Monday, June 29, 2009

Self Help Group Relaunch

Iftin student president, Aisha Hussein, addressing today's Women's Self Help Group gathering at the Eastleigh Community Centre.

Scott, Lara, Aaron, Erica, Kerry and Emma
(Tristan was our camera man)
Today was the official re-launch of the women's self help groups within the urban development project in Eastleigh. Over the past year we have learned a lot and made plenty of mistakes along the way. One big lesson has been patience. Westerners, like us, often joke about needing to adjust to "Africa Time", but the fact is that the rhythms of life here are very different from what we are use to in Canada. Kenya is slowly teaching us to slow down and stop rushing, but it is a difficult lesson to learn. When it came to introducing self help groups to refugee women, we missed some crucial issues in our hurry to get things off the ground. Bonds of trust, community acceptance, concepts of group savings and the issue of women in leadership were all areas of key importance that we hadn't dealt deeply enough with in the beginning. Together with the Iftin women, we have slowed down and are carefully building the foundation of trust and understanding necessary for a bringing about successful self help groups that will improve the lives of these women and their families.

Among our special guests today were our friends Lara and Scott Barnett
It was such a joy today to share the story of Iftin and progress of the self help group initiative with the broader Eastleigh Community, as well as some of our friends here in Nairobi. The chief of Eastleigh North commented after the event that "Women are the future of Kenya" and commended the efforts of the Somali and Oromo women of Iftin.

Zahra and Loise, the National Self Help Group Coordinator

The Kenyan government has recognized the power of grassroots women's groups in transforming communities. As part of their efforts, Kenya has provided training opportunities for self help group facilitators through a national self help program. Our community coordinator, Zahra, participated in this intense training during March of this year. It was her great pleasure to have her teacher, Lois, speak today to the women of Iftin on the virtues of forming a self help group.

Zahra introducing Sheikh Abdi Nassar
Along with our guests, 167 Somali and Oromo women registered and attended the self help gathering: It was a full house of women, along with a few children running between the chairs. We were truly blessed by the presence of one of the local Muslim leaders, Sheikh Abdi Nassar, who not only prayed with us, but shared a wonderful sermon encouraging the women to embrace their future by working together. His message not only addressed fears among the women about the legitimacy of women in leadership, but went further by urging the women to work to overcome ignorance that only serves to hinder their lives.

The women listened intently as Sheikh Abdi Nassar
spoke about the significance of their coming together

Aaron sharing the story of Iftin and inviting other women of the community to become apart of a community of change.

Erica sharing the history of the Jewelry Project
and commending the hard work and dedication of the participants.

With the first training cohort completed, Erica shared about
the exciting new beginning of the jewelry project as the
seven women move forward as a group to earn a living and
provide for the basic needs of their families.

The director of the Eastleigh Community Centre, Ehud Gachuga, also addressed the women and shared a broader vision of women coming together to form Self Help Groups that create support, income generating activities, and better lives for each and every family.

Erica put a bracelet made from the
Eastleigh beads on each of the graduates
It was with joy that we and the sheikh presented graduation certificates and gifts to the seven women who completed the ceramic beading training. Together as a community we celebrated their efforts and success!

Somali women singing about Iftin

A big part of the day was times of song and dance. As well as separate cultural dances performed by both the Oromo and Somali women, all of the Iftin students came together at the end of the event to sing the Iftin anthem.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Everything is Connected

Students participating in a drama about the importance of ensuring proper nutrition for themselves and their families

We had a very good day in Eastleigh on Friday as the women of Iftin put on their own nutrition workshop. A highlight of the gathering was a student play about a mother who needed to learn the importance of providing a balanced diet for her children.

In Prayer:
* Please remember for our colleague Sam Mutisya who continues to battle illness. We thank God for him and his family, and uphold them in our prayers.
* We remember much of Kenya which is in serious drought. Some of the hardest places hit missed the spring rains and will not have water until the fall. According to friends in Machakos, there are areas so badly affected that they are selling off their cattle and goats at give away prices because they can no longer feed them: Cattle have been sold for as little as 500 ksh/- ($8.50 Cdn) and goats for 300 ksh/- ($5 Cdn).

Thursday, June 25, 2009

New Songs to Sing

Somali and Oromo women
singing and dancing together!
Over the past month, Iftin has nearly doubled in size with the addition of many new Oromo refugee women who have come to Kenya from Ethiopia.

Erica speaking to a gathering of Iftin women today as they prepare cultural dances and songs for the official re-launch of the Iftin Self Help Group project on Monday. As part of this gathering, the women who completed the ceramic bead course will receive certificates from the vocational training centre. Both of the Somali and Oromo cultures will be represented by specific dances and songs. The ladies will conclude the event by coming together to sing their official Iftin song which was written by one of our founding members, Jamilo.

It was wonderful to be a part of a morning full of singing, clapping, and dance. Many of the songs the women sang were traditional folk songs that have been passed down through the generations from mother to daughter.

One exception was the Iftin song written by Jamilo Moxamed Yasin

Arday baan ahayoo
We are students
Ubixii wadankaan ahayoo
We are the flowers of the country
Waxan uordayaa uordayaa
We are running running
Iftin uaadnaa
going to Iftin (the light)
Inaan aqoonkarar sadoo
to add knowledge (experience)
Dalkena anfacee
and be useful for the country
Dadaak kii lanimidee
I came here to work hard
alahayow noo gargaar
God may you help us.
aamiin aamiin aamiin
Amen Amen Amen

We continue to pray for peace and solidarity between the women of these two unique cultures. As they have experienced generations of strife and distrust, we pray that in this day new songs would be sung by the people of Somalia and Ethiopia.

Please continue to pray with us

Monday, June 22, 2009

Many Hands

Ayan and Aisha watering
their vertical garden

We were delighted to meet with two of the participants, from last Thursday's vertical gardening workshop, who have already gone ahead and built their own garden. Using left over supplies provided by Tim Bannister, the women built a garden of tomatoes and sukumawiki that they will care for and harvest within the Eastleigh Pottery compound. Both women plan on participating in our upcoming mass planting day where we will be bringing supplies into their homes. "We want to plant many more gardens," smiled Aisha. "With these gardens there will be much to eat and share!"

The Eastleigh Community Centre's Oromo dancing troop preparing for a competition this morning in Nairobi

When we arrived at the Community Centre this morning, we were treated to a short visit with the centre's Oromo dancing group who were on their way out for a competition. Along with people of various Kenyan backgrounds and people from Somalia, the community centre serves a large Oromo population, who have come to Kenya as refugees from Ethiopia. Even within our Iftin group, we are blessed with several Oromo people who are very proud of their unique culture and traditions.

Zahra, Risper, Chegay, Erica, and Vincent

We are blessed with the wonderful team with whom we serve in Eastleigh: The Women's Empowerment Initiative, with which we provide leadership, is one of several key ministries that are happening through the Eastleigh Community Centre. Today we were working with our colleagues from three other areas of ministry to plan the upcoming women's self help re-launch. Over the past two months, we have been working together to mobilize women interested in the Self Help Group movement. We are drawing refugee women throughout Eastleigh to the launch event on June 29th.

In Prayer:

Please pray for the women who will be participating in the start up of the Refugee women's self help groups. Two of the great challenges that they face are a cultural bias against women in leadership and the issue of earning money through interest within a group savings program (Islam does not permit usury or the charging of interest).

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Vertical Gardening

Tim Bannister teaching about vertical gardens.
It might seem impossible to grow food in an over crowded urban ghetto like Eastleigh, but in many urban areas throughout Kenya it is happening!

We had a great morning today with 44 of the Iftin women who participated in a demonstration of using vertical gardens to supply vegetables for their families. Two of our CBM colleagues, Tim Bannister and Bruno Soucey, were our special guests. Tim lead the demonstration, providing the women with practical ways of improving their food security.

After the main demonstration, we split into smaller groups where the women tried their hand at building a vertical garden themselves. Using discarded Canadian FoodGrains Bank bags, the women filled soil and manure around a packed cylinder of course gravel: This core of gravel is required for properly irrigating the garden.

Once the soil and gravel are assembled, the bags are watered and seeds or seedlings can be planted on top and along the sides of the bags through slits cut into the bag.

Bruno Soucey helping a group of ladies finish off a demonstration vertical garden at the VTC within the Eastleigh Community Centre

The women were very excited by the opportunity to grow their own vegetables within the crowded cinder block apartments where most of them live. With only a small foot print of space required, the vertical garden can supply a family with a constant supply of vegetables to enhance their family's diet.

Aaron helping a group of women gather supplies for a garden of their own. Although we will be offering a second refresher time next week, an eager group of six ladies took the initiative to gather all of the leftover supplies from today's demonstration in order to start their own garden at their home right away. With the help of Tim, we are planning to gather a bulk of gravel, soil,manure, and seedlings for the women to carry out a mass planting day.

Bruno with a proud group of women with their completed garden. Within the bags the ladies planted tomatoes, sukuma wiki, carrots,and spinach.

Other guests...

We were also delighted today to have Peter Matua, the development coordinator from the Africa Brotherhood Church, visit Iftin with a group of development workers from Machakos. On behalf of the ABC, they presented our group with a bag of sukumawiki seedlings.The ABC group came to learn more about the community centre's ceramic water filter project and to explore the potential of how this project might benefit their efforts in sustainable clean drinking water within the areas where they serve.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009


A warm welcome to some of the newest students at the Eastleigh Community Centre

It was a joy today to be able to welcome some of the 78 new students who are joining the primary school within the Eastleigh Community Centre. Over the past two months, we have been working together with the community centre's "Child Empowerment Initiative" to identify and sponsor a hundred refugee children to attend primary school. Thanks to the generous support of churches and individuals through The Sharing Way, each of these students were also provided school uniforms and their families are being welcomed to participate in self help initiatives. Thirty-two of their mothers, aunties and older sisters were also welcomed this morning into the Iftin literacy classes where they wrote placement examinations.

Tunis, Zahra Shariff, and Aaron meeting about the kids club

With the addition of so many new refugee kids into the community centre, we are working with two of our Iftin members, Tunis and Zahra Shariff, to organize a weekly children's club for the new Somali kids to play games, build friendships, experiment with art and have a safe place to talk openly and work through the traumatic experiences that most have come through. Both Tunis and Zahra Shariff have experienced the difficult transition that each of these kids are going through and they have thrived with wonderful attitudes of joy, hope, and forgiveness. We are excited to work together to serve these children by creating a place of grace and peace.

Some of the girls proudly showing off their new uniforms. This is the first time for most of these children to have ever gone to school -- it was a BIG day!

Exam Day

James Odera giving the opening instructions
for the final examination of the
Ceramic Beading Course.

Today the seven women, who completed the ceramic beading program, wrote their final exams. Eighty percent of the examination was practical as the women completed tasks from each part of the ceramic beading process. All seven of the women did fantastic and, having passed the exam, they will receive certificates through the Vocational Training Centre (VTC) on June 29th.

Erica administering the practical examinations

Beautiful Beads!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Sunday on the Athi Plains

Cody Bannister letting Emma
have a seat on his piki piki
(The Swahili word for a motor bike)

On Sunday, we enjoyed a great day with our friends and colleagues Tim & Diane Bannister at their home on the Athi Plains near Machakos. The Bannister's son Cody is back for a visit during his summer break from the University of Toronto. Ava was very interested in his piki piki, but not so interested as to accept his invitation to sit on it with him. Emma was very brave, but without a helmet she didn't go for a ride.

Diane brought us down to Acacia Camp for the East African Women's League bazaar. It was very fun to rummage through the sale and meet many of the British residents of Machakos. We enjoyed a great pork roast barbecue and of course tea and sweets. The ladies had a lot of fun joking around: One of the women wore a pink feather tiara all day, and at the close of the afternoon three men dressed in women's bathing suits put on a dry land synchronized swimming demonstration -- we all had a good laugh!

Back at home this morning, the girls were playing house as we got ready for work. Ava had her baby...

... and Emma had hers!

Daddy and Ava going to brush up!
In Prayer:
* Please keep our friends from Middleton Baptist Church in your prayers as they prepare to join us in Eastleigh at the beginning of July.
* Please remember the the Iftin women on Thursday and Friday of this week as they will be taking part in community health seminars. On Thursday our colleague Tim Bannister will be demonstrating the benefits and use of vertical gardening in an urban setting. Together with the women, he will be creating a vertical garden. On Friday, the students from the advanced English class will be sharing with the women of the community a presentation of HIV/AIDS and TB. Please pray for them as they take this courageous step in public speaking. They are being very brave as they will speak about a subject seldom spoken about in this community. We are very gratiful to Diane Bannister who initially taught on this subject with Iftin back in March. Much of the information that the women will be sharing was learned from Diane.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Water Filters

Today, we held two information sessions on the importance of clean drinking water and the use of ceramic water filters. Thanks to the generous contribution of First Baptist Church, Charlottetown, we were able to distribute 30 water filters to the women of Iftin. We will be doing another distribution once the next batch of filters are ready in July.
Erica explaining how the filters work to separate bacteria and
harmful particles from the tap water.

Aaron passing out filters to the members of the second Iftin class. The ladies were delighted and so thankful for this generous gift. Many of them said that they would be bringing their neighbors over for some clean drinking water!

Tristan and Emma joined us today in Eastleigh and were a
great help in passing out the filters.

The ladies recognize the importance of clean water, not just for themselves but for the young children in their families. Water-borne illnesses are responsible for high mortality rates among children under 5 years old.

Patrick heads up the water filter production. He joined us today to show the ladies how to care for and clean their water filters.

Meanwhile, in the jewelry project, the ladies are hard at work preparing to glaze more beads. Tomorrow we will spend the whole day glazing beads to be used in upcoming sales. While the women are working we have been talking together about what to call our group. We'll let you know what the final decision is.

The girls working on new bead designs

Erica and James preparing the girls for their upcoming exam which will be on Tuesday. The ceramic bead training has been provided under the name of the Vocational Training Centre (VTC). The ladies will receive their certificates through the VTC and their training will be recognized throughout the country.
Thanks for supporting and keeping these
ministries in your prayers