Zuri Watoto Wote

Relearning the Lesson: Life is precious, life is fragile…

Posted in Kenya, Responding to poverty in Kenya by Lynn Ouellette on 10/24/2012

The Tuko Pamoja Team have been singing our hearts out and sending greetings and news of our sales successes to the Kenyan Board and Tuko Pamoja artisans in Kenya. I think that we have lit cyberspace with our excitement as we have shared how people here have generously opened their hears and their wallets, wrote encouraging and inspiring comments in our guest book and truly enjoyed the Kenyan women’s crafts.

Cynthia’s cat claiming her Village Shushu basket

We have all felt the sense that this was better than expected and OMG, this is really going to work. “We might be on to something pretty TERRIFIC!”  “This just makes my heart sing!” “And I’m singing the same tune right along with you!!!!” Well, you get the point—a lot of excitement, and joy, and truly a countdown to Kenya as we cant wait to share all this in person with the women of Tuko Pamoja.

Sadly, however, in the midst of this, we received word from Cecily that one of the Tuko Pamoja artisans, Hilder of Kibera paper had died suddenly after a brief illness. She traveled upcountry in Kenya to see family, returned feeling ill, was treated for malaria and died within a few days. She was the single mother of 3 children. Our hearts were deeply saddened to hear of this news, to think of her, her family and children and all of the women grieving at Kibera paper. If you saw the blog while we were at Kibera paper, you will recall Hilder as the very patient, welcoming lovely woman who taught everyone of us how to make paper.

Hider patiently demonstrated the process

from the beginning

And watched as we tried, often more than once….

….until we got it right. (I am usually the photographer so I am shooting Justus an unusually cheesy grin)

Despite the language barrier she had some humor along with us about the moments of our less than stellar performance and a very warm presence. And like all of the women at Kibera she drank tea and sang and danced with us (she is the first woman that Lloydie enjoins to dance). We enjoyed her very much and will miss her at Kibera Paper when we return in January.

Hilder is the 2nd of the Tuko Pamoja artisans who has passed away since we left Kenya. You may recall that Jane of Maasai Village of  PCDA died unexpectedly of illness as well.

Jane of PCDA

While I pay great homage to these woman for their strength of spirit, their resiliency and determination to care for their children under very difficult circumstances. I am reminded that their hard lives, lives in extreme poverty, with little access to good nutrition , health care, and many of the things that we take for granted—it all takes it toll. These women died young by our standards. I tried to find out what the average life span in Kenya is, but found conflicting figures. Its safe to say that it is at least 20 years younger than here in the U.S. and in the extremely compromised communities like Kibera it maybe as low as 30 years old.

So we send our truly heart felt condolences along to Hilder’s family and her friends and fellow artisans at Kibera paper and we carry on the work of Tuko Pamoja–the partnership with these and the other artisan groups in the hope of making some difference in their lives, helping them have an income they can count on, bringing  them some hope for the future and with the hope that the long term toll of the hardship of their lives will somehow be  a little lessened by our efforts and those who join with us.

6 Responses

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  1. Lloydie said, on 10/25/2012 at 6:57 am

    I love you, Lynn. Your passion for the beauty and joy of life as well as your heartfelt sorrow when life doesn’t seem fair. Hilder and Jane touched so many lives, particularly of KEST travelers that were fortunate enought to work with them, may they rest in peace. Thanks for the blog, rafiki. Lloydie

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    • Lynn Ouellette said, on 10/25/2012 at 9:31 pm

      They are not just women in Kenya, they are our global sisters now, part of the Tuko Pamoja family, we are truly together in this so it’s hard to have the circle broken in any way. Once you make the personal connection, everything changes……

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  2. Jennifer Pitman said, on 10/25/2012 at 3:52 pm

    I totally agree with all you have said. It is so important that we who are so fortunate, continue to help those who are not. Hilder will be greatly missed and it is with some comfort to all concerned that the children will be looked after her sister who is a nurse. Praise the Lord for that.
    Blessings
    Jennifer Pitman

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    • Lloydie said, on 10/25/2012 at 9:49 pm

      Thank God for small blessings.

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      • Lynn Ouellette said, on 10/28/2012 at 12:48 pm

        I updated the post with a video. Lloydie you are dancing with Hilder here–It’s a very joyous image.

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      • Lloydie said, on 10/29/2012 at 6:50 am

        Loved the video. I had forgotten that moment in time. Hilder certainly didn’t like the attention drawn to her but I was obviously acting from my heart and picking my favorite momma. My heart still hurts at the news of her passing. Let’s see what we can do to help her 3 children once we arrive in Kenya… in 82 days!

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