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.

pillow

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.

gp-mary

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!

We Made A Mistake (a few of them actually)

In February this year I went to New Zealand NZ) and Australia on a 7 week speaking tour in schools, Rotary Clubs and churches. While I was there I had the honour of spending time talking to the pastors who oversaw our wedding ceremony nearly 27 years ago.

Mick & Colleen Marshall were my pastors (Pete went to another church) and over the years they have served both internationally and locally. They’ve now got a brood of grandchildren and instead of retirement are looking at refirement.

Here's Mick leading us through our vows.

Here’s Mick leading us through our vows.

It was so special catching up with them and there were a couple of things they said to me which they were dead serious about:

  1. When you return just be aware that people will put up with you ‘Africa stories’ for a few minutes but after that, they really don’t care.
  1. Whatever you do, don’t get so overworked that you burn yourself out.
Colleen and Mick this year.

Colleen and Mick this year.

I listened to them on Number One. It’s true, the world we live in Kenya is so foreign to even try and understand or explain, it’s just too much for people to hear and understand. When you talk about a traffic jam in Nairobi it is vastly different to that in Sydney. I’ve read where people in NZ complain because they have to get security checked before going into WINZ. Here, we have to avoid shopping centres because of bomb threats. Yep, it’s a bit different here.

Number Two, that’s a really hard one here. It’s not unusual to be chatting with someone overseas at 10pm, doing radio interviews at 2am or working 12 hour days, three weeks in a row. All this leads to burning out.

Here’s a definition of burnout:

Burnout is a psychological term that refers to long-term exhaustion and diminished interest in work. Burnout has been assumed to result from chronic occupational stress (e.g., work overload).

We’re not burnt out, but we did come close to it a little while back. Physically and mentally run down we took stock of where we were at and where we wanted to be.

So here’s where we’ve made some big mistakes:

1. Not taking holidays

In the two years we’ve been here we’ve only taken off a week. How dumb is that!! We bought Liz a camping bed for her birthday in December last year and the only time it’s been used is as a spare bed when we have visitors.

A lot of that was because we didn’t have the money. Our plan for 2015 is to take a week off every 3 months just to renew our batteries. Even if we have to camp in the middle of nowhere, leave our laptops behind and sit with the zebras, we will take a break.

We’ve lived here for 2 years and travelling here since 2007 and in all that time we’ve never been to Mombasa on the coast nor Masai Mara. Next year baby, next year.

This might be us, the tent not the motorhome.

This might be us, the tent not the motorhome.

2. Working too many weekends

There’s nothing wrong with working through a weekend if you get a day off some time during the week. However, if you end up working 3 weeks in a row, you’re setting yourself up for an emotional breakdown and big family arguments because of tiredness. We found that we were working three weekends a month. Now, we’ve got it down to two.

At the beginning of the year we thought we could take Wednesday afternoons off. It worked for a while but too many things got in the way.

life3. Lack of sleep

It’s pretty noisy here. Anywhere from 5.30am there are people outside washing their bosses car. Also, no matter what we seem to do, there is at least one mosquito wanting to attack. Someone at the apartment above us seems to like moving furniture late at night. The best day to sleep past 5am is a Sunday – and it is most welcomed!!

Because there’s so much work to be done there’s not so much room for the odd nanny nap. I have to admit though, we’ve both fallen asleep on the sofa, there’s the Facebook photos to prove it.

Pete snapped this one from a while ago.

Pete snapped this one from a while ago.

While we’ve made some mistakes, at least they’re all fixable. As we head into the start of our third year we expect to be working harder and at times, longer hours, we hope that if we change a few of our behaviours we will have even a better year. We’ve set some goals for where we want to head and have even planned a ’round Africa’ trip in 2018.

What about you, what ‘adjustments’ do you need to make to improve both your mental and physical health?

 

 

One Dollar At A Time

Here in Kenya we have plenty of opportunity to help people out. There are the beggars, the disabled sitting in wheelchairs and then those selling goods at the side of the road.

There are a couple of people who have stuck out here.

One of them is a man in a wheelchair who had his legs amputated from the knees down. He sits each day at the corner by a small shopping centre. He has children (we see them from time to time) and one of the world’s biggest smiles. He’s polite and doesn’t beg for cash but you can tell he’s in need.

Unfortunately there’s no disability support pension here for people like this man. They are totally reliant on having their families support them. Every now and then when we go past his spot we drop in 100 shillings, worth about $1. More than that though, we stop for a chat and ask him how he and is family is. It gives him respect that he is of value and not simply because he needs money.

A couple of weeks ago I met the most wonderful lady. Each day she stands by the road we take to work. She is there early in the morning till it starts to get dark. She has a baby strapped to her back. She holds out her right hand for the entire time, in it she has a bag of blue sweets for sale. I don’t know how much she sells them for but probably only for a shilling or two. I don’t know this lady’s name but I really admire her.

On either side of her stand men selling DVD’s, posters, flowers and the matatus (vans moving masses of people) and buses throwing out diesel fumes.

I admire her because she’s not waiting for her situation to change, she is changing her situation, one shilling at a time.

I am more than happy once a week to drop 100 shillings into her hand. I usually ask for a couple of sweets so it doesn’t look like I do it out of pity. No, I do it in admiration.

You might say that it’s only the odd dollar, what difference can it make? But to these 2 people it means they can buy some flour and make ugali that night. It means that they have something to put towards their rent. Or it may mean they can afford to buy one jerry can of water.

Even though our personal support level is short by about $1,000 per month, I’m not going to let it stop me being generous. These two people inspire me to keep going even when it all seems a bit much.

My next step is to get to know their names.

Tell me about someone who has inspired you lately.

There’ll be no sitting around here mate!

I was kind of shocked last week when someone we know was concerned that we would arrive in Kenya and be sitting round twiddling our thumbs.

That would be the biggest joke of the century!

So, what will we be up to you may ask?

Here’s a list of just some of the things we actually will be doing:

  • Monday morning meetings with the Afri-Lift team
  • Training of administration staff
  • Book writing
  • Photographing and videoing promotional material
  • Running youth camps
  • Hosting visitors from overseas
  • Taking teams to places such as Mount Kilimanjaro, safari parks, bike riding tours etc
  • Overseeing creation of buildings
  • Teaching agricultural trainees
  • School ministry trips
  • Facilitating the building of a boarding school
  • Involved in supporting all the different ministries of Afri-Lift
  • Two days a week working on water projects for BeyondWater
  • Last weekend of the month out in the field working with communities about water projects

Our main objective is to serve the ministry of Afri-Lift (www.afrilift.com). Part time we will continue our work with BeyondWater (www.beyondwater.org.au). It’s the perfect combination really.

So, while we will be having the odd coffee at the mall, there won’t be much time sitting around!