Wednesday, March 12, 2014

RAY OF HOPE 2014: Empowerment!

Kirsti with the workshop participants

Today was a day for me to dig in and work hard. Part of the work I am doing in Nairobi is with two small non-profits, eMentor and Youth Banner. Both programs support entrepreneur’s by giving them training and mentoring to start their own businesses. The work I am doing this week is with individuals who have gone through training programs, and have been out running their own businesses for a period of time. The workshops I am leading focus on how they can build a solid foundation for their businesses and how to grow them.
Kirsti teaching skills to empower!

We had everything from rice and potato farmers, to caterers, clothing merchants, tailors, graphic designers and hawkers.  We did a lot of the work that I would normally do with clients – defined their core values, their SWOT analysis, what their brand promise is and how they will measure their success.  We spent time practicing their “pitch”, developing their messaging and putting together their execution plan. A lot of work for one day, but so valuable.
So, what did I learn,~ you ask. Very simply that the gifts I have been given to do this work, need to continue to be given. Plain and simple. The last two days of being immersed in the school system gave me a strong foundation to work from in offering examples and suggestions. The ability to tell stories from local organizations made all the difference. I’m grateful to the schools we visited earlier this week, who shared their visions with me. As well, I am grateful for the amazing women I continue to meet, who are building their communities, one step at a time.


Hendrika and Evelyn teaching Karen how to correctly use
a toilet
Coming to Kenya will either put you in a faith crisis tailspin or make God more real than you ever thought possible. And sometimes you experience both within hours of each other.

Today I heard stories of corruption and greed that cause so many to suffer. I saw hungry and sick adults and children. From the safety of a car, I saw people sitting on garbage heaps, hawkers accosting passers-by, and shanty-town after shanty-town. I saw gorgeous deluxe housing shadowing the tin shacks of people living in a 12 by 12 room with entire huge families. I saw a sink drain with no connecting pipe once it passed through a wall, so the dirty water just fell to the floor of the next room.

How can people have so little when there is so much wealth in the world? Where is God in the midst of this injustice and suffering?

One acquires quads of steel when using
the toilet here
And then I see the resilience of the people. People who are doing so much with so little! People with dreams deeper and wider than mine. People who live in the midst of suffering every day and meet it with joy. People whose hearts keep opening up to others in need, to share what little they have with no sense of scarcity.

And it is there, right there in the laughter of these resilient people, that I see God.

It's always great to connect with folks from home: Kirsti and Karen had dinner with Glide member Josh Biddle, and San Franciscan Mike McCaffrey and his girlfriend Sara Quinn. Mike works for MicroSave and has set up and institution to do research and training on the use of cell phones for financial services and Sara works the International Potato association which  promotes sustainable agriculture

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