Tag: Africa

Mar 8 2010

Kenya mothers group makes shoes

By Janet Tinsley, project director, Africa region

On a sunny day in the informal settlement of Kibera in Nairobi, the Vision Mothers group members file into a small courtyard in front of one of their memberís homes for their monthly meeting. The 30 women and one man, all wearing the same cloth wrapped around their waists, heads or shoulders, find seats on benches in the shady areas of the courtyard and open the meeting.

About two years ago, the Nairobi project team introduced the idea of mothers groups to the mothers of the Kibera subproject and asked them to begin forming groups and register with the local government. The project staff intentionally left these responsibilities in the hands of the mothers, insisting that they choose for themselves which group they would join, raise the funds for registration (around $20), and complete the registration process before asking the project for further support.

At the Nairobi project, the mothers group model operates from the basic belief that mothers are capable, resourceful people.

“We realized that whenever we called a parent meeting, it was the mothers who showed up,” Peter Ndungo, Nairobi project coordinator, said. “In our culture, the mothers are the ones [who are] most concerned with the well-being of children, so it made the most sense to work with them.”

At todayís meeting, the topic for discussion was finding a space to rent for their shoemaking business. Earlier this year, the group started learning to make and sell shoes as a way to add to their group loan fund.

The Vision Mothers came up with the unique idea for the shoemaking business through trial and error. Their original idea was to start a trash removal service in their community, but they soon realized that there were already many other groups doing this.

“We didnít want conflict with the other groups, so we decided to change our business idea,” the group chairperson explains.

Shoemaking, a craft that is typically dominated by men in Kenya, is a nontraditional endeavor for the women. Nonetheless, the Vision Mothers saw shoemaking as an opportunity to make good profits and provide a much needed commodity for their community, but CFCA families are only some of the many customers they hope to serve in Kibera.

Some tools of the shoemaking trade

Some tools of the shoemaking trade

With the sale of their first batch of shoes, the group made a profit of about $130, and in the future, they hope to use the profits to start a resource and training center that would include a meeting hall and computer training for the members and the community.

Today is International Women’s Day! Read (and watch!) more inspiring stories about the women of CFCA:

Strength and power
An opportunity for women(Part 1)
Support in a time of need (Part 2)
Mothers share their talents to improve their community (Part 3)
Creating role models close to home (Part 4)

Oct 13 2009

The miracle tree

By Joanna Sabally, CFCA project specialist for the Africa region

Moringa leavesI was a Peace Corps volunteer in a rural community in the Gambia, West Africa from 2003-2005. I had an opportunity to learn more about moringa oliefeira, also known as the ìMiracle Tree.î As part of my training, I learned about the nutritional benefits and uses of moringa, which was already widespread in the area. Moringa trees are small but mighty; they have an extremely high content of several vitamins and minerals, including calcium, iron, vitamin C. It also has high protein content.

Organizations in the region were promoting its use to combat malnutrition in pregnant women and young children. Generally, families in my community used the moringa plant to make leaf sauce, but there are many other uses to the plant as well. I promoted the more intensive use of moringa leaves as a healthy supplement to food, and encouraged women not to dump water drained from moringa sauces, but to drink it as a tea instead.

I grew the moringa tree intensively in my backyard and dried its leaves in the shade, so as not to lose nutrients. I would pound the leaves with a mortar and pestle and sifted them to make moringa powder. Although the moringa leaf has a somewhat strong smell and flavor, a few tablespoons of the powder can be blended into any sauce as a nutrition supplement without impacting the flavor too much. I ate the powder frequently myself, and worked with each family in the village to sensitize them about all the benefits of the plant. Adding about four tablespoons a day to a child or pregnant motherís daily food intake can make a dramatic difference in their health.

Moringa seeds can also be used to purify water, the seed pods can be eaten, and the bark and roots have medicinal uses, although parts of the roots are slightly poisonous. It does truly seem to be a ìmiracle tree.î

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Aug 11 2009

August isn’t back-to-school month for everyone

As U.S. students prepare for the onset of school, students in other countries have already taken mid-terms.

That’s right. For students in many countries where CFCA works, school does not start in August or September.

The school year in Central America started in January or February. Those lucky children are only two months away from the end of school. Schoolchildren in India and the Philippines are already into their third month of the school year. And students in Kenyaówell, they follow the British system and attend school all year, with long breaks at the end of each quarter.

Find the school calendar for your friend on the graph below.

School calendar

Related links
Time for school

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Jul 2 2009

Celebrating freedom

On the Fourth of July, Americans will gather to celebrate Independence Day with fireworks, parades and picnics. Although the United States and the countries CFCA partners with do not celebrate independence on the same date, we share many customs and events.

In Central America, most countries celebrate their independence on Sept. 15 with parades and music. The running of the Central American Freedom Torch from Guatemala to Costa Rica, taking a total of 14 days, reenacts the news of their independence spreading through Central America.

South Americans celebrate with large celebrations, flying flags, parades, fireworks and feasting. In India, all cities have Flag Hoisting Ceremonies run by politicians and other officials. Indian schoolchildren gather to sing songs and watch the hoisting of the flag.

Under colonization, Haitians were forbidden to eat soup, a meal reserved for the upper classes. Now on Independence Day, it is traditional to eat soup to demonstrate the equality of all citizens.

People of the Philippines celebrate their independence with ceremonies, historic exhibitions and memorial events. Festivities begin with a flag-raising ceremony and parade in the historic city of Cavite, where Filipinos first proclaimed their independence.

We would like to encourage you to research how the country your friend lives in celebrates its independence. And from all of us at CFCA, we wish you a safe and wonderful Independence Day.

The Independence Days of the countries CFCA partners with are listed below.

Jan. 1
Haiti
Feb. 27
Dominican Republic
May 24
Ecuador
June 12
Philippines
June 26
Madagascar
July 5
Venezuela
July 20
Colombia
July 26
Liberia
July 28
Peru
Aug. 6
Bolivia
Aug. 15
India
Sept. 7
Brazil
Sept. 15
Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua
Sept. 16
Mexico
Sept. 18
Chile
Oct. 9
Uganda
Dec. 9
Tanzania
Dec. 12
Kenya

 

Updated July 1, 2011

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May 1 2009

Breaking rocks for a living

Today, much of the international community is celebrating Labor Day, also known as International Workers’ Day. Labor Day recognizes the social and economic achievements of laborers. Though much has been accomplished for workers, including safer working conditions and representation through labor unions, workers like those in Tanzanian rock quarries still labor under very difficult conditions.

Mary Dawn Reavey, the Dar es Salaam project coordinator in Tanzania, gives us a look at the working conditions of people who break rocks for a living.

Story by Reavey, and video by Freddie (sponsored) and Emma (formerly sponsored).

Freddie, Emma and I interviewed and filmed some guardians of sponsored children who break rocks for a living. Because many parents die from AIDS, their children are often raised by guardians such as uncles, aunts, brothers or sisters.

At a quarry outside Dar es Salaam, workers break rocks near the road to be more accessible to potential customers. To protect them from the blazing sun, the workers construct a covering with sticks and old flour sacks.

They pound rocks for at least eight hours a day, starting around 6 a.m. to avoid the intense midday heat. CFCA is helping many of these guardians start small businesses, allowing them to significantly reduce the time they spend breaking stones, or stop altogether.
Read more

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Mar 13 2009

Letters + watercolors = land for a family

By Marcia Willman, CFCA director of child services

Kinya standing next to her sheepAt 11, Kinya knows how important an education is for her future because she is growing up where there often isn’t one.

One day I received a letter from Kinya that changed both of our lives. She wrote, ìI’m now at a new school Ö This is because we moved after eviction. I’m still working hard.î I knew that Kinya, her mom and two older brothers were squatters on government land at the foot of Mount Kenya, but this word, eviction, caught me by surprise.

It is obvious that Kinya is loved deeply by her mom. Kinya is a joyous child. She is a good story teller. She shares her life with me in every letter that she writes. Her stories bring us together and build the bonds of our friendship. So when I heard that word eviction, I knew I had to help her.

I chose to sponsor Kinya because she is being raised by a single mother who struggles to put food on the table and pay rent because she can find occasional odd jobs. I know the challenges of being a single mom because I am one, too. Thus, I feel compelled to help another woman and mother in less fortunate circumstances provide the most basic needs of food and shelter for her family.

I have been painting with watercolors for years. I never considered marketing or selling my art until trying to figure out a way to help Kinya. I finally realized that I could use my God-given talent to help my friend.

For more than two years I have been on a mission to sell my paintings. Along the way, I won the right to call myself an artist. I send the proceeds from my art sales to help Kinya’s family. Last April Kinyaís family was able to purchase half an acre of fertile, productive farm land.

Ann radiates happiness.Kinya’s mom, Ann, immediately planted row after row of corn and potatoes to take advantage of the pending rainy season. Ann proved to be hard-working and industrious. Along the way, she proudly rose to the role of provider. While weeding with a hoe in hand, Ann beams in the photos I received from Project Timau. Annís smile demonstrates her strength to overcome adversity when given the opportunity. It shows she believes her family has a future.

So, Kinya’s house was built. Ann’s first crops were harvested. And, Kinya’s family bought two sheep because they were able to feed themselves and generate enough income by laboring on their own land. Along the way, Kinya found comfort and a safe haven from eviction. ìAt last I’m enjoying rains in a nice house that doesn’t leak. Thanks a lot for making my life happy Ö You are part of my life, I cherish your care.î Once again, I received another letter from Kinya that changed my life. It feels wonderful to be an artist, to help another single mom and to be cherished by Kinya!

You can see Marcia’s paintings by visiting her Web site, watercolorsforacause.org.

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Jan 19 2009

Creating King’s beloved community

By Paco Wertin, CFCA chief executive officer

No individual can live alone, no nation can live alone, and anyone who feels that he can live alone is sleeping through a revolution. The world in which we live is geographically one. The challenge that we face today is to make it one in terms of brotherhood.

ñ Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., 1968

I see and feel a kinship with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and CFCA as we celebrate his birthday.

He believed in the beloved community, in which all people can share the wealth of the earth and that obstacles like poverty, racism and war can be overcome if we learn to resolve conflict non-violently, together.

I find an echo of that in the words of CFCA president and co-founder, Bob Hentzen:

“Building community is essentially an effort to reestablish the basic freedom of God’s humble people. In striving to build a community in the style of Jesus, we can expect opposition and persecution. We want to promote a new view of globalization, one in which we put into international motion a true sharing of the resources of God’s creation. We want the resources and goods of this earth to favor unity, not separation.”

This community is based on new relationships forged between those who have and those who do not have what is necessary to live. The first step is overcoming obstacles. Obstacles can be lack of nutrition, lack of access to health care, education and skills development, and lack of community and hope. The next step is having choices. Having choices means freedom. So free from the obstacles, we can be free for creating community.

CFCA communities in India and Africa express their desire to overcome all that is in the way of forging these new relationships by singing “We Shall Overcome” at their gatherings.

We join them in that song and deep in our heart, in kinship with Dr. King, we pray:

With you, O God, we are a liberating force of love in our world today.

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