#9 Fund Raising, Life Bloom Style
From the first time Catherine came to the US she has been impressed with our fund raising activities and over time has determined to give an event here. Life Bloom’s next phase is very ambitious and will take a good bit of funding, but as has been the case with SFG, it comes one piece at a time. I’ve met with her committee once, as well as with her and Wanjiro (her assistant) here in my kitchen for strategy discussions. Yesterday was the big day.
It was scheduled for 2-7, much longer than we would have in the US, but they explained about “African time”, in which 2 pm can mean as late as 4 pm! It was held in at a local nightclub, so of course it couldn’t be on a Saturday evening, when the club would be open to their regular clientele. A long time ago Catherine and I had discussed the fact that there is money in Naivasha, but the concept of donating has not caught on here, except for at churches. She was determined to tap into it for LB. After all this is a local problem and addressing it is in everyone’s bet interest.
She invited people from Nairobi and Nakuru as well, hoping for about 100. Perhaps ½ that number showed up, but it was good for a first time event. She had somehow managed to get a troupe of young actors, cast of a popular TV program, to perform. They were funny and fun, but also did a serious skit about the plight of women here. They might have been preaching to the choir, but nonetheless, it needs to be said, over and over. They showed a video, Catherine spoke as did Wanjior and their American visitor, Margo.
I told the story of my first meeting with Catherine in 2005, when Fr Kiriti had invited us both to lunch, then promptly left to go say mass somewhere. Two hours later he returned to find us still talking. We formed a very strong bond that day and I understood that she is some lady, with a huge heart for her less fortunate sisters and a powerful determination to help them. She had formed LB just the year before and they were struggling for funding. I remember giving her a donation to buy what turned out to be their first sewing machine. Now they have 5 or 6 and have taught many ladies to use them.
I told them I was so moved by Catherine’s words that I wanted to help however I could. I pointed out that I am a retired teacher, with not a lot of money but I bought the beautiful LB bags (lifting up one to show it), which I use in the supermarkets here (where I’m known as the no-plastics lady) as well as in the US. Kenya Help sells them to raise money for SFG, but that also raises money for LB. I asked them to think about how they could help. I held up a large African basket into which I put some money, inviting them to do the same, which they did after I finished. Then I introduced Victoria, asking her to tell them about her Social Justice class at The Harriet Tubman Leadership Academy for Girls in Portland. She explained that we also have social problems in the US, and that her class has helped fund a few local programs. She is poised and well spoken—despite the fact that the idea to invite her to speak came to me as I was speaking myself, so she’d had no time to formulate what she might like to say.
I left early b/c my cold was making me uncomfortable. As I was walking out, I was stopped by a woman who wanted to tell me about her project in Nairobi. Catherine had already told me about it, but I was pleased to meet her and talk for a few minutes. She works in Kibira, the largest slum in Nairobi. Somehow she has learned a technology for making sanitary napkins (here known as towels) for women and producing them for about 40% less than those made by J&J sell for in the supermarkets. It’s a wonderful project, helping the women and keeping money here in Kenya. I’ve often wondered why there weren’t more entrepreneurs like that here. Not only that, but also they are teaching ladies of LB to make them as well. As they learn to market their product I foresee employing many, many women and think of the money women will save as well. When I told Esther (SFG matron) about them she was immediately interested, of course.
Hmmm, I have not mentioned what Catherine’s dream for the next phase is—hence the need for funds. The most common reason women fall into sex work as a last resort is that they have not been able to proceed with their education. Poverty is the most common reason, family inability to pay school fees, but also there is pregnancy, both through rape and consensual sex. Such pregnancys bring shame to the family, so they often kick the girl out of the house.
In addition Catheirne pointed out yesterday that in this culture a man may be reluctant to marry a woman until she has proved her ability to give him children. So of course men use this, assuring them, “of course I’ll marry you”, only to disappear as the pregnancy progresses.
As I’ve pointed out, there are no safety nets here, no food kitchens, no places to live for the impoverished, no Medicaid, food stamps, welfare. It may not be perfect in the US, but this is Hell on Earth for uneducated women. So her dream is to build a school wherein women can attend classes part time, even in the evening or early morning to complete their high school education, or to get training in some marketable skill. I believe it will be the first of its kind in Kenya.
Of course they didn’t raise enough yesterday to complete the project, but the government has already given them land. People not only contributed to the basket, but also pledged to buy bricks at ksh50 (about $.60) or bags of cement, desks and so on. Slowly by slowly, as they say here, it will come. I was honored to have been part of it.
For all of you who have written urging me to take it easy, I will tell you that I am writing this still in my PJ’s and sitting in my bed, after noon on Sunday. The music from the marvelous choir drifts in through the window as I write. I don’t take down days often, but decided today would be one. Tomorrow I will go to Nairobi to take Victoria to the airport. On the way we will stop to purchase the refrigerator she has helped to fund for SFG. All this time they have not had one, so this is a big boost. Thanks to all those folks who gave her funds to use here. It’s a great gift.
Now I will just lie here and listen to the choir, complete with the ululating contributed by the senior women of the congregation. I don’t know how it is determination when she is old enough to do this in public celebrations, but it’s a nice way of acknowledging those older ladies. This choir is one of the best. It is my joy to hear them every Sunday. Victoria has gone with Julia to visit a friend who lives on the prison grounds, which should be interesting for her.
PS Catherine reported they made just under Ksh 80,000 (about $1000)