Peperuka

Peperuka – ‘to soar’ in Swahili.

I met the founder of this company a couple of years ago at a Christmas market in Nairobi. I had seen their tee shirts around town and was rapt to be able to get Liz a tee shirt that said ‘I love Nairobi’. The shirt has done her well but since Liz has lost weight, it’s time to downsize.

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Wherever I go, I’m always grabbing business cards of interesting people, because you never know when you’ll need them. I’m constantly on the lookout for guest speakers at a program I’m involved in called The Girl Project. While my team does the majority of work, my role is to make sure there is an interesting speaker to inspire the girls. To say they are from disadvantaged situations is an understatement.

These students live in a 3 by 3 metre tin shack in the Kibera Slum. Their parents (mostly single mums) struggle to earn $5 a day. The girls often leave home at 5.30 in the morning for school and don’t get home until 7pm. We created The Girl Project not only to make sure they get sanitary products, but leadership and mentoring by Kenyan businesswomen.

Hence – Peperuka.

Why I love their work, is that they are proudly Kenyan – Africa is their home and want to show the inspirational side of it through design and clothing. I also like how they don’t compromise on quality. Too many times here I’ve seen second class quality on goods and it frustrates me, because it doesn’t have to be this way. I heard someone run a quote that went something along the lines of ‘We won’t see change until we as Kenyans stop accepting that we are worthy of only being second class’.

wangari

I agree. I’m always telling our students ‘if you want to be treated first class, you have to be thinking first class, cause our actions come out of our thoughts’.

Just last weekend we have the founder of Peperuka, Wangari and one of her team, Mary come and speak to our girls. I think it was the most impacting message the students had heard for a long time. It wasn’t just about the design and clothing industry, it was about lessons they had learnt in their own personal lives. Making the right choices can have a HUGE impact on our lives.

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I wish people in the West could get a real picture of some of the amazing people we have here in Kenya. Unfortunately, good news doesn’t sell. I am privileged to be able to meet these people and I am proud to share about them.

When you see me this year, you’ll see me wearing some of the tee shirts made by Peperuka. I love their work and I think you should too!

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So, what do you do actually do for a job?

Here we (Shaz and Liz) are in the last week of a month speaking tour in New Zealand (NZ) before we head to Aussie to do the same. We’ve been in schools, unis, Rotary Clubs and had lots and lots of coffee catchups with people.

In this month alone we’ve slept in 12 different beds.

Besides the question of corruption the other question I mainly get asked is “So, what do you actually do for a job?” So here’s what we actually do, although every day is different.

 

Sharon

I try to be in the office by 8.45am but it depends on traffic. Sometimes it takes 5 minutes, other days 30. Basically in the mornings I volunteer with an organisation called Afri-Lift which works with children and youth for very poor backgrounds. On Mondays I’m in meetings until 2pm, Tuesdays I write grants for fundraising, Wednesday’s prepare for a 6 hour teaching day, Thursday teach, Friday do marketing.

 

The afternoons/evenings are taken up with work for BeyondWater (the Aussie charity we started in 2007), writing LOTS of emails, blogging, social network updates, looking at projects and every now and then taking Pete out for a coffee. I work till about 9pm most nights with my other spouse – the laptop.

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Some of the great kids we get to work with.

Three out of four weekends we also have programs on. One Saturday we train youth leaders, another we have a tuition program in the Kibera Slum and the third Sunday of the month we assist with the Riziki Childrens Program. That leaves us one extra Sunday to meet up with some young couples we are mentoring.

 

In addition we host lots of international visitors, sometimes go to the Kibera Slum with food packages or randomly do things like have the odd day off.

 

Pete

My days are certainly never dull and boring. Like Sharon, on Mondays we have a staff meeting for a couple of hours but every day/week is different. Sometimes you’ll find me tiling a kitchen, fixing a tractor, buying a truckload full of seeds to transporting tomatoes. You will also see me working with teenage boys training them on the ‘how tos’ of farming. This might mean pulling apart something that doesn’t work and showing them how to fix it. A lot tends to break down and it’s giving the locals the skills so next time they can fix it themselves. When I say things are varied, it’s a slight understatement. One morning I might be trying to find a market for the produce that the trainees grow and then that afternoon helping to install a water tank.

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Pete showing one of the boys how to use machinery.

I try and spend 2 – 3 days out at the farm which is about an hours drive. But I also need to be in town to work out all the other stuff. I’m not confined to an office or computer but every couple of days you can’t get away from paperwork. I work with a small team of people who have different roles but one thing I’ve learnt is that you can never over communicate.

Here in Kenya things are complicated and take much longer than say in Australia. You can’t go to one hardware store and get everything you want. Just because they say something is definitely in stock doesn’t mean it’s actually there.

This year I’m trying to take a couple of afternoons off a week. So far I’ve failed miserably.

Every couple of months we get personally involved with our water projects. That might mean driving a few hours to meet up with the community to make sure they’re on track.

That in a nutshell is our life, but it’s much more interesting in reality than in print. We meet amazing people, every day is a challenge and there is lots of work yet to be done.

 

Why not join us by:

  1. Giving (ask me how)
  2. Joining us (long or short tem)
  3. Find out more (shoot me an email – thewildcreanberries@gmail.com)

Life In A Shipping Container

This coming week sees us living in Kenya for 2 months. It also sees us moving out of living in a shipping container (converted of course) and into a real, life house. In all we haven’t lived in our own place for 5 months, so we are going to be very happy campers.

Most of the time it’s been great living there. It’s onsite, so we’re close to work. We have some immediate neighbours as there are quite a few people living here too.  However, it’s had it’s challenges and ‘cabin fever’ has taken on a new meaning.

While most people wouldn’t even consider living in a 6 metre container, it’s a good learning curve.

Millions of people around the world for whom poverty is an everyday occurrence live in nothing bigger than a 3 by 3 metre area, usually with 5 family members. It got me thinking about what life in a extremely small area is really like.

 

Here’s what I’ve learned:

1. It’s complicated

You plan and then something comes in to interrupt it. The power goes out unexpectedly and if you don’t have charcoal for the BBQ, or it happens just as you go to start cooking, what will you have for dinner. Belongings have to be stacked up because there’s no room for drawers or a wardrobe, it is so easy to mess up. Over the last couple of months we’ve bought some plastic drawers and a sort of freestanding wardrobe. I think to myself of the millions of people who the amount of belongings they have fit into one plastic bag. They don’t have several pairs of sneakers or two jackets for when it gets cold. They wear one set of clothes until they literally fall off their bodies. If their home gets destroyed by fire, war or floods there’s no government handout, but somehow they start all over again.

 

2. There’s no privacy

If I had a lounge, I would purposely sit in it wearing my pyjamas watching a DVD. Where we are living there are two rooms and at any time, the people living in the same compound can come in. Both rooms have doors to outside that have large glass panels in them. I wait some time in the mornings before I open them just to have ‘our’ space. If I were living with poverty, my whole family would use the same room for everything. There’s no ‘time out’ space, if you want to study you have to do with everything else going on.

 

3. It can be noisy

Sound travels and bounces off walls. You can hear all sorts of body sounds, music, animals outside and anything else happening.  While our container is lined and painted, those in poverty may have a shack that leaks, doesn’t lock and is unsafe. When it rains here, it pours, but at least our roof is a good one. I often think of those in places like Kibera Slum whose homes have rushing streams through them when it rains.

 

4. You can use one thing at a time

As with most places, ours doesn’t have lots of power points. We were clever and bought a multi-box with us from Australia which helps. But, our kitchenette (a benchtop) is all we have to work with. If someone is working in the kitchen the other person has to wait. You can’t have two of you preparing vegetables at the same time, the other one has to go outside to do it.  Compared to those living in small shacks in the slum, we are living in luxury. We have electricity (most of the time) and a kitchen area. Often the one room home is shared for all activities. Or, they work outside their house where a dirt track, chickens, an open sewer system is.

 

5. Sometimes you’re climbing over each other

The sink isn’t deep enough to do the dishes. We have a huge bowl to wash our dinner dishes in. However, the person drying the dishes needs the person washing to move over to the right to put the dishes away. But, we have a tap. We have the ability to boil hot water. We have a place to hang the drying towel. What we don’t have to do is walk to the nearest water point and carry back 25kg’s of water after paying for it. While we can pour the dirty water down the sink, many people have to throw it outside their front door.

 

6. One bathroom means you have to wait – even if you can’t

One of our sayings here is ‘Go when you can’.  Once you leave the property you don’t know where your next toilet stop will be because there might not just be one. Last weekend we had a parents meeting but had a huge lunch beforehand. The meeting went for 5 hours and there are no toilets in the slum that we would choose to use. So, the first stop afterwards was at the mall for a bathroom break. It can get frustrating when someone is in the one and only bathroom and you want to brush your teeth. I’m not sure what I’m whinging about though, we actually have our own bathroom and a flushing toilet. We don’t have to do our business into a plastic bag and throw it away, and hope I don’t walk into someone else’s plastic bag.  A billion people don’t have access to a toilet. We do.

 

So, living out of a suitcase for months on end isn’t my ideal, it’s a good reality check and opens one’s eyes to what it’s like for millions of people around the world.

However, I am going to live up being in a house!

 

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Christchurch CBD now is made of converted shipping containers.