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.
Thank you for your support of the Life Bloom Services International School/Training Center building project.
From January 17th-21st, three women began additional training and work toward the construction of the Training Center/School with funds raised between November and December. This training was on how to cut and bend metal rods that will eventually be used to strengthen the foundation once concrete can be poured.
The women received $5 per day, plus $2 toward transportation. This is over and above the $3.50 that is normally the pay for unskilled labor. LBSI takes into consideration that we are empowering the women and assisting in meeting their daily food and housing needs.
The women say the first day was hard for them. Yet by the second day, their palms/hands had started getting used to the pressure needed to do the job. By Jan 20, when most of the photos were taken, even the gentleman in charge of the construction company were impressed with the women’s work and called Catherine, the Executive Director, to say that the women were actually outdoing the men who trained them. Catherine commented to herself, this is "the power of a woman who has made a choice to move on.”
Fiona, one of the three trained women, called Catherine to say that now she knows there is no longer any reason to sell her body for money, because as a woman, she realizes she can do anything that men can do…and even do it better (that was after the contractor passed along the compliment).
Fiona and the two women are ready to train more women when LBSI has enough money to buy the remaining metal rods, and pay for the expert labor and that of the women.
Since the foundation of the training center will need many rods, there is still quite a bit of work to do in this phase. It will cost $6546 to purchase the remaining metal rods and an additional $1635to pay for the labor and construction for bending the rods.
Once LBSI has enough rods, we will buy cement and the sand and bricks plus ballast for us to move on with the foundation: the total cost for the foundation is $46,656.
The training and work sessions were carried out from a neighboring piece of land where construction is happening. The training site does not have the minimal security required to leave such valuable construction materials on the property. A small storage building has already been vandalized, so LBSI has been storing materials at a neighboring site where there are security guards.
Summary of the funds raised to date:1. Funds from within Kenya: $5058 2. Global Giving site: $8232 3. Directly through Kenya Help or the LBSI account: $9752 Totals: $23042
Summary of total expenses to date:1. Purchase of piece of land and change of ownership process: $7883 2. Discounted Structural drawings/Designs - $2176 3. Discounted Approvals by the Government of Kenya: $8824. Fencing off of piece of land and construction of site store: $12415. Purchase of materials, constructions to date and labor costs: $10,832 Total: $23014
Friday, September the 23rd 2011, it was all systems go as 16 women and 11 men embarked on digging the trenches for the foundation of their school. There was song and dance, punctuated by "energizing breaks" and media interviews on the first day.
The women were determined to prove to the community around and the world at large that they too can do construction work. The company contracted to do the construction (TRIKEI Construction Limited) is in a formal agreement with Life Bloom Services International that 75% of all labor will come from the women, and that they will be trained as masons and a few of them as supervisors during the construction process. They will graduate with certificates as the "One Stop Center" is finally commisioned upon completion.
The sixteen women and 2 women supervisors, Lucy and Phiona, will be earning an average of US $5 per day, which is way above the average pay for non-skilled labor (US$ 3.5). Apart from helping the women meet their families basic needs, and keeping them away from the harsh conditions of "street sex work", the women are also challenging the community's notion that construction work is mainly a man's job! It's great to experince the enthusiasm in the women.
The Daily Newspaper- The STAR- featured the story on Monday Oct the 26th 2011, calling it "Naivasha Sex Workers to Benefit from Rhab Project".
Life Bloom's team thanks all who have given donations towards supporting this worthy project so far! Apart from buying the materials needed for construction, your donation of at least US$ 10 will support a female- led- household for two whole days, helping them not only meet their basic needs, but also have some savings for education and other needs!
This is the way to go!
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