Over the last four months, under the direction of the Executive Director and founder, Catherine Wanjohi, Life Bloom has taken up tasks at a higher level, becoming active members of the Naivasha Sub County and Nakuru County committees in the areas where Life Blooms interventions are strong and recognized by the community and the government.
Through these forums, Life Bloom is now engaged at advocacy level to influence policy implementation and/or change through the government and other partner's platforms. This direct engagement is creating more platforms for the sex workers and other abused women’s and children’s voices to have a collective impact. In this way, visibility of the organization and Wanjohi’s works are also increasing, and community and stakeholders’ participation is increasing.
Key among the leading committees and networks are:
Life Bloom is involved in the following networks/committees:
Through the schools, the girls are empowered with peer mentor support skills. LBSI is the co-coordinator and in the executive committee of the Gender-based networking group in Naivasha. In the Area Advisory Committee and Probation department, LBSI offers counseling and helps in the re-integration of the survivors back to the family and society and follows-up in the progress either through the prison or community groups.
Through this, some women beneficiaries of LBSI are finding space where they are able to not only share about their transformation, yet also share their thoughts about what they believe works best for other women 's transformation as opposed to the board room created projects by some government departments and other partners. Members of the community with the most knowledge of the issues are participating in designing the steps for more positive outcomes. Fiona, one of Life Bloom’s beneficiaries and currently a member of staff, is the coordinator on issues of child abuse and assists in arranging for their safe custody in safe shelters and for counseling and legal action.
We lacked quite a lot in the past in this kind of participation and visibility. We believe that this network building is one of the most profound developments in the last couple of months, and this will of course see Life Bloom rise to a level where we can be seen as qualifying for support from the funding organizations and maybe the government as well as we move on.
Happy Holidays from Life Bloom Services International!
We invite you to view a video of Life Bloom's impact on Fiona Wanjiru, who you've read about in other project updates, and a message from Catherine Wanjohi on CitizenTV.
Read an inspiring story about Lucy Wambui, a beneficiary of Life Bloom and current Peer Counselor for Life Bloom.
We also invite you to view our holiday message hosted on Constant Contact.
In this season and in all the days throughout the year, we are grateful for your involvement with Life Bloom and count you among our family.
Warmest wishes to you this year, the next, and all to come.
Love, hope, and light,Life Bloom Services International
From the Executive Director, who visited Nancy of the Visionary Sister's group in mid-October:
To say that I was amazed would be an understatement. Nancy left the brothel on 3rd May 2012. She packed her clothes, left some behind, and left for an estate where she had rented a room.Nancy never looked back. Her sister was running a shop then (she is younger than Nancy and is one of the reasons Nancy joined sex work, to pay school fees for her siblings). Nancy joined her sister at the shop, initially for a pay, but after a few months her sister got married and planned to move to another town to join her husband. Nancy was already plowing her savings into the shop alongside her sister. By August, the sister sold her business shares to Nancy. Today, Nancy's shop has stock amounting to about $295, every shelf has items for sale. She earns about $129 per month in profit, giving her a very decent life by any Kenyan standards. This is such a great breakthrough. Nancy wakes gets to the shop at 5:30am and leaves at about 10pm! I marveled at her warm customer care skills, her swiftness, her sharp focus, and great arithmetic skills (she got these skills in the 5 months she went to school with the other 5 women in the Visionary Sister's group). Her current challenge is keeping records. We hope our partnership with Women Centers International will take care of this at the trainings and monitoring.The attached photo was taken at her shop: Catherine is with Nancy and Redempta, who has become a photographer, and is taken outside Nancy's shop.
We are blessed.
Catherine WanjohiExecutive DirectorLife Bloom Services International-LBSI
The Visionary Sisters are an outgrowth of Life Bloom Services International and are an example of the exemplary work that can be done by the women who LBSI trains for exit from sex work. Nancy had been trained through LBSI and brought others in her network along with her out of sex work.
The Visionary Sisters group members have regular meetings, and have recently been using the Internet to learn more about Women Enterprise Fund, the Government Department in the Ministry of Gender. Life Bloom has made progress to begin to work more cooperatively with the Ministry of Gender.
We would like to thank you for your continued interest and support of Life Bloom's mission to build a training center for women and girls. This training center will help to re-educate women in different careers so that they can have the skills, as well as the confidence and support, to leave the sex-work industry. Without your help, we would not have accomplished so much already. And without your continued support, our goal could not be realized as quickly.
What will be done in the coming month?
According to our Memorandum of Understanding signed between LBSI and Women Centers International – a new collaboration for Life Bloom - we shall begin recruiting women from Eastleigh for Leadership and Vocational skills training in the month of September 2012. This will give a chance for more than 40 women to receive training before the end of the year. Currently, only 3 women have received programmed training, two are doing very well in their business after leaving the brothels.
We also hope to increase fundraising through corporate connections within Naivasha and Nairobi.
What supplies are needed next?
We need bags of cement, sand and ballast and stones.
How many different women, total, have worked on the foundation?
13 women worked to dig the foundation trenches; while 15 have worked on the metal (stabilizing) bars.
What funds are left/needed to get the center to the point where LBSI can move in while the remainder is being completed?
When done with the foundation, we plan to employ a strategy of putting up one room after another, (there is a way that this is possible in Kenya). This makes it easier to approach companies or individuals that would like to have a room to their name.
(Updated details) summary of the funds raised to date:
Summary of total expenses to date:
Summary for foundation costs:
Updates derived from emails from Catherine Wanjohi, Executive Director of Life Bloom Services International
We recognize that these are difficult economic times worldwide. We deeply appreciate the continued support and compassion that our donors show us and are glad to count you among our growing family. Asante sana!
On Saturday April 7, 2012, LBSI held a special fundraiser, "Build a Women School on a Donkey Cart,” to promote the work that LBSI does in Naivasha and Nairobi, Kenya. The event was a collaborative one in that it also helped to raise awareness of the cruelty to the donkeys that pull the carts (a common form of transport for water and products/small business).
After the event, the sponsors and organizing committee met and were all in agreement that:
Event details: The donkeys pulling their carts started arriving as early as 8am for "their" event. By 9am, 28 teams had been decorated using ribbons chosen by some of the sponsors. There was cooperation from the police to help usher the event through town. The chief guest, the officer in charge of the Naivasha Maximum/Main Prison, Mr. P Mwenda, arrived in style, ready to flag of the teams. There was a local band that played some music from the corner of the Administration Police grounds where we had gathered. Most of the guests from Nairobi had arrived. And yes, our beautiful ladies who were to co-ride were here, some from Nairobi.
There was some resistance from the donkeys to adhere to the procedures of the day (forming a queue and to march through town when told). The donkey riders were dressed in yellow reflector jackets and the co-riders, who were women associated with LBSI, were dressed in orange T-Shirts with the day’s theme—Respect the Donkeys and Educate the women—printed at the back. The donkeys ended up jumping the gun, so to speak, and left into town earlier than planned. Some of the co-riders were very scared of falling off from the carts that they literally jumped out when the donkeys got excited and started running. No one was hurt, and a mix of excitement, laughter, and fear were the emotions for the day.
Activities within Naivasha came to a standstill for about half an hour, with some people wondering aloud why donkeys were matching to the tune of a band's music, some saying it was a donkey's wedding, others saying women had taken over the management of donkey transport within Naivasha (this made Catherine smile).
At the destination, the donkeys were checked for any wounds and points were awarded by the judges. The fastest teams arrived after the 2km run in less than 5 minutes. The driver for first place was awarded a bicycle, a kikoi (a piece of clothing) and the co-rider was awarded a Life Bloom bag (handmade item by LBSI members/women). The second and third place team drivers were awarded a 100 liters water plastic drum while the co-riders received a kikoi and a Life Bloom bag.
By the time the closing prayers were made and the Kenya National Anthem sang, we were all in an agreement that it was a day well spent in laughter and invaluable excitement.
We welcome any thoughts about how best to build on what was made possible by the opportunities that have emerged from this event and how can we raise additional funds. Feel comfortable to write us: lifebloomUSA@gmail.comAdditional photos of the fundraiser event available through Facebook.
As a result of the training and connection to Life Bloom that one woman has, she and multiple other women, who are not directly associated with LBSI, are working together to set their lives in a new direction. Since November, seven or more women have been working as a collaborative team—they have called themselves the Visionary Sisters—to support one another in their aims to leave the sex work industry. They hold meetings and trainings to find their talents and hone basic business and accounting skills; they have developed a loan system that enables different women each week to help grow her business. To date, 13 women are a part of this collective and seven (7) of them have returned to primary/elementary school. In the end of March, six of them were preparing for their first exams that were held in April. Catherine Wanjohi, the Executive Director of LBSI, works with the women to help prepare them for their exams and assists them in learning how to do peer instruction and tutoring. Catherine says of this process:
"Some have been a bit shy and we are working on building their self confidence! This is family, and we will stand together as sisters. One very interesting remark that the women made recently was that they not only see their businesses growing, but think that they will have a joint business in the name of "The Visionary Sisters," which is our registered name. When I heard them say that with such great confidence, I was in awe of the new visionary women, who just a couple of months ago were trapped in the brothel rooms, looking forward to nothing more than cruelty to earn their living (only leaving the rooms in the night when they went searching for clients). But I am also very aware that we need to have supportive structures that will offer the women the education they need in order to reduce chances of relapses into the life they are departing from. And this is where the construction of the Leadership and Vocational training Center becomes very important."
More photos of the women in class available on Facebook.
Thank you for remaining engaged in our work. May your week be filled with blessings.
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.