Progress Report from 2009 March/April Service Trip

Each year of HARAMBEE’s short existence has been different from every other; flexibility & openness, after all, are gifts of being young and small.  Among our ongoing projects: Craft group formation & marketing, solar cooker education & distribution, oral rehydration, health care needs assessment, clinic donations, “Animals for Africa,”  Zambia poultry co-op, children’s porridge program, & telemedicine. These all call on special talents of those helping HARAMBEE to succeed, spreading visibility in the U.S. & our presence among the neediest in Africa.

This year has been no different, but we paid special attention to the crafts support program during the most recent service trip to Africa. It was especially fruitful due to HEIDI HORAN--an energetic & creative person who’s been enormously helpful behind the scenes with ideas for HARAMBEE gift cards, marketing of our crafts, jewelry design, & fundraising. 
On March 19 we set out together for Nairobi, her first trip to “the dark continent.” But first an introductory story about our first meeting--two years ago, almost exactly. My flight leaving Nairobi after a grueling 3-week mission was delayed & I was cranky knowing I would miss my connecting American Airlines flight in London. At the Heathrow service desk I was courteously placed on the next flight to Chicago. It occurred to me that I should say a word of thanks to someone at AA for their Frequent Flier program—which has saved thousands of dollars in airfares to Africa & back. On board I stopped a flight attendant. She asked questions about HARAMBEE’s work, so I gave her one of our beaded HIV pins & my card. To my astonishment & delight, by the time I reached home she had emailed all her friends & colleagues, asking them to visit the HARAMBEE website. A number of them made online donations via PayPal. That flight attendant was Heidi, & she’s been working tirelessly on HARAMBEE’s behalf ever since, including joining our board of directors. (Yippee!)  This spring we finally were able to travel together so that she could see all the people she’s been helping.
But wait, there’s more…! We focused on improving quality & introducing new items that we think will be popular in the U.S. Heidi packed her suitcases with jewelry-making tools, large crochet hooks, & plastic grocery bags (yes!).   I watched in amazement as she became the Pied Piper of Plastic, crocheting her way through Kenya. Everyone wanted to make the plastic totes from grocery bag strips (including the solar cooker educator, who showed up with a hat she’d crocheted from bags). We came home with a suitcase full of totes & will happily take your order for these durable items which help to recycle, clean up the environment, & provide income to HARAMBEE-sponsored groups in Kenya. Because of Heidi’s influence, unusual new HARAMBEE jewelry is available for order, and we will soon have photos on the website for your review. It’s even more strikingly beautiful “in person.”  
So…I can give a good report on the groups making crafts. But because I have no experience in marketing or business, I don’t know how to get a wider market for these marvelous items. If you are able to help out, let me know. Even with the economic downturn, people will buy holiday & birthday gifts, and your support literally saves lives!  
What else we did: We sponsored another solar cooker workshop & sent 40 women home with cookers— also used to pasteurize water. I visited EgertonUniversity in Nakuru, where we hope to expand our telemedicine work. Our most dramatic task, & the most painful, is visiting KaluokiVillage in southeastern Kenya. This area is terribly hurt by drought & we have been providing porridge or beans & corn to the schoolchildren for lunch. Because so many children faint from hunger after walking to school, the lunch hour has been moved up from 1 pm to 11 am. We’ll be bringing a medical helper quarterly to de-worm all the children improving their health & nutritional status.    We soon will introduce “moon pads” to the teachers for distribution to adolescent girls. These are washable, reusable sanitary pads so that girls won’t have to miss a week’s school every month. This should lead to increased graduation rates for girls. Want to help with this? Email or phone me!  Many thanks for your interest & continuing support.    KBH