Watoto Wote Wazuri

Kenya….at last…

Posted in Uncategorized by Lynn Ouellette on 01/24/2020

After what seemed like an endless build-up, long travel including one flight that was very much being in a washing machine, I finally arrived. When the plane touched down Kenya, when the wheels hit the tarmac, I breathed huge sigh of relief and a few happy tears “I’m finally here.”

The plane emptied out a herd of people into the immigration which was hot as hades and it took almost 2 hours to finally have my turn at the desk to get a visa. The Immigration officer asked me how I was and I told him, “I’m hot and very tired, but that part doesn’t matter so much because I’m just so happy to be here.” That made him smile. However, one of my duffels was still in London. Since it was the gigantic one stuffed full with yarn for the grandmother’s in Nyumbani Village, I didn’t need it until next week and was actually relieved that I wasn’t going to have to manage it again with with my other 50 pounder, my heavy carry-on and another bag. During all that time at the airport Justus was waiting for me. I was overjoyed to see his face as I walked out of the airport, Justus with a huge smile and a big hug, a few actually, and then I truly felt like I was back in Kenya. So I left home at midday on Monday, the 20th and actually arrived at my lodging destination shortly after midnight on the 22nd (with the 8 hour time difference.) Then I was just too excited to sleep and so the schedule of the next day began soon after.

Not an unusual driving experience to stop for cows or goats once you are outside of the city. This is the easy driving. In the city it is crazy with big vehicles and near misses.

Most of the other travelers were here first before I arrived, so the activity and busyness had already begun. On our first day together, we actually split into 2 different groups. I went to PCDA, the Maasai community with Megan and Valerie, and Deb and Karen went to Dandora, one of the impoverished communities around Nairobi, and the sight one of the Lea Toto clinics which provides care to families with HIV+ children. There is a Self Help Group of women there, the first group formed, who I first met in 2010. Amazing, strong, beautiful women who have all endured incredible hardship. I would have loved to have seen them, and felt some real heartache about missing them. So difficult when you have to let go of one thing you long for, to do another which is equally as compelling.

Deb provided me with this little video clip of what I missed:

Our day at PCDA was quite wonderful and so moving. It began with the children and much of my charge for the day was the photography and video assignment. This is clearly a “not work” assignment for me since I love doing both. Specifically I needed to check in on the food programs and the Tuko Pamoja women of PCDA. People who gave donations will recall that I was raising funds to support a school food program. I got to see those children who look healthy and strong and much better than when we first met them.

I also documented the work that Valerie has been doing with children—teaching them about core life skills and values incorporated into art projects. They are eager learners and also quite adorable.

In the afternoon I went to the PCDA women’s workshop where the women gather to make the beaded jewelry and other crafts that are sold as part of Tuko Pamoja. They are also learning to sew on trundle sewing machines. If you didn’t have a grandmother who sewed with one of these, you may not know that they are powered entirely by pedaling the trundle and need no electricity. Megan is working with them to teach them how to sew on these machines because this is a new skill for them. Benson, our driver for the travel to PCDA also does far more than drive—he also generously fixes and oils the machines, repairs the sides of the workshop, and more. The women were actively working on sewing projects and modeling their garb when it was finished. Part of visiting the Tuko Pamoja Women is to receive and pay the for the products that will become the crafts sold at Tuko Pamoja events in the US. But the larger picture is that it is about friendship, bonding and love that has grown over the years. There is always an opportunity to hear about their lives and their hardships of the past year. Sadly we often hear about women who been or are currently sick. It seemed that this year that were more women at all of the Tuko Pamoja groups who were telling us about health issues and sickness. It is a very hard way of life that these women live and it really takes it’s toll.

Megan wanted to give the women something very special, a gift of words, but they were in English. So she had Phillip, the director of PCDA, translate the words into Maa (MAAsai language) and read them to the woman. That brought some tears because of what the words said. They then knew what the words meant when she sang the words in English. She sang these words to each of the woman individually, holding both of their hands. Getting through that, the choking up and the pushing through, that wasn’t easy, but it came from the heart and she was determined. Then there were no dry eyes in the room. The words are below:

Philip helping with translation

“How could anyone ever tell you, you’re anything less than beautiful

How could anyone ever tell you, you are anything less than whole.

How could anyone fail to notice that you’re loving is a miracle.

How deeply you’re connected to my soul.”

With the Maasai women, as is most often case with all of the Women’s Self Help groups, the time together ends with a song and a prayer. The singing was beautiful, but the praying was a powerfully moving experience. They prayed together, individually, and back forth for at least 5 minutes. There was intensely powerful, spiritual emotion in the room. There was crying and near sobbing….and I was standing there with tears rolling down my face even though I didn’t understand a single word. The prayer was in Maa. It was deeply moving such that I couldn’t help but think of how these two groups of women, from across the globe, very different in so many ways, were connecting on such a deep level. It was a reminder of how, in a fundamental human way, we are really very much the same.

After all the traveling, very little sleep for the last couple of days, and the emotion of the day, I was really tired but feeling good about the day.

The following day we went to meet with the women of Kibera paper who craft those beautiful handmade cards from recycled paper. They continue to make new designs with David, the artist who also works there. Each card, by itself, is a work of art. These woman have had ongoing hardship because they lost their workspace years ago and have not been able to find affordable space to replace it. They work out of a little trailer and the space around them keeps filling up with building scraps. They used to work on the land of a school and church but since there has been an expansion, they were not able to keep their space.

At each of the groups, Deb has been handing out pictures of the women which she took the year before and the women have really enjoyed seeing them. I think that they needed a little something to pick up their spirits. These helped…..and it also helped that we all shopped heavily from cards that were already made, but not part of the order which we were picking up from them.

As usual we joined together to enjoy some chai (Kenyan style black tea with sugar) and we always bring cookies and fruit for the women. Every meeting ends with a song and prayer. And every ending has a profuse expression of gratitude to us. We remind the women that we feel like we are the lucky ones, to know them and spend time with them, and to have this kinship. I have even telling the woman that at my event to sell the Tuko Pamoja crafts that we begin with the sales, but in the middle of the time I do a presentation because I want people to get to meet them and know them through my telling about them, showing photos and expressing my admiration and affection for them. And then people leave presentation and shop again because they have a different feeling about the crafts. Their crafts are beautiful, but it is getting to know them through the eyes of those of us who have a personal connection and can describe that and how it has so moved and impacted us that makes the difference.

Now, while we are primarily working in and around Nairobi, we return each day Dimesse Sister’s retreat center. It is very simple on the inside, somewhat like a college dormitory, but on the outside it is like a beautiful botanical garden.

Before coming to Kenya, I reconnected with, via Facebook, the first high school student who I sponsored at Nyumbani Village. It would have been in 2010, ten years ago, when I first met Caroline. We made a plan to get together and she came to Dimesse Sisters to have dinner with us. What a delightful, smart and passionate women she has become. She is attending Kenyatta University and working on a nutrition degree and loves the subject matter, but also has done some wonderful volunteer work after she got a 2 year diploma in nutrition. She talked about her work with so much enthusiasm and with a lot of knowledge. All of us were so impressed with her that we wanted to make sure to have some more time with her, so we are taking her out to lunch tomorrow. That has been such sweet reunion that, up until a few months ago, I never would have thought it could be part of this trip.

Visiting with Caroline

Many snafus with getting my photos to the right device to use for the blog, slow internet, and more have me from blogging before tonight. We have had another full day here today, my third day here, and I could say much more about just these days. Before I end this post, I need to say that Lloydie is not on this trip with us and there a huge hole without her here. Because of illness she could not make the trip this time. Everyone is asking for her, everyone is missing her and she is so beloved that I think nearly half of Kenya is praying for her. ❤️


9 Responses

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  1. Trish Gagnon said, on 01/24/2020 at 6:13 pm

    So happy you safely arrived and are already enjoying yourself. Wonderful pictures and words of hope and inspiration


  2. Caroline Nduku said, on 01/24/2020 at 9:35 pm

    Am so exited to have you ,you are one of a kind with so much Love and Kindness .
    May God enlarge your Teritories..And today am so exited to be with you.And the other lovely friends.


    • Lloydie said, on 01/26/2020 at 7:51 am

      So happy the two of you got to meet again after all of these years! I remember the days that I would bring a letter or small gift to the village for you from Lynn. Now the two of you can stay connected forever! Mungu akubariki, dear Caroline!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. mrwimbles said, on 01/25/2020 at 9:49 am

    Prayers for Lloydie. Feel better soon. Glad you made it safely and thank you for sharing your beautiful photos. I think for the first time I actually get it why you do this unselfish support. I am amazed at the kindness you bring. Love the children’s faces and the women sewing on the old treadle machines. I am thankful for all the hard work to make it happen. I look forward to more posts.


    • Lloydie said, on 01/26/2020 at 7:53 am

      Thank you for your prayers. Pole pole, slowly slowly, one day at a time. Missing Kenya, my heart and sou, are there with my travelers. Very tough to be left behind.

      Liked by 1 person

      • mrwimbles said, on 01/26/2020 at 9:10 am

        Hope you and Lynn will be able to see each other soon also. Hugs.


    • mrwimbles said, on 01/26/2020 at 9:16 am

      P.S. Hopefully your plane ride was on delicate cycle at least some of the way. : )


  4. Pat Conner said, on 01/25/2020 at 11:28 am

    Wonderful message Lynn- look forward to continuing to share your journey !


  5. Lloydie said, on 01/26/2020 at 7:56 am

    Finally, your blog is up and running again! Almost as good as being there! Hope your trip is everything you dreamed it would be. I know Kenya is glad to welcome you back! Love the photos of the children, as only you can take, filled with love, heart and soul. You’re BAAAACK!

    Liked by 1 person

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