Traveling abroad gave MaryAnn Samson and her brother Caleb an international perspective, especially on need. The abundance they knew from growing up on Bainbridge Island was, they discovered, entirely foreign abroad.
“I traveled with my dad in China a couple of times and saw people and places I had never seen before. There were entire communities living in buildings we wouldn’t see fit to house a car,” MaryAnn Samson said. “Most shocking was that people, everyday humans such as you and I, went day to day not knowing where their next meal came from, or if it would come.”
Her brother’s visits to the African nation of Namibia were equally eye-opening. Humbled by their experiences, the Samson siblings have organized a fundraising effort to put fresh bread on the tables of African villages and orphanages.
Dubbed “Cama: the truly warm bread,” fresh potato loaves will be sold starting this weekend, Aug. 9, at four island locations: Bainbridge Bakers in Winslow Green and the Gateway, at Lynwood Center (in front of the Marketplace), and at Ace Hardware. Sales will be 9 a.m. to noon.
One dollar from every loaf sold will go to Orphans to Ambassadors, a Seattle-based nonprofit that Caleb Samson spent time with as an intern last summer. The organization serves refugee populations around the globe, setting up solar arrays for power, chicken coops, efficient stoves and other basic infrastructure.
The first recipient will be the Lion Hearted Learners Orphanage, home to 25 children in Bukoto, Uganda. Katherine Steen, international project coordinator for Orphans to Ambassadors, said the home can only afford to purchase bread one day a week presently.
“The money will be used to supply a steady flow of bread to the orphanage so it can cut down the cost of basic needs and focus its resources on higher-level needs,” Caleb said.
The Cama Bread effort is modeled after a popular national company that sends a pair of shoes to someone in need for every pair purchased by a consumer. MaryAnn Samson wondered, if they can do it with shoes, why couldn’t someone do it with bread?
Why not, agreed their parents Kelly and Sally Samson. A longtime entrepreneur with international startup experience, Kelly Samson is also a founding member of Extend the Day, a nonprofit that brings solar power to schools in Bangladesh and India to promote better learning environments.
That effort has given the Samsons close ties to Africans, some of whom have now visited Bainbridge, while Caleb has been to Africa a half-dozen times and now spends about one month out of every year there.
“I could go on and on about my experiences in Namibia,” Caleb said. “Immediately I noticed the stark difference between the haves (usually white) and have-nots (usually black). The haves drive Land Cruisers and Mercedes while the have-nots live in metal-sided shacks that could fit in the back of a Hilux truck. It is quite apparent that the unemployment rate flirts with 50 percent. The slum outside of Windhoek (in Namibia) is bursting at any time of the day.”
Shipping bread overseas wasn’t practical — and freshness, an essential quality where bread is concerned, would be lost — but MaryAnn’s “buy a loaf here, bake a loaf there” concept did make sense. When it came time to choose a partner bakery, the Samsons approached Bainbridge Bakers and owner Mike Loudon.
“Bainbridge Bakers has always been my favorite bakery on the island and Mike couldn’t possibly be a better guy to work with,” MaryAnn said. “He’s been amazingly knowledgeable and encouraging throughout the entire process. We wanted to work with them because we knew Mike had the expertise and heart to help us out, and we were right.”
With Loudon they developed a robust bread whose key ingredient is the yam, a staple food in Namibia.
“This bread is hearty, yet fluffy and delicious,” MaryAnn said. “It toasts very well, and is paired great with jam or butter, yet on its own its just as enjoyable.”
Each loaf will carry a hang-tag thanking the buyer for supporting the relief effort.
The Cama name? That’s an acronym for “Caleb And MaryAnn.”
“My brother and I have always been close, and we felt the name should reflect that,” MaryAnn said.
The siblings are already ambassadors for the Bainbridge community, excelling in school and leading rich extracurricular lives.
MaryAnn is an honors student entering her senior year at Bainbridge High, serves on the school site council and the board of the rowing club. She plans to go to college and pursue international business and then work in philanthropy.
Caleb will be a junior at Pitzer College in Claremont, Calif., where he studies International Political Economy and competes in triathlons. He volunteers with a group teaching personal finance management to inner city high school kids in Los Angeles, is a counselor for Outdoor Adventure groups and a summer camp for children with Asperger syndrome.
“The level of energy these two bring to this project is amazing,” said Bainbridge Bakers’ Mike Loudon, who spent 25 years as a marketing executive in the international food and beverage industry. “I think folks are really going to like the concept, the cause … and the bread!”
Cama Bread will be sold from 9 a.m. to noon on Aug. 9, at Bainbridge Bakers in Winslow Green and the Gateway, at Lynwood Center (in front of the Marketplace), and at Ace Hardware. One dollar from every loaf of the hearty yam bread will go to Orphans to Ambassadors for African hunger relief.