Last Saturday morning I sat on the edge of a group of busy young ladies sitting on plastic mats, their heads bent over loops of fishing line, small bowls of beads balanced in their laps. I spoke some words of encouragement to them as they strive towards a different future for themselves, and their families. My friend Sarah graciously translated for me, as my Swahili is still painfully slow. When I had tried to communicate what God had put on my heart for these beautiful girls, Sarah took over with a pep talk of her own. I didn't have to speak Turkana to know that she is also passionate for the hearts of this future generation of women. I speak zero Turkana, so I wasn't even paying attention, until some Swahili words caught my ear. Sarah raised her voice to make sure everyone was listening, and asked "Mkono yangu?" The girls each responded, "Nguvu yangu." She turned to explain to me, but I had understood. Not just the Swahili, but the principle behind the proverb.
We have lived in Lokichoggio for ten months now. It has been fulfilling, rewarding, and enjoyable in so many ways, and a real struggle in other ways. This county has many strikes against it:
-tribal insecurity leading to many cattle raids (translation: completely losing your livelihood, your family's wealth, and potentially your parents themselves)
-semi-arid climate (very little rain, rocky soil)
-remote location with terrible roads (difficult to import/export from our area)
-tribalism (business owners hire people from their own tribes, and Turkana find it more difficult to get jobs in the cities as well.)
-corruption and nepotism (its all who you know, and what you can afford to pay)
-losing the traditional lifestyle of semi nomadic herders, moving to town without any means of livelihood
-a history of depending on outside aid
And those are just the ones that we have come up against in our time here. Poverty and hopelessness is the norm. It is difficult to see a future beyond the cycle of poverty. And poverty is very complex; more money cannot fix the problem. The lack of finances is only one problem. We will never fix all the issues mentioned above. At 12, 15, 17, I don't know how much these young ladies understand the bigger picture either. But what they do know is that if they are going to see anything happen, it will be because they have done it for themselves. These girls represent those who are willing to take their futures into their own hands, literally. They know the words of that proverb are true: your strength comes from your hands. Or your brain. Or your heart. It comes from taking responsibility for yourself. I am so proud of them for seeing possibilities beyond the hopelessness they are seeing in front of them. They are using a skill that they have to try to make money to send themselves to school, including paying for the other necessary items like shoes and feminine hygiene needs.
So, I'd like to share with you some of their faces, and some examples of what they can do.
- school colors with school initials, and class of 2016, for seniors, or to use as a fundraiser
- a group such as Campus Crusade chapter could use it as their own ministry project, to work towards selling enough bracelets on their campus to send one of these girls to school.
- to support or advertise an event coming up at your church or other group. such as, youth groups passing them out at school.
- a fundraiser for a mission trip or other event, with the flags of your home country and destination
- stocking stuffers or party favors
- if you work with Pampered Chef, Thirty-one, or any number of other relationally based retail, consider having a small basket of items to set out at your home parties
- if you have a small business such as a store or a coffeeshop, you could put out a few out to sell
- if you work in the medical field, you could give cancer awareness items for gifts
- you could simply choose to support a young woman in the amount of her school fees, and be surprised at the variety and creativity she comes up with, then use these for gifts
Everything is made to order. If you don't have anything specific in mind, we can send you a variety. Or, you can specify just certain colors, but different patterns. There is potential for anything you can think of, just ask. Please plan ahead, to allow enough time for your order to be completed and to find its way from northern Kenya to you! If you might be interested or have any questions, please leave your email as a comment. You can request a sample with your specific design, and I can send you a picture for your consideration. Thank you!
Our prayer, and challenge, for this special group of young women:
"For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart!" Jeremiah 29:11-13