Last Saturday 70 girls from Kibera gathered in a school hall for our ‘Young ladies day’. Ladies from Kenya, Holland and the UK joined together to teach these girls about issues that affect each one of them such as relationships, sexual abuse and who they are in Christ. The main attraction of the day was distributing re-useable sanitary towels. If you’ve grown up in the western world then you may think that re-using a sanitary towel sounds disgusting, however if your options are using is a dirty cloth, staying at home or, in some cases, using cow manure, re-usable towels begin to look like a better option, a much better option. The organization who designed the towels put a lot of research into them to make sure that they have the best material which is comfortable, lasts for 1 year and is disposed of through burning (it doesn’t give out harmful smoke). Editor, who works for the company, kept the girls entertained for an hour showing them exactly how to look after their towels and how to best wash them so that they can be clean and last for the year. The day was a success with each girl receiving not only sanitary towels for the year but also lessons for life!
My expired visa meant that we had to get out of East Africa before it can be renewed, and seeing as we had to go all that way, we thought, why not make the most of it and take a break!? So, here's some of our highlights from out week in Ethiopia:
It seemed like almost all visitors to Ethiopia used private taxis instead of the local bus system, but us being us, we decided to go along with the locals; after a few days we realised why tourists avoid them... We were on a bus where the seats were already taken when a group of old ladies got on and some young men politely got up and allowed them to take their seats. However, one young man wasn't so polite and decided to pick-pocket one of the ladies. Another man saw and began yelling at the thief and slapping him! When the other men around realised what had happened, they also joined in with the yelling and slapping until the bus got to the next stop where he was thrown out. Then the conductor went after him and asked for the fare! I couldn't help but giggling to myself at all the commotion and i hope that thief learnt his lesson!
Ordering food was an interesting game! We went to a town called Ziway and one morning decided to go to a small local cafe for breakfast. Lox already had in mind what he wanted and ordered 'fish blub-blub'. The waiter said 'yes, no problem'. So i went on to order some eggs and local 'injera'. Again the waiter said 'no problem' and went on his way. Around 10 minutes later he came back with a big plate of fish and i asked again about the egg of which he replied 'no problem' and then went to sit down for some coffee... I guess that's all the English he knew! Another day, Lox asked for some sauce for his food, and about 20 mins later when we were about to leave, a waiter comes out with a bowl of soup for him! After a couple of attempts we took to ordering whatever we wanted and eating whatever we ended up getting!!
We enjoyed our week in Ethiopia, we made good friends, ate good food and laughed many laughs; what more could we ask for!?
It started in Vietnam last year where I got the privilege of volunteering at a great project called Sozo. My volunteering hours were mostly filled up with teaching English at a social level so I would get to drink coffee and play ultimate Frisbee with Vietnamese students who were keen to practice their English. But Sozo went much deeper. It was started by two 18 year old volunteers who were working amongst the poor people of Vietnam and they decided to teach these people to bake and sell cookies. After a while, they got an opportunity to take things a step further and rented out the front of a shop where they had a display case for baked goods and space for a small table with two chairs. Every time they had an opportunity to employ, they would employ someone who had no skills, or a disability and who would otherwise be jobless and with no way of getting themselves out of poverty. Over the years their business has flourished, and now they have a 3 floor café and many employees who would be unlikely to get work elsewhere.
From the time I volunteered there, I had the dream at the back of my mind that something like that could work here in Kenya. I’ve spend quite a bit of time with the street women and women from the slums, and I’ve seen that one mistake (such as a teenage pregnancy), could destine a woman here to a life of poverty. Education is one of the best escape routes, but if they miss that boat then the women here have pretty much lost their chances of ‘making it’ in life here. With these thoughts going on in my head, I made a friend at Church called Jackie. Jackie’s in her early twenties and dropped out of school after she was finished with her primary education because her family couldn’t afford for her to go to secondary school. When her family fell into further financial crisis, they reluctantly sent her to Nairobi to look for a job as a house help (Basically a house maid/nanny). She’s been doing that job since she was 15. One day I got a text from her saying that she had to leave the place where she was working because she was being mistreated and had nowhere to go. Lox and I offered for her to come and stay until she could get herself another job. After a few weeks she got another job as a house help, but the work was very difficult and she came back again to stay with us.
That’s when we started to think of an alternative. My biggest barrier to doing Sozo in Kenya was that I couldn’t sell, or do business at all unless I had thousands of pounds to get a business visa. However, I could teach Jackie, and Jackie could sell and Jackie could do business. When I suggested the idea, Jackie was 100% for it. And so we began. There was just one catch, we had no oven! But what we did have was a pop-cake maker (like a tostie maker with holes to fill with dough that made small round cakes), a wedding gift from my lovely sister. And so we began with pop-cakes. We spread the news to our neighbours and friends at Church and orders were coming quite regularly. Then we shared the news with a small group which we’re a part of, and one of the men was curious about the whole thing. He asked about the resources which we have and what kind of cakes we made and after he was done asking, he said that he has an oven at home, and the hobs on the top don’t work, but the oven works fine and would we like it!? We were so excited! We got the oven, and it worked perfectly. After a bit of experimenting with different baked goods, we decided to try out Chelsea buns-they were a hit! Currently we’re supplying 4 small shops and several friends with Chelsea buns and Jackie gets orders daily! We’re dreaming big and like Sozo in Vietnam, I want to give opportunities for those who might not have a chance in other places. It also happens to be that more of the street women who I work with are going through a 9 month rehabilitation program, so I’m hoping that by the time their finished, I might be in a place to employ them and give them an opportunity to live a better life. Its small beginnings, but I’m excited to see where God will take Sozo Kenya in the future! We're going to do our best and let God do the rest!
Welcome to my blog! In case you didn't already know, I'm Ruth. In 2010 I graduated from University and before I even had time to settle down and get a job I felt a tug on my heart to go to Kenya for a few years to help in any way I could. When I arrived it was love at first sight; I loved the more relaxed way of life, the way Kenyans would laugh at EVERYTHING and the way people would put people first. On my first day there I also met Lox, a tall, dark & handsome African man who had the same passions in life as me and the more we worked & laughed together the more we fell in love & after a couple of years of dating we tied the knot & got married. Now I live, work, eat & sleep Kenya. It's great to be able to help those who are in some ways less fortunate than me but amazingly I always feel that I'm the one who gets blessed and learns so much from the people I try to help and from everything I do. Enjoy my blogs which give you a taste of this crazy yet wonderful life I lead.