such as soil texture and structure, bulk density, and level of organic matter, etc. These are all important aspects to consider should you want to have a healthy garden soil, which is needed to support healthy plant growth and yield. Always remember, your plant will be as healthy as the soil that it is planted in. I would recommend at first that you randomly collect soil samples throughout the ‘gardenscape’ for detailed chemical analyses as this will tell you at face value what the health of your soil is, what you need to do and you can decide what plants to cultivate and how much compost or other source of organic amendments you could use to treat your soil for deficient nutrients detected from the soil analyses.

How should I plant my crop?


Mixed-cropping, intercropping, companion planting are some of the recommended approaches used to encourage biodiversity, promote ecosystem services at the garden level, sustainable insects and disease management, weed control and the efficient use of land and other resources while producing multiple crop for household use. These cultivation methods reduce the amount of time you need to be at the garden, which gives you enough time to do other things. Also, each crop planted during different stages, develops and are harvested at different periods during the season.This allows you to also plant in between harvest and this process allows you to constantly have food available from your garden throughout the season. Three-sisters garden approach in which you plant squash (or pumpkin) with corn and beans (peas) together on small heaps or garden mounds.

What are the benefits of survival gardens?









In areas where survival gardens are usually planted by families along small plots of land usually together with other survival gardens of community members, there is usually the spirit of ownership, community togetherness, co-sharing, shared interests and frequent interactions, which promotes peaceful living, love, serenity and togetherness. Survival gardens are the powerhouse and last defense system for poor or low income families as well as middle and high income families. It provides food for the home, generates small income by selling excess products to their neighbors (if necessary), it provides outdoor or indoor beauty to your home gives your ‘livingspace’ and surrounding landscape the essence to supports live. It reduces your dependence on outsourcing food supplies from afar thus minimizing your ecological footprints and taking control of what we eat, which also allows us to make the decision on how it is grown, and how we spend our money. If you are a parent, it presents a special and unique opportunity to do some home teaching with your kids. Children by nature learn very fast through environmental-induced teaching strategies. The environment is a classroom by itself. One without walls and limitations as is with the usual classroom environments, which restricts, controls and limits creativity with the objective of transmitting knowledge in a control environment. If you have a survival garden or any garden for that matter, it allows children the free space to explore their potentials on a different dimension and in different setting. Produce harvested from the garden supplements the food needs for the home and the nutritional needs of the family. It provides income when more is produce. It encourages ecosystem diversity, reduces our dependence on external food sources and keeps our pockets stock with some cash for some time. Survival garden is a great tool that can be used to transform the living space of your household into a system that is self-sustaining. A family growing their food together find much deeper meaning in what they grow relative to what they eat, because the two are inseparable. If you have not had a survival garden before, there are some resources online that you can read and try organizing with your family to try a little project, to set up a summer survival garden. Trust me, you will be dirty, sweaty and tired at some point, but as you see your plant grow and as you observe your garden flourish, the joy of the harvest with your family and friends will wash away the memories of hard labor.

Images Use Sources

1. Youth Grown Urban Garden [2007]. Regional Environment Council. Worcester, MA.

2. Johnsen, Jan. Serenity in the Garden: Grow A Three Sisters Garden. URL: Accessed: 06/23/2014.

Family Vacation in Bali, Indonesia

Terima Kasih for visiting this blog!

In this blog, I will do my best to provide some information about my travels, living experiences, and encounters in Southeast Asia and more specifically, Laos. Firstly, I had a wonderful time with my wife and son (Aaron) who just turned 16 months old on January 7 and is already in charge of things. He is such an amazing young man growing so fast with so much energy and a quick learner. At this point, my wife and I are very careful whatever we say or do while he’s around, because his big eyes can’t stop looking into our faces with a look of curiosity or like what are you guys up to? Everything to Aaron is water. Water and Aaron are inseparable. He loves water.

Puri Saron Resort-Bali

Puri Saron Resort-Bali

Thanks to his mother who was in the habit of swimming during her pregnancy (good healthy practice to do). Off-course, now Aaron wants it all. Each time he sees water it is all about swimming or playing. Cool! Which means we have to be ready to get wet. Off-course he doesn’t get all his wishes to play with water at times, which also means cry time and that also is cool.

Aaron and me

Aaron and me

During our family vacation to Jayapura and Bali, Aaron was in charge and he depicted all that we had to do. We visited the Bali Bird Park, which was great with lot of different parrots, a Komodo dragon, eagle, etc. The visit was a blast and we had a great time together!

Bali Bird Park

Bali Bird Park

Our next visit in Bali we took a family boat trip (very cheap) to navigate the coast line of the shallow and bluish waters, seed weeds, and fishes of all kind. We ended the boat trip with a visit to the Turtle Island, which hosts hundreds of Indonesian-Balinese sea turtles. Aaron had an opportunity to touch a sea turtle and almost squeezed the poor turtle face. Wrong idea little man. It is a cute animal Mr. (says Dada). So, please be nice to it. Aaron smiled in agreement. We later visited a pool on the same Island where the oldest sea turtle resided and he was 75 years old (picture of him to follow). Aaron also had the change to meet his new friend (Mr. Turtle), who was older than the ages of his mother and father combined.

Turtle Island-Bali

Turtle Island-Bali

Hard Rock Cafe'-Bali

Hard Rock Cafe’-Bali

What else would you do on the beach in Bali where the temperature is almost always 100 degree F (plus)? Well, I guess you know the answer to that question. Chill out, jetski, swim, massage, eat, play, and just relax! Sounds familiar? This is no Hollywood movie show. This was for real. The real stuff!

Play time on the beach

Play time at the beach

Good time at least for now

Good time at least for now

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