Zuri Watoto Wote

Many more adventures

Posted in Uncategorized by Lynn Ouellette on 01/23/2015
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A very handsome boy at the Maasai school

The days have been very busy as we have continued to meet with the self help groups involved in Tuko Pamoja in Dagoretti, Kawangare, and in the Maasai community. Our involvement and deepening connection to the Maasai community has evolved over time; not only do we meet with the women’s self-help group there, but we are also more and more integrated in the community. We were there on Tuesday and Thursday and  although I sadly had to stay behind on Thursday because  I was sick, I got an excellent good report about how the day went and people took pictures for me.

Always when we arrive at the Maasai school, the children are so excited to see us. They stand outside the classroom, having to be held back by their teachers because of their excitement. I can recall that our first year there, some of the children were a little frightened of us, being a whole group of white people, but that has changed and they are enthusiastically welcoming all around. We always have a division of labor with some volunteers teaching in the lower grades and this time others delivering backpacks to the upper grades to the children who didn’t get them last year. My job is always being the official photographer, a very lucky assignment since I just love to take pictures of their faces.

Children listening to stories

Children listening to stories

In the classroom

In the classroom

Lots of sweet faces

Lots of sweet faces

Among the activities done with the children are enrichment lessons focusing on telling stories or making crafts. This time the story was one that created a lot of opportunity for reading with drama and singing so a fun time was had by all. The older children were very excited to get new backpacks since they had never had them before. In each backpack was a letter from a child in the states so the children were writing letters in return.

Teaching in the classroom

Teaching in the classroom

Getting backpacks and writing letters

Getting backpacks and writing letters

When we first began coming to the Maasai community they had just built their school and it was a pretty primitive structure. Now they have a much better building, and their teachers have done the required training allowing the school to become government certified. You may recall that last year we helped to fund the certification courses for the teachers. Now having completed this training,  their teaching salaries are paid by the government rather than having to be paid by the community which was a huge struggle.  We were surprised when we arrived this time to find government workers in the beginning phase of installing electricity in the school. So in just the few years that we have been going to that community a lot of progress has been made.

After the teaching in the classrooms and distributing new backpacks, we had the opportunity for just good fun with the children. This included distributing bubbles and a very spirited game of red light green light which they absolutely loved.

Giving out bubbles

Giving out bubbles

Everyone including the teachers took part in blowing bubbles

Everyone including the teachers took part in blowing bubbles

Red light, green light!

Red light, green light!

It was then lunchtime for them and time for us to meet with their Mommas–the women of Tuko Pamoja. However,  new volunteers got to spend time in their homes helping them to do chores, talking together and holding babies of many varieties.

Judy holding a baby goat

Judy holding a baby goat

Traditional Maasai home

Traditional Maasai home-made of sticks and cow dung

Lloydie, Deb and I sat down with Philip, the Director of PCDA, to go over the donations that we had brought. We were once again able to fund the school lunch program, to fund filling the water cisterns (thank you Marie!) and much more such as painting the women’s workshop. We then held the meeting with the Tuko Pamoja women to go over the sales of the past year. A few years ago, when we first began going to the Maasai community of PCDA, the women were very stand-offish, perhaps not trusting our intentions, but that has completely changed. Now we are so warmly greeted with hugs all around. Because the sales through Tuko Pamoja have gone well over the last year, we were able to give each woman a bonus which met with much enthusiasm. And then we all shopped from their current items, providing them with additional sales and I filmed the process of making a beaded bracelet. We closed down the day at PCDA with a plan to return on Thursday to paint their workshop and as Philip described it, “the women want to make you a party.”

Samples of the MAasai women's work including Kristen modeling traditional wedding garb

Samples of the Maasai women’s work including Kristen modeling traditional wedding garb

On Wednesday, we traveled to two different sites where women’s self-help group participate in Tuko Pamoja and based at the Lea Toto clinics in the slums of Nairobi. At both of these sites the new volunteers were involved with the work of the clinic and meeting with community health workers to learn more about what the programs offer to families of HIV+ children living in the slums, and learning more about the medical and social aspects of living with HIV. Judy and Valerie provided some additional counseling to several of the clinic clients.

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Sister Little who originally founded the first self-help group.

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Samples of the crafts

Learning from the community health workers

Learning from the community health workers

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Faces and places of Tuko Pamoja

We held the annual Tuko Pamoja meeting with each of the self-groups, in both Kawangare and Dagoretti with the Dagoretti group being new to Tuko Pamoja in the past year. Since we launched Tuko Pamoja in 2012, because it has been such a success that has become known to all of the self-help groups in Lea Toto, other groups want to become a part of it and we have added two new groups to make a total of eight. What I mean by success is that we are able to purchase the women’s crafts upfront at fair market value to sell in the US thus remarkably increasing their sales and allowing them to feed their families and to keep their children in school. Any extra profit comes back to the women in bonuses which they are overjoyed to receive. All of the women have incredible stories, many are themselves HIV+, and many are raising foster children in addition to their own children—all in extremely small and tight living quarters. In addition to giving the women bonuses, we collect scarves through the year and are able to give each woman a scarf and this time I was able to give each group that works with beads, a sizable donation of beads which elicited a lot of cheering and gratitude.(Thank you Jean and Rick!) As Tuko Pamoja has grown,  Nyumbani has hired a director for the self-help groups and created two additional jobs for working with the self-help groups. We were remaking on our return drive home that not only has this been a great help to the women in so many ways, but the sparking of three new jobs has been a side benefit which we not have imagined when we initially set out to start this project. I have to give Lloydie so much credit for having the vision to create Tuko Pamoja. At both Dagoretti and Kawangare, like the other sites, I filmed demonstration videos, one of making a beaded bowl and one of paper beads.

Along the Rift Valley

Along the Rift Valley

The return to PCDA on Thursday was both hard work and a lot of fun. The drive to and from is through beautiful countryside along the Rift Valley and an annual stop for a group photo. I was very sad to miss it because I was too sick, but got a great report and lots of photos provided by the other volunteers. The biggest goal of the day was to paint the women’s workshop. Both of our visits to PCDA surprisingly have been blessed this year with a moderate heat and a very good breeze. This made painting with oil based paint  in the sun much more tolerable. My job was to paint a sign for the shop which included the Tuko Pamoja logo, and because I wasn’t able to be there, the sign was returned here with just the background painted so I can hopefully work on it this weekend.

Painting the workshop

Painting the workshop

More painting

More painting

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The workshop painted beautifully!

Most of the volunteers painted side by side with the Maasai women, but Deb and Valerie worked with them to help prepare a festive meal. It is a tradition in Kenya when you really want to honor your guests that you sacrifice a goat and cook it  for them. I wasn’t exactly disappointed to miss the goat, but I enjoyed hearing about the festivities and how much the women wanted to do something for us. They also gave all of the women volunteers a new leso.

Preparing the food

Preparing the food

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I will close this blog post with a very sweet story. Every year when we drive out to the Maasai community we travel the same roads. Every year we also see the same woman sitting in a wheelchair by the side of the road selling soap. Every year we wave to her and blow her kisses and she exuberantly waves back clearly recognizing us. We call her “the soap lady” since we’ve never know her name. This year we decided that we would stop and meet her and give her a little gift of a scarf and a goodie bag. I’m so sorry that I missed this, but was very touched to hear the story. Deb and Lloydie got out of the car gave her the gift and she was, as you can see in the picture, completely overwhelmed to tears with this small act of kindness. We now know her name is Jane and are once again reminded how little it takes to make a difference in someone’s day.

The "soap lady"

The “soap lady”

Overwhelmed by this small act of kindness

Overwhelmed by this small act of kindness

3 Responses

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  1. Lloydie said, on 01/23/2015 at 12:46 pm

    If you ever want to quit your day job, I would say you could make a living writing stories accompanied by your amazing photographs. Your words paint pictures almost as vivid as the beauty you capture with your camera. Keep your blogs coming! Ad feel better, too! ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Barbara Sutton said, on 01/24/2015 at 10:39 pm

    It’s amazing how much you all pack into a few days! I loved the faces of the Maasai children, especially where they were listening to a story… priceless. It sounds like you have gradually earned the trust of the Maasai children and women, and a lot of good has come out of your work there. The painted workshop looks fab! I also admire Lloydie and her vision for this work, and all the planning that you all enter into to prepare for these trips and the effort to gather gifts and to sell the crafts here in the US. A labor of love… that’s clear. Deb also mentioned the ‘soap lady’ Jane in an email. As you wrote “how little it takes to make a difference in someone’s day”. Hopefully we can remember that in our own small worlds.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Lynn Ouellette said, on 01/25/2015 at 4:47 am

      Indeed, we learn so many lessons here! I am SO delighted that you are enjoying the blog and hearing about our experiences!

      Like


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