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.
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