Watoto Wote Wazuri

“Tuko Pumoja”….We Are Together

Posted in HIV in Kenya, Kenya, Responding to poverty in Kenya by Lynn Ouellette on 02/24/2012

Lloydie with a "Momma" from the Vision Self Help Group of Dandora

Deb and Josephine of the PCDA women's craft group

Originally it grew out of the idea of wanting to help the mothers of children with HIV who are getting services from the Nyumbani Lea Toto Clinics in the slums……because whenever you help the mothers in a community you help the children, whenever you help the mothers, you are helping everyone. There were already established groups of women, like the Vision Self Help Group of Dandora,  working together to craft products to help finanacially support their families and to emotionally support each other.  They had been selling their crafts, but the market was quite limited. And then the idea grew to helping other women’s groups who have been severely affected by hardship and poverty and also hand creating incredible crafts. Groups like the grandmothers of Nyumbani Village who are raising so many orphans after losing their own children to AIDS and weave beautiful baskets of sissel and yarn; the women of Kibera Paper who hand make greeting cards, each individual works of art from recycled paper;  and the Maasai women of PCDA who doing amazing beadwork. First it was casually called the Women4Women project as it was beginning to take form. Now it has gathered momentum and garnered lots of enthuisiasm as it has gone  from the U.S. to Kenya and come back again and has evolved a new, very appropriate name of “Tuko Pamoja” literally in Swahili, “We are together”,  the spirit of which is that we are working together.

Lloydie recently  announced the Tuko Pamaja project in an e-mail that was sent far and wide to friends of KEST (Kenya Service and Educational Trips) and said the following:

Many former KEST travelers have left Kenya wishing they could be of more assistance to the many women’s groups we meet struggling to feed and educate their children.  KEST has decided to do something to help, hence the Tuko Pamoja initiative… we ARE in this together…

The mission of the Tuko Pamoja initiative is to:

1. Create a sustainable income resource for female-led Kenyan artisan groups by way of providing a US marketplace for their wares

·      Facilitating ownership, independence, empowerment and a shift in thinking from day-to-day to longer term planning

·      Insisting on high quality, useful, and diverse products that are suited to the US market

2. Educate Americans to the needs of these groups and call them to ACTION

·      Organize a way to provide an opportunity for Americans to help the identified Kenyan artisan groups from the States

I am hoping that my family and friends will be interested in supporting this program, and not just by purchasing crafts!  Women from all across the country will have the opportunity to sell these products on behalf of our Kenyan sisters!  This can be done by hosting a party in your home, much like a Tupperware party, or by having a table at a local fair or bazaar.  KEST will provide everything but the customers, your friends!

The womens groups in Kenya groups in Kenya who will be initially supported by the project are the groups whom I previously mentioned. The Pastoral Community Development Alliance woman’s crafts group. You can get a glimpse of thier capacity to do beadwork just by lookint their own necklaces and bracelets!

Massai women of the PCDA craft group

PCDA Woman and crafts

The women of the Vision Self Help Group of Dandora–these women have been together for almost 10 years. They all have HIV and/or have HIV+ children and live in the Dandora slum around Nairobi. They are now skilled artisans who make jewelry and a lot of different items from beads as well as many other beautiful things:

Women of the Vision Self Help Group of Dandora

The Susus or grandmothers from Nyumbani Village who have all lost their own children to AIDs are are all each raising 10 AIDs orphans. Not only can these spirited and rocking grannies dance, but they are the keepers of the Kamba culture for the Village, the ones who make the homes for the children and are skilled basket waevers with many years of experience!

Dancing Susus of Nyumbani Village

Traditional Basket weaving

The women of Kibera Paper all live in Kibera, the largest slum on the periphery of Nairobi. They work at Kibera Paper in order to make an income to support the very basic necessities of life for their families. All of their cards are made from recycled paper and in each one is individually crafted, panted, wired, threaded, designed and signed by hand. Having worked side by side with them I can attest to just how much work goes into each card and to the beauty of each card.

Making Kibera Paper

This is a wonderful video about the making of Kibera Cards, I posted it in a prior post but am putting here because I want people to have another chance to view it in this context:

On March 10th, KEST is hosting a kick-off event to the Tuko Pamoja Project at Lloydie’s House near Washington D.C. It will be an opportunity to introduce the project to as many people in the area who can come, to get feedback on the crafts we hope to promote and to give people an opportunity to “meet” these women through the sharing of our experinces with them. Having spent time with all of these Kenyan women, I personally say that I have tremendous respect and admiration for all of them. They all struggle with tremendous poverty and many have been through unimaginable hardship and loss. They are however some of the most grateful, resilient, and warm women and mothers I ever have met.  I know that I speak for all KEST travelers when I say that spending time with them has created a special place in our hearts for them–we have created with them, sung and danced with them, listened to their stories, drank tea together,  hugged and exchanged heartfelt words and shared tears in saying goodbyes.  We want to share in helping them in their lives, after all “Tuko Pamoja,” we are truly all in this together!

If you missed it before here are the Kibera Paper women singing with us before we had to say goodbye.

One Response

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  1. Bill said, on 02/25/2012 at 5:05 pm

    The color of clothing is wonderful.


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