There is still more building and work to be done, but The Women One Stop Center was officially commissioned on Life Bloom Services International's 10th anniversary! LBSI still needs to install the electricity to have the center fully operable and to put up a perimeter wall and gate for security purposes.
There could not have been a more fulfilling way to celebrate Life Bloom's 10th birthday, while marking the International Charity Day on the 5th Sept 2014. From Kenya, Uganda, Australia, and the United States, 87 women and 5 men participated in the 1st ever Grass Root Women Step Up Conference. For the first time at Life Bloom's activities, flower farms were represented by Finlays Horticulture LTD. A total of 17 groups participated at the conference. The big moment was the commissioning of 28 Mentors, and the Women One Stop Center, all officiated by the Nakuru County First Lady, Mdm Lucia Kinuthia.
On behalf of Life Bloom-Kenya, Catherine wishes to thank all who continue to support the program through donations, skills sharing, physical presence, cheering us on - especially when we have difficulty - prayers, and more. The first phase (though with a little bit of work to be done to be completed fully), could not have become a reality without all of your support. As we celebrate the women and the "miles" they have made, we celebrate each person.
The LBSI Training Center will open its doors on September 5th, its 10th Anniversary. We are so very close to completion and all of your assistance is getting us there on time.
The remaining items to complete the 1st Floor (and then the second floor will begin underway shortly after) are as follows:
All paint & labor - $774All tiles & labor - $1153Glass panes for windows and doors - $524sub-total - $2451Less recent $450 donationTOTAL - $2001
In this post you'll see the picture of a wall that is ready for prep to paint and, in the same photo, the windows awaiting glass panes. We are SO close and can accomplish the goal of having the Training Center ready for use, and its first scheduled training, on its 10th Anniversary.
As we continue our preparations for launch of the Women One Stop Center on Sept 5th, we are also completing the construction of a separate small building for making the bricks (brick making shop). It is made of bricks manually made in the past several months by LBSI women. This brick shop will provide workers relief from working unprotected in the hot sun and strong winds. The equipment is soon to be installed in the shop and will be used to train other women in the brick making process.
How bricks are made: A mixture of soil and small measures of cement is done using very little water. The mixture is fed into the machine and the handle is brought down creating pressure on the mixture. The brick is then removed from the machine and put to dry. Bricks are put to dry and acquire firmness for 5-7 days before they are used for construction.
Why have a brick making shop? By taking on this task, LBSI will be able to make the bricks for the Training Center with the potential to make construction about 40% cheaper. We hope to expand this project after the launch of the center in September. There is already interest in the community to purchase these bricks from LBSI, which will enable us to fund our project and services after the construction of the building is complete.
We are so close to a useable center and then will move toward fund-raising and completing the second floor.
Our deepest appreciation to all who have made this possible.
Beginning in February 2014, four women and six men have been working on site in Naivasha to build the first floor of the Training Center. These workers include some of the women who are part of the Life Bloom network. This continues the tradition LBSI set forth of employing the women who they are retraining from sex work, as written about in "Steps Toward Foundation Building Underway" on January 30, 2012. We are now about two years later and only a few weeks away from the first floor of the Training Center being occupied and ready for use, which includes two classrooms and some washrooms.
Let's catch you up on what's happened the last several months!
February 2014 - Laying the foundation
March 2014 - Leveling of the classroom floor in preparation of the slab pouring;
The Circle of Concerned African Women Theologians-St Paul's University Kenya Chapter (the CIRCLE) and a representative of the World Council of Churches (WCC) lay stone and bless the project. What's symbolic about this? Churches in Kenya have been known to be the first to shun "sex work" (read: prostitution) and all that goes with it. Talk to any sex worker about the cause of stigma and the answer will most probably be the church. A number of churches are finally breaking this barrier and supporting processes that are supportive of the people who our societies shun. Bravo to the CIRCLE and WCC for leading the way and Bravo the Presbyterian Church of Tacoma-Washington State (USA) for the great donation. (Click here to access an article using an interview with Catherine Wanjohi (LBSI Founder) by the World Council of Churches)
25th - Halfway completed with the first floor walls
April 2014 - 12th, Building at 47% of the physical construction work (five weeks ahead of schedule!), at a total cost of approximately $14,895. (Kenya shillings 1,266,075)
21st - This first phase covers 1944 square feet or 175 sq meters. Building is now at the 1st floor slab level. There has been heavy downpour and flooding in some areas of Naivasha and it's not always prudent to have the construction going on when the manpower will be paid full day's work, yet they mostly will work for half day in April due to the downpour.
May 2014 - As work at the construction site proceeds, efforts are moving toward:
LBSI aims to have the first floor ready for use this September or before. We can still use your support to keep construction moving along. We are months away from Kenya's first training center for retraining female sex workers into entrepreneur enterprises so they can support themselves in a way that allows them to keep their heads held high. It's a model that continues to work and we look forward to training more women than ever before.
As always, we appreciate your support in all its ways, whether that be monetary, in person, in word, in voice, in thought... we are all connected and your positivity is felt and keeps us going strong.
Life Bloom Services International is about to celebrate our 10th birthday!
We would like to express our deepest appreciation to our Global Giving community, and our extended community members who read these reports.
Through Life Bloom in 2013:
And the ripples in the pond extend beyond that and we couldn't do it without you. We still have so far to go in the process of building the training center and every little bit helps. Once our Training Center is built, we will be able to expand our impact even more, as we'll have a stable location and not have to suffer the increases in rent that we so often do with our administrative offices and we can schedule training as needed, rather than as convenient to a location. We so look forward to the possibilities!
They scattered in every direction, some walking hastily, others literally running from one street to the other. They kept track of our movements. They thought we were the police or the children officers pursuing to arrest them. This had happened many times before; many of them have spent nights in police custody in their youthful lives. It was about 10 pm on October 2, 2013.
Thanks to Life Bloom’s program Mentor approach, two of our adult mentors, who have since left street life and now work as Program Officers at Life Bloom, were able to create a rapport with a couple of the girls. We talked a little that night from the corridors of a bar; some of them were drunk with alcohol. I was glad they could begin to realize that we are their friends, and had not come to arrest them. They are aged between 13-17 years. The majority of them are already mothers, they do not go to school, they live on their own in small rooms in the slums of Naivasha, and earn their living and support their children from proceeds earned from the streets of Naivasha: selling their bodies.
This is the world of teenage sex workers in Naivasha.
A week after this experience, I sat among the 24 of them at our facility in Naivasha: Life Bloom. The room is small in size, and some sat on the floor. Though a bit suspicious, they had agreed to meet as a group and share about their experiences.
I sense tension build up in my systems long before we started the session. I was aware that my emotions would be swaying in all directions in a short while. I kept wondering how we got “our” innocent children into this kind of life and living, many times I found myself fighting back tears of anger (towards our society) in between trying to front a re-assuring smile for the girls hoping to convey the message that “finally, you kids are home, this is your space, our space, where you can find your footing and move on with your life in dignity”.
“Tell us about yourself’’ I threw the inviting statement to the group:
The answers came: “My name is (Jane, Mary, etc). I sell my body at the lodging on Kariuki Chotara road, (or) I sell from the house where I live, I bring my clients home during the day. I do it from the streets, inside people’s cars, or just besides the big trucks at night.”
“When did you begin practicing sex work,” I asked.
“I was 9 years old; At fifteen; Last year; I don’t know because I started a long time ago,” the responses varied.
“How much are you paid?”
In flew the responses: “Sometimes 50sh (less than 1US$,) other times 200sh (2.5 $); Sometimes I have 5 men in 24 hrs, other times I go home empty handed, hoping to get clients the following day”.
“So how did you get into this trade?”
In came their responses, “I was introduced by my friends; my neighbors; my mother/sisters; I was house help and became pregnant of the man of the house, I was thrown out, I went to the streets, because I couldn’t go back home.”
The more they got into the sharing, the more these girls seemed to lose track of what the four babies who were in the room were doing. When they were served lunch, they continued to eat as their babies continued to cry; they didn’t seem the least connected to the babies, to motherhood. Our staff, Trizer, and another adult mentor, Carol, stepped in to feed the babies.
The girls disclosed how they lock up their babies in the houses at night, as they go to the streets. They talked about their own parents, some of their mothers work at the flower farms, others were sex workers too, and some of the girls are orphans. Some have been married over and over again.
My heart was pierced by their innocent looks, their referring to me as Teacher Catherine throughout the session. I kept thinking about how nice it would be to have these innocent souls in classroom one day, they looked very eager to learn.
They asked me questions too: some asked how they could get back to school, others wanted to set up businesses, others wanted to go back to their parents. A few others asked that the government set up policies that could allow them to be in the streets 24/7, and be assured of their security--they have known no other business in their lives, other than selling their bodies.
‘How do we engage these young ones to learn when we at Life Bloom are so limited in terms of resources and we at times aren’t even able to pay staff salaries?’ I kept asking myself. ‘How best can we share HOPE with them?’
What kind of a generation are we raising? I thought of what the future possibly holds for these and many other girls, the future of their babies, their natural need to live and experience their childhood like millions of other girls do by going to school. I thought of the many dangers and their level of vulnerability: domestic and international sex trafficking and sex tourism, which is becoming a fast growing and threatening industry.
Since Oct 8th, Life Bloom facility receives an average of two girls from the streets every day. They seem to know what they want with their lives: to get back on course towards living in dignity. I SEE HOPE: Life Bloom and her partners, both in Kenya and abroad, have supported more than 5000 women in the last 10 years! 703 of these women are beneficiaries of structured certificate courses supported by Project Baobab, Global Fund for Women, Global Women Water Initiative, The Presbyterian Church of Tacoma, Kenya Help, WCC/EHAIA, Circle of Concerned Woman Theologians-Kenya, Global Giving, and our many committed friends from Kenya and the USA, and many others.
And yes! There is more hope, and lots of it, too! When Life Bloom completes building the classrooms for the “One Stop Center” in Naivasha, we will offer trainings and other very needed services to at least 200 of our women and girls annually – we will have the ability for taking what Life Bloom does to a much larger scale. I and we hope that will happen soon….very soon! But we need much more support to get there!
THANKS ALL FOR BEING PART OF LIFE BLOOM'S JOURNEY SINCE 2004.
Project Reports on GlobalGiving are posted directly to globalgiving.org by Project Leaders as they are completed, generally every 3-4 months. To protect the integrity of these documents, GlobalGiving does not alter them; therefore you may find some language or formatting issues.
If you donate to this project or have donated to this project, you will get an e-mail when this project posts a report. You can also subscribe for reports via e-mail without donating or by subscribing to this project's RSS feed.