Watoto Wote Wazuri

Kibera Paper and so much more……….

Posted in AIDS Orphans, KEST Women4Women, Nyumbani, poverty in Kenya by Lynn Ouellette on 01/27/2012

Wednesday and Thursday were two really packed days such that when I arrived back at our lodging on Thursday night after 10 I was too exhausted to get a blog post done.They were as usual two incredible days filled with new experiences, inspiration, dancing and singing and yes once again tears from being touched by the experience. You go through a lot of tissues here!

We spent the better part of two days at Kibera Paper. I blogged in an earlier post, before I departed, about how Kibera Paper employs women from the Kibera slum and enables them to earn income to support their families when they would otherwise not be able to afford the basic necessities of life. We had two incredible days working with the women at Kibera Paper, getting to know them, working alongside them , learning their craft, exchanging ideas with the 2 young male artists who create many of the designs and really touching each other’s hearts. The KEST volunteers learned from the women how to make cards from beginning to end—that included “processing” the recycled paper (squishing it by hand in the water) into mush and then making it into sheets.

Learning to make Kibera cards-- Start to finish!

We also painted, beaded and threaded some designs and glued them together, folded and threaded the cards, put the Kibera Paper logo and description on the bag and even signed some of them. Since they were in the process of making more of my favorite mother and baby cards I was especially delighted that we got to participate in the making of those.  We really learned how time consuming and intricate a process it is to make Kibera cards since they are handmade every single step of the way in the finest detail.

Bothe Deb and I worked with the Mommas to help them create cards with a technique that we use. Deb brought a lot of materials to make valentines since we are coming upon that holiday and that is recognized in Kenya.

Deb's valentine project with the Kibera Paper women (even Justice helped out with this)

I really wanted to work with the woman to teach them a technique that they might be able to incorporate into their production and might be both fun by introducing something new, but also sustainable if I brought extra materials. I decided to teach them how to make small block prints with softcut linoleum and lino cutters and how to print them. If they liked the process and the designs, they would then be able to print the same blocks over and over again since I brought a lot of extra ink, printing paper and other materials to keep them going for a quite awhile. Wel, l I have to say that this was very exciting to me. They started out being very hesitant and unsure of themselves and by the end they were so proud of the work they had done that it just warmed my heart to see this unfold. I felt so happy to tell them what a wonderful job they had done and how proud I felt to have taught them. And they were profusely grateful for the lesson and the materials.

Kibera Paper women making block prints

Proud of their work!

Both days we enjoyed chai and biscuits together and shared a genuine exchange of warmth and affection. Lloydie explained the mission of the Women4Women Program and how it would work and its intention to increase their sales in the U.S. We also shopped heartily form their stock of cards which are just beautiful.

When it came time to leave there was a lot of singing and dancing, the most joyous of which you can see in these videos.

There were also blessings in song and words shared in the Kenyan way which is to speak from the heart without being shy in a way that we don’t tend to do in the U.S. and when you experience it in Kenya it is so profoundly touching—well, that is why we always end up in tears. They are not shy about acknowledging that our hearts have been touched by each other and doing it in the loveliest of ways. And Kenyan goodbyes—well everyone gets hugs and you are escorted to your vehicle and hands are held, and more hugs and people are still waving as you drive away……

Since Kibera Cards are made on the property of a church and school where space is rented  to allow for making and storing the cards , there are sometimes school children around as was the case when we were there. Since they were so adorable and I can never pass up an opportunity to photograph a child, I thought I would give you a peek and these children looking especially “smart” (Kenyan term for sharp, stylish) in their red school uniforms.

School children at Kibera Paper

Included in our two packed days were also some other activities, we drove into Kibera and stopped at a storefront that is run by one of the longest established Self Help Groups. They call themselves Power Women. Although not one of the groups for KEST’s Women4Women Initiative we did want to meet with them and to  hear their story since they have a long history of success. And of course we came upon some other children and the usual chorus of children shouting after us “How are you?” which is what they do whenever they see white people (Mzungus) in Kibera.

Power Women in their Kibera store front

Kibera Kids

We also took a trip to Amani ya Juu (Higher Peace in Swahili), a women’s sewing and training program based in Nairobi for marginalized women and women refugees from many African Nations and cultures. The focus is on mentoring women, holistic development, producing quality environmentally friendly goods, peaceful existence and self sustainability. We had a lovely meal there and then browsed and purchased some of their goods.

Amani: the Peace Quilt and The Children's Peace Quilt

Finally, we actually managed to fit something more into these two days—on Thursday evening we took the adolescents who will be going away from the Nyumbani Children’s Home to begin high school Form 1 or fist year of high school)  out for a celebratory evening. In Kenya, after eighth grade children take standardized exams and only are accepted into high school if they pass and get adequate scores. All high schools require tuition and are boarding schools and acceptance is based entirely on test scores. This is all very anxiety provoking. All 14 students from Nyumbani Children’s Home will be going on to high school and will be leaving in the early part of February. We took them to a “nyama choma” (literal translation=grilled meat) and had a meal, hired a DJ for dancing and they had a wonderful evening. We road on the bus with them and KEST volunteers danced under the disco ball with them! I had the pleasure of sitting next to Thomas, a very bright young man who is very articulate and we had some wonderful conversation. Lloydie gave them all a bag of catsup, peanut butter, and hot chocolate—apparently the most missed food items when away at boarding school. Sitting back, looking at all of them having a wonderful time, dancing up a storm, well, it’s something to marvel at considering that many of them were so sick when they arrived at Nyumbani Children’s Home that they weren’t expected to live. Now that truly is something to celebrate!

Nyumbani Children's Home Form One Students "Send Off" Dinner

NCH Form One students and KEST volunteers dance the night away

Next stop PCDA (Pastoral Community Development Alliance) in the Maasai community and some of the most adorable children…stay tuned. LLala Salama! (Goodnight)

3 Responses

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  1. sharon Tardiff said, on 01/27/2012 at 2:47 pm

    Hello. I love the smiles best of all. And the children are so adorable. I am honnored to have a card you gave me with the mother and child on it. I have framed it and look at it often wondering what it is like where you are in person. Such a big world. Take care. Sharon


    • Lynn Ouellette said, on 01/27/2012 at 3:36 pm

      Well now you have a glimse of the women who made the card! And if you watch the video of them singing you get a sense of how spirited they are– all really wonderful women, all quite poor but still happy and very loving. Very joyous to be around them!


  2. lloydie said, on 01/27/2012 at 11:07 pm

    Lynn, thank you so much for writing your blog. Our days come alive through your words, photos, and videos. My family is hooked! I can hardly wait for them to wake up and read your latest journal of Kibera Paper. I hope you had a good night sleep knowing you are helping to educate many people in the US to Kenyan ways. Be blessed!


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