Mission Greenhouse 2017

POET team members return to Kenya to work on new construction projects

After five years, it’s a tradition — an annual tradition that moves hearts and changes lives. Seeds of Change — POET’s non-profit organization dedicated to "transforming education, agriculture and environmental conditions worldwide" — provides the opportunity for a team to travel to Kenya, Africa. These individuals are primarily POET employees and their family members, but have also included investors and business partners.

After a series of grueling flights, the group lands in Nairobi. The adventure begins! Training takes place in Mt. Kilimanjaro in Amboseli National Park. After two days there, the group heads to Travellers’ Oasis Centre (TOC). This is a school in Sultan Hamud that started over 35 years ago, stemming from the passion of Esther and Shadrack Muiu to help vulnerable students in their country obtain an education. Six years ago, the Broin family stepped in to partner with the school and further fuel that passion.

The secondary school now houses and educates 160 girls — girls who would be unable to pay for education, but are qualified to attend through achieving high test scores. The school grounds boast a new kitchen and dining hall, modern dormitory with running water, refurbished classrooms, green houses and enhanced landscaping. The mission teams have helped with most of these projects.

Team members worked on the construction project, spent time with the girls doing crafts, playing sports, hosting devotions, dancing, and, of course, having tea breaks. This year, the girls took some time out of school to work alongside the team on cement work and landscaping. The long plane ride home allowed reflections to begin surfacing. Read a few of those reflections here, and hear about trip experiences from team members.

by Alicia ElMamouni, Director, Seeds of Change Foundation


by Lauren Studer, POET Biorefining - Laddonia, Laddonia, Mo.

When I first considered taking this trip I heard many variations of the following: "It’s going to change your life," "You think that you’re going to give them so much, when really you’re the one that will be receiving a gift" and "The plane ride sucks, but it’s worth it." Those statements are the ones that propelled me to go on this trip; a chance at a change. A chance for those people to be right, and right they were.

Lauren Studer

The plane rides and travelling were horrendous: 19 hours on a plane not including layovers and hours driving on the Mombasa highway where the people not only drive on the "wrong side of the road," but they drive on all sides of the road, and shoulders, and dirt paths surrounding the highway.

Horrendous, but all of that discomfort and displeasure was washed away the moment I got to watch 150 girls open the bags we prepared, and their faces light up with absolute joy when they dug out Jolly Ranchers, nail polish and other items. That moment made the next 36 hours getting back home sitting in the middle seat between strangers I didn’t know undoubtedly worth it.

Through morning walks in the village, sharing meals and tea times, working side by side with the girls and fundis [construction workers], and afternoons playing games and doing crafts, I had the opportunity to really meet the Kenyan people. They’re humble, hospitable and at times downright hilarious. Each day in their lives they go through unfathomable struggles. They wonder where their food will come from, how they will get water and if they’re going to have enough money to pay for their child’s education. Through all of this, they continue to place their faith in God and believe that no matter what, He will provide for them. Even when they have continually been beat down by life, they are ever hopeful.

Getting to know these girls left me with a few new insights on life. No matter where we live in this world or what we look like, we all have similar fears and insecurities. We all have dreams of becoming a better person tomorrow than the one we are today. We all aspire to be something more in this world. We are all just trying to figure out the steps to get there. Those things — our fears, our insecurities, our dreams and our joy — those are the things that bind us together as people. Those are the things that we will remember in our lives: our experiences we share with people. Not the things that we own or the food that we ate, but the moments that we spent with the people who made us feel. Those are the things that continue to live on.

Mission Greenhouse team with school founders Esther and Shadrack Muiu and Kenyan trip leaders Sarah Kikuvi and Simon Kiendi.

Part of the time spent with students involves working together on a special craft project.


by Sasha Roth, daughter of Deb Roth, POET Research Center, Scotland, S.D.

Mission Greenhouse at Travellers’ Oasis Centre (TOC) is a trip that I will never forget. It was truly a life-changing experience. Mission

Greenhouse has made a huge impact on TOC, but going into this, I never would have imagined the impact those girls would have on me. From the welcoming ceremony, to dancing and singing our hearts out with the girls, and doing crafts with them, and getting to know a little bit about each of them, they have opened my eyes and my heart.

Sasha Roth (middle) with sister Cheyanne and mom Deb.

Their strong faith has inspired me. Their caring and loving hearts make me want to be the best person that I can be and to help others any time I get the chance.

We even had the opportunity to work side-by-side with the girls during our time at TOC. They helped us pick up sticks, move rocks and dirt, and help make cement! They enjoyed helping out, and we loved getting to spend more time with the girls!

I was blessed to be able to go on this trip with my mother, Deb, and my younger sister, Cheyanne… Some people don’t have their loved ones around to share these amazing opportunities together, so we did while we had the chance.

They have so little over there, and it almost makes you feel guilty because of all the stuff we have that we take for granted. But that’s just it — stuff. Sometimes we get so materialistic, and traveling to the other side of the world to see how people live over there opens your eyes. We are living in luxury compared to them.

But then when you really think about it, they are the lucky ones. They don’t have all this stuff to fantasize about, so they focus on what’s really important: their relationships, their faith and everything that God has put in front of them. That’s part of the reason why I wanted to go on this mission trip — not only to help them, but for them to help me. To put the stuff down and focus on what’s truly important in life.

The team of mission trip participants with some of the Travellers’ Oasis Centre (TOC) students and staff.


Jeff Pinkerman – POET LLC, Sioux Falls, S.D. (wife Brenda Pinkerman)
Kari Cook – POET Biorefining – Alexandria, Ind.
Paula Fifer – POET Biorefining – Portland, Ind.
Rod Pierson – POET LLC, Sioux Falls, S.D. (daughter Ann Pierson)
Matraca Hanson – POET Biorefining – Bingham Lake, Minn.
Rick Albrecht – POET Investor, Sioux Falls, S.D.
Jim Eliason – POET Biorefining North Manchester, Ind. (wife Jan Eliason)
Eric Beeler – POET LLC, Sioux Falls, S.D.
Mike Silhacek – POET LLC, Sioux Falls, S.D.
Andrew Williams – Project LIBERTY, Emmetsburg, Iowa
Dana Syrus – POET Biorefining – Cloverdale, Ind.
Jeremy Reitzel – POET Biorefining – Cloverdale, Ind.
Dave Paulson – POET Biorefining – Hanlontown, Iowa (mother Darlyne Paulson)
Lauren Studer – POET Biorefining – Laddonia, Mo.
Deb Roth – POET Research Center, Scotland, S.D. (daughters Sasha and Cheyanne Roth)
Lisa Hilder (Mission Trip Leader) – POET Biorefining – Corning, Iowa
Lisa Gerrity (Mission Trip Leader Assistant) – Luray, Va.




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