Zuri Watoto Wote

Visiting with the Mommas of Tuko Pamoja

Posted in AIDS Orphans, HIV in Kenya, Kenya, Responding to poverty in Kenya, Tuko Pamoja by Lynn Ouellette on 01/23/2014

Woman from Kibera. Paper and her daughter

 

Our first week in Kenya has been structured around doing site visits with the women with whom we collaborate through Tuko Pamoja. On Monday we were in Kangame, on Tuesday we went to Dagoretti and on Wednesday to Dandora to visit the women’s self help groups associated with the Lea Toto clinics at each site. The first four site visits have been with self help groups whose members all live in the slums around Nairobi in very compromised conditions. Poverty is an everyday challenge. I first met the women of Dandora, the Vision Self Help Group in 2010 and was so moved and inspired by the way in which they shared their stories of incredible stories–about being HIV+, having HIV+ children, extreme poverty, struggles with illness, yet were also community activists about HIV, community health workers doing outreach to other families with HIV+ children and raising many orphans. They were candid, passionate, and had such warmth that they have a special place in my heart. They are also the longest running self help group begun about 15 years ago by a Nyumbani nun! Sister Little (she is little and feisty!) she brought in someone to train them on beadwork and they quote her as saying “If you need money, don’t sleep.” In other works, make your crafts and she would find a way to sell them. 

Group photo at Dagoretti


A bonus for Simon Wasike, administrator for the Lea Toto self help groups


Florence from Dandora and her daughter

 

Fingers and toes braiding beads

 
 

We have had similar meetings at each site, sharing the success of Tuko Pamoja, the growth of the product sales, and how we are marketing their goods. We share with them that people buying their crafts are given a little insert telling about the women, Tuko Pamoja, and showing a picture from the group that makes the craft.  The women are thrilled to know that people in America want to hear their stories and appreciate their crafts and art. We often hear words like “miracle” and “blessing” and gratitude flows abundantly. These women are truly touched by comments written to them in our event guest book as if they can’t quite believe it. We have not finished all the interviews and photos that allow us to feature each woman and story on one page of the site book, so we have also been finishing these.  This is an opportunity to have a one on one conversation and a more powerful connection with each woman. When we ask the women about their greatest challenge, the overriding answer by far is that poverty is their greatest challenge–the inability to be able to get money for rent, school fees or even food for their children or themselves. They pay testimony to the fact that Tuko Pamoja has helped, but life is still very difficult. So continuing to grow Tuko Pamoja is a powerful mission.These women live incredibly hard lives, work very hard, yet still are kind, warm, generous and very supportive of each other and of us. When we announce that they are getting a bonus that just bring the house down. In fact, at Dandora we had women in tears, one of whom had been called to take her son out of school because she couldn’t pay his school fees and now she was able to do so. 

Tears of joy for the bonus at Dandora

 

Many hugs!

On Thursday we went to Kibera to visit our Mommas of Kibera Paper who make gorgeous cards from handmade paper. I also have a special place in my heart for this group because Deb and I have done art exchange projects with them and have so enjoyed this collaboration. They are also a group with incredible heart and gorgeous singing voices to which we get treated every time. They do their work in space that they rent at a school in Kibera and are located right next door to the school where the children come out to play. They are absolutely adorable children in red school uniforms who love to have their pictures taken and whom we recognize as growing a little taller each year. New visitors to Kibera  paper always have the opportunity to make cards and paper so Valerie spent time doing that with Leah! a fine teacher. As at all the sites, we had a wonderful visit, exuberant enthusiasm about the growth of sales and purchases and overwhelming emotion in response to bonuses. This is a heart warming, heart filling experience with these women. It’s hard to describe the warmth, affection, and love that they pour out for us, their American sisters. 

Today we are off to PCDA, pastoral community Development Alliance, the Maasai community,  another group of women who craft and are part of Tuko Pamoja. We have a big surprise for them….

Valerie and Leah


Outfitted in Kibera paper work kangas


Beautiful baby of Kibera Paper Momma


Karen doing an interview at Kibera paper


Group photo at Kibera Paper


Justus looking at photos with enthusiastic children


Beautiful face!


So cute!


Playing in the school yard beside Kibera Paper

 

 

 

 

 
 

 

Watch the video below for an enthusiastic response to “We will be giving each woman a bonus of….”

5 Responses

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  1. transformer313@aol.com said, on 01/23/2014 at 11:50 pm

    thanks for the pictures- is Valerie awake yet??

    Like

  2. Sharon Tardiff said, on 01/24/2014 at 10:56 am

    Soooooooo many beautiful faces with smiles and appreciation expressions. I wish I could send them all boxes of snowballs of different sizes to make a snowman. I know it wouldn’t last long with the heat but they would have fun. They could even decorate the snowman with colorful beads. 🙂 Of course an orange bead for the nose….. Looking forward to more posts. Sharon

    Like

    • Lynn Ouellette said, on 01/24/2014 at 11:35 am

      Thanks Sharon! Deb actually made snowmen cards with the women of Kibera Paper so you are right on target with our thinking. We wish we had just a little of the Maine wind chill here!

      Like

  3. Judy said, on 01/24/2014 at 8:12 pm

    Beautiful pictures Lynn! Beautiful people, beautiful land. Thanks for sharing this with us. We are freezing in Maine. It is nice to see warm smiles!

    Like


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