Watoto Wote Wazuri

“It’s a matter of life or death.”

Posted in Uncategorized by Lynn Ouellette on 10/17/2020
Eating gatheri

I don’t often write many blog posts when I am stateside or am not heading or recently returned from Kenya, but Kenya has been very much on my mind and those of us who travel and volunteer there have been in communication about the conditions there. Now is a time that I really need to post because of the seriousness, the ‘life or death” circumstances. The pandemic hit Kenya and, as is the case here, those most affected are the people who already have health problems, don’t have access to health care, and live on the edge of financial survival. This describes the women of Tuko Pamoja, those wonderful women to whom we have become so attached and with whom we been working for many years in the joint venture to bring their beautiful crafts to a sustainable market in the United States. Those of you who have ever been to a Tuko Pamoja event here know how much we not only enthusiastically display and promote their beautiful hand crafted items, but we also celebrate them, their hard work, resiliency through incredible hardship, their warmth and generosity with us and so much more.

Photo with the Tuko Pamoja group In Dandora

It has been the established practice of Tuko Pamoja to purchase Tuko Pamoja goods twice a year and bring them to the U.S. for sales in events all across the country. However, the pandemic not only hit Kenya, locked it down and jobs and income sources for many disappeared, Tuko Pamoja also got stopped in its tracks. All of our spring events were cancelled and thus the sustainable income stream which it has provided for the women in Kenya was abruptly halted. The women were left without any income from Tuko Pamoja, no way to sell their crafts in Kenya, and thus no way to have any income, and no way to even put food on the table. So instead of the usual Tuko Pamoja events, since March the goal has been to raise enough money to send to Kenya to buy and distribute enough food to keep the women (and a few men) of Tuko Pamoja  and their children alive.  In March the Tuka Pamoja Food Program began with a GoFundMe page with that purpose in mind. This is an ongoing goal and since then every month we have been able to send funds to Kenya to support well over 600 people ( adults and children) with food supplies. 

Food delivery

The Food Program has continued, but what began in March as a need for $4000 to feed over 600 people 2 meals a day has increased to costing $5000 to feed 600 people one meal a day. Food prices in Kenya have skyrocketed. In addition, all of our usual fall Tuko Pamoja events here in the U.S., which produce the largest sales, have had to be cancelled and the January trip to Kenya has had to be cancelled as well. And sadly we have learned that one of the women and 3 of the children have died. The title of this blog is a quote from Justus during a recent ZOOM meeting during which we discussed his experience of delivering food and interacting with the women in Kenya and plans for moving forward. He also told us that that women have pulled him aside and said that if it were not for the food he has been able to bring, they would have died. Justus is the feet on the ground in Kenya for Tuko Pamoja who buys and distributes all of the food to all of the Tuko Pamoja groups in different geographic communities, nothing short of our hero and the women’s guardian angel who is extremely devoted quite frankly incurs some real risks to keep this all going.

Justus, food delivery with a smile

Presently we are still trying to raise money to send to Kenya on a monthly basis.  Many of us who have a piece of our heart there,  but won’t be able to return to Kenya in January,  have sent the funds we would have spent on the trip…and more… to keep the food program going. We have funds enough through the end of this month and part way through November and are working on raising more. Lloydie has made a Herculean effort to create an online shop of the Tuko Pamoja crafts which we have available and you can shop from them here: http://www.tuko-pamoja.com/newdesign/shop/ Please check it out….I couldn’t resist.

Anyone who wishes to help us with the effort to sustain the women of Tuko Pamoja and their families can do so by shopping from their crafts or giving a donation to the Food Program.  http://www.tuko-pamoja.com/newdesign/donate-to-food-program/

To those who have helped already, you have saved lives, and no words can really express the gratitude that we have and that which comes from across the globe. It’s a tough time for everyone, but this is a huge and definitive way to save lives, a “matter of life or death” difference that you make. At a time when so much seems wrong in the world, for me at least, it feels so important and fills my heart to do something that seems so undeniably right, escapes the daily divisiveness of life in this country and  simply focuses on compassion and humanity. 

When it’s over, I don’t want to wonder

if I have made of my life something particular, and 

real.

I don’t want to find myself sighing and frightened, 

or full of argument.

I don’t want to end up simply having visited this

world.

Mary Oliver

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