Watoto Wote Wazuri

Tuko Pumoja— the Kick-Off

Posted in Kenya, Nyumbani, Responding to poverty in Kenya by Lynn Ouellette on 03/12/2012

View of the moon from the early morning plane ride

I headed down to Maryland this weekend, outside of Washington DC, early on Friday morning to get ready for the kick off event for the Tuko Pamoja initiative. It began as a serene and very short flight by comparison to flying to Kenya although memories of Kenya were very much on my mind as I traveled. I was thrilled to be able to meet up with my fellow Kenya volunteers, Lloydie and Deb and to see Jen, Lloydie’s assistant whom I got to know better over the course of the weekend. On Friday we spent the day finishing the preparations for Saturday’s event and spent all day talking about future plans for the initiative and travels to Kenya for next January. We have so many ideas when we get together that the synergy and excitement are a little mind-boggling! We are pursuing a non-profit status for Tuko Pamoja and came up with oh-so-many ideas for making this a successful project for helping the women, our friends of Lea Toto, Nyumbani Village, Kibera Paper and the Pastoral Community Development Alliance in Kenya. It goes without saying that the group of us have incredible passion about this mission and amazing bonds with each other so spending time together just by itself is a great experience.

Jen and Lloydie had been working hard on the set up well before I arrived and much of it was completed.  I added videos and worked with LLoydie’s husband Bill to get my photos on the big screen TV for display. The house was a virtual museum of all things Kenyan and on the first floor was an educational display about each of the women’s groups whose crafts we plan to promote. Lloydie greeted people at the front door to introduce the project, but I think they got a sense of the enthusiasm before they even walked in!

Karibu! Welcome to the Tuko Pamoja Kick-off--no mistake, you are at the right house!

Maasai display in the entry way---affectionately known as "Maasai Mary"

Our goal was to not only gather feedback about each of the crafts we had chosen as samples, but also to have our guests “meet” the women by sharing our personal experiences with them. I was at the Kibera paper station where there were photos of the days we had spent there learning to make the cards with them and doing the art exchange process of teaching them to block print and make valentines. I also had a video clip of us singing and dancing together so that people could see the sharing of the experience and the joy that it brought. There was information about Kibera and Kibera Paper and there were samples of the cards. I had a great time telling people about the women, our time together and how meaningful the experience was as well as about the cards and how they are made.

A guest at the Kibera Paper Women Display

Deb was at the display about the Susus of Nyumbani Village and their baskets and Jen introduce the women of Lea Toto projects.

Lea Toto Women Display

In the basement, many tables were set up with examples of crafts from each group with surveys to fill out. We had almost sixty people who came and also filled out surveys to provide us with invaluable information about the crafts and which ones they think will be most likely to sell.

Paper beads from Kawangware

Display of Maasai bracelets

Display of Nyumbani Village baskets woven by the Susus

Anya taking the survey


We really enjoyed sharing stories of the amazing Kenyan women with everyone and were thrilled to get such positive and enthusiastic feedback. Next we will review surveys and make some decisions about which crafts to order when Lloydie returns to Kenya in June. She will place the order then and get the crafts in August to bring them back to the US (details for transporting hundreds of baskets, hundreds of cards, etc yet to be worked out). The women will be paid the fair market value in Kenya then. Once the crafts are brought back to the US, they will be boxed for home party or craft fair/event sales and after they are sold here the women in Kenya will get an additional payment. If this works successfully the hope is to have this grow and to add a website and more….

We also provided some pretty delicious snacks for everyone and a chance to buy some Kenyan items on our sales table bringing in $1000!  It was a very exciting and inspirational day that ended with a sense of accomplishment and more vision for this project. We felt more than ever that our mission to help these women in Kenya and to thereby help their children can actually be realized, that we will no longer leave struggling with the sense of not knowing how to really help them, and that it will be possible to truly do something that could make a difference. We were all tired at the end of the day….but I think we all had a little trouble sleeping from the excitement of Tuko Pamoja– of all being in it together. We have a lot of work ahead of us, but it’s work we can’t wait to do….. I wish we could have shared this day with the women in Kenya, that they could have been there too, but in many ways, it felt as if they were.

4 Responses

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  1. Anya said, on 03/13/2012 at 7:56 am

    Thank you for sharing Lynn! I truly enjoyed reading thsi blog!

    It was nice to meet you and I’m very excited about Tuko Pumoja!



  2. Lloydie said, on 03/14/2012 at 1:12 pm

    Lynn, As always your blog expressed the feelings of the day perfectly! I have had several people comment that even though they were unable to attend the Tuko Pamoja Kick-Off party, they felt like they were there after reading your blog… Sister Mary for one!!! So thrilled to be embarking on this new adventure with YOU! Thanks for your continued support of all things Kenyan/Nyumbani/KEST. Amani na upendo, Lloydie


  3. Lynn Ouellette said, on 03/14/2012 at 1:46 pm

    I was so thrilled to be there! Feel like I’m the lucky one to be involved with you, the rest of the TP team, and all of the lovely women of Kenya!

    Amani, tumaini, upanda na baraka (how’s that for a mouthful–pretty soon it will be Kamba!)


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