Finally tucked in on the long flight from Nairobi’s Kenyatta Airport to London Heathrow for the fifth time in as many years, I glanced at my i-phone in the few minutes before collapsing into a deep rest. The hairs on my arms were standing tall as I perused the week’s photos from our days in Kibagare and the Maasai Mara. I stopped on a section of photos taken the last full day of our visit to St Martins School and found that this series of amateur selfies and such brought me new feelings of excitement and hope. All my trips to St. Martins have been unique and special and each time I feel closer to the community and its amazing people. But this was new and special.
For the past several years Sister Emmah has been talking to me about the Kibagare Moms. She has shared with me the difficulties they face in daily life in the informal settlement where thousands of dwellers live stacked on top of each other with few public services. Sister Emmah seems to know each one individually and has personally helped many start small businesses, become productive, look for housing and more. Somehow Sister Emmah has capacity to not only run a full two- stream primary school but also look out for many of her pupils' parents. A few years ago, she took me to visit the family of one of my sponsored students and I was very impacted by the visit. Our team of volunteers and sponsors have asked ourselves “what can we do in the community to help so that our students have the same opportunities to succeed once they go home as our own children do?”
This visit we took the first step toward reaching out to this welcoming group of hard working moms. We set out to have a simple cup of coffee with them but four hours later we found ourselves moved, motivated, inspired and thankful for these moms and what they shared with us. With the help of Angela Maloba, a wonderful community liaison helping in Kibagare, we were able to sing, pray, laugh and talk with our moms. The group has started a support group where they meet regularly to share and collaborate. They have developed a sophisticated co-op where they invest in their collective best ideas and acutely analyze their returns. Our group included two CEOs who felt these moms could stand up against most CEOs from Silicon Valley to Motor City. One example is Lydia, a mom who runs a hotel, vegetable market and also serves hot beans in two sizes to hungry dwellers passing by her prime location on Main Street in the slum. They welcomed us to a tour of their dwellings and businesses and homes.
I was really moved by these women and their passion and desire to make their families successful and healthy. They welcomed us with song and dance and their talent and smiles were unforgettable. We agreed that our new horizon would be more collaborating activities with these incredible women. On other visits passing through the slum’s main street I have always felt a bit of fear and frankly some distance. We usually go safely into the school’s gate and rarely have had the opportunity to venture around. Going on a tour with our dear mothers brought our Ohana much closer to the community. As wiser people have said, "it takes a village to raise a child." We open our Ohana arms to the Kibagare community.
Asante Sana Kibagare!