My daughter and I visited Kenya Africa this past summer with an amazing group, Mercy House. It was one of those experiences that changes who you are, and makes it difficult to come back to the life you left, and see things the same. There are so many amazing things that KristenWelch and her family do, that I can't even begin to describe them all. There was one day and group, that touched me so deeply I have carried them home in my heart. They call themselves Have Hope, and all I can say is, they have given me hope. I thought we would visit Kenya, and touch their lives and maybe we did, but meeting these women has changed my life.
The Have Hope woman live in one of Kenya's slums. They suffer from extreme poverty. They live in shacks, that are about 12ft by 12ft built with mud walls, corrugated tin roofs and dirt floors. These shacks often house up to 8 or more people with a lot of them sleeping on the floor. There is no electricity, or running water. The average Kenyan lives on less than a dollar a day. You can imagine the contrast for my daughter and I, Huntington Beach to the Kenyan slums.We had seen pictures, but it's one of those things that you have to experience to take in the vastness of it. You know the saying, a picture is worth a thousand words. The reality is after experiencing it, the pictures we saw did little to prepare us. There aren't a thousand words to adequately describe it. It was incredibly humbling.
We meet the woman at a room, they rent weekly for church. There wasn't any electricity, and we sat in plastic chairs. The woman came in with their bright clothes, and big smiles that lite up the room. This group of women have been meeting since 2010 to worship, but have only been making jewelry for over a year. They meet weekly for church, and weekly to make jewelry for fair trade Friday. It is amazing, how being able to feed their children and pay schools fees has changed these women's lives. We sang with the ladies, and one of them preached to us about hope, about taking care of each other, hardship and about the love of God. Then these ladies gave us shirts. Shirts that they had made, and paid for out of the little money they have.
These women aren't just artisans for Fair Trade Friday, but they are also entrepreneurs. They have formed a Merry-Go-Round; a women's saving club, with the money they make. They each are paid for the jewelry they sale, and then they put a percentage of that money into a basket that the ladies then donate to one of the woman in the group that is in need. Every single women in there could use that extra money, but instead these women make a huge sacrifice for one another. There are twenty woman, so it ends up being forty dollars. They take the money to the woman that they have chosen that month, and visit with her and pray with her about her hardships. It is incredible because, they share each other's burdens. This woman can now, buy food for the month, and pay school fees. They also put a few dollars into a savings, and with that money they have saved enough money to buy a piki piki (motorcycle). Piki piki are used as taxis in Kenya. They hired a driver, and they pay him and the insurance, and make a little money from that each month. And now they are saving to buy another motorcycle. Rewind a year ago, and these women were poor, and in despair and feeling hopeless. Look at them now.
As I stood there, and listened to all this I couldn't help but cry at the harshness of their reality, but at the incredible story of hope that these women are. In the midst of so much despair and poverty, they found hope. They radiated hope. They gave me hope. I thought we were there to give them something, but it turns out we were the beneficiaries of the gift. The gift of love, of hope, of what God can do, and a t-shirt. My favorite color is yellow, and so of course that happened to be the color of the t-shirt they gave us. If these women can create hope in a slum in Kenya, what can I do from Huntington Beach, or what can you do from where you are? It's a question worth asking. Believe me, ever since I returned home, I have asked myself that question daily. You can start by buying a set a stackabilities from the Have Hope Women. Think of the endless possibilities that a little hope can create.