Thursday, October 30, 2008

Recent news from my life in Kenya

This was just sent out this week to my network of supporters on email. If you would like to be added to that list (I send something about once every other month or so) please let me know in a comment, along with your email.

OK, so this e-news is about much more than safari like you think of safari at home. However, ‘safari’ means ‘journey’ and I am on quite the journey! I’m traveling all over the country and learning so much. Hopefully I’m teaching a bit as well.

I hope to have a newsletter out by the end of the month with more specific work here. If you are not on the snail mail list and would like to be please let me know what your snail mail address is and I’ll get you on the list.

Much thanks and many blessings to each of you.

Godspeed, Amy Achieng Mwende (my two most used Kenyan names)


Figure 1: Amy and Alice trying to dance with Maasai women from the boma we visited at the Maasai Mara in September.

Greetings from Maasailand!

I haven’t sent out an email since my return to Kenya in July. It has been crazy-busy and great, but that is no excuse for not updating you on the work and my life here in Kenya. Please allow me a few minutes to try and do so. I should also have a newsletter coming out this month for more information (and there’s always my blog at! Don’t forget to leave me a note, too.)

I have had several visitors and volunteers since my return. Last month there was a volunteer here working on writing stories for the Embrace AIDS campaign. Watch for stories coming from East Africa written by Kristen Nowicki. She’s had some great experiences and will have a variety of things to share. You can read her blog at At the same time one of my colleagues, Alice, from the Burlington, Ontario, office was here so we headed out to the Maasai Mara for a quick safari. If you get a chance to come, please plan for a bare minimum of two nights and a week if you can afford it. AMAZING!

Figure 2: A Maasai woman bargaining with me for a fair price on these bracelets for the Southlawn third graders. The table is made from manure, just like their homes.

Figure 3: Within the first thirty minutes of our plane landing on the Mara we saw our first lion pride. This cub just ignored us, and I was OK with that.

Figure 4: The Wildebeest Migration is one of the Eight Wonders of the New World. We were on the Mara during the migration but not the right side of the reserve (which is huge), so this giant train of zebras was really as close as we got to see the great migration.

Figure 5: It was amazing to see God's creatures so close to us and we prayed that they didn't get hungry.

Figure 6: The Maasai are known for their nomadic life, following the grazing land for their cattle; for keeping many of their traditions, including their clothing whether they are in the boma or downtown Nairobi; and for the men's awesome standing vertical jump.

Figure 7: Many people in African countries that are born with a disability are ignored and shunned by their culture. I was encouraged and blessed to see this young man on the far left openly welcomed and encouraged to be an active part of the daily life that we saw during our visit.

Figure 8: Kenyan and American friends playing Kumiliki on my floor. I lost big-time, but learned where several areas of Nairobi are located and what they are called.

I finally broke down and bought a game I’ve had my eye on for the last six months. I realized it was never going to go on sale and the people that would most appreciate and enjoy it are living here with me. It’s called Kumiliki and is a Nairobi version of Monopoly. It is great fun! I’ve played it several times. This past week I even played with a friend and her eleven-year-old. It’s a cultural lesson as you realize not everyone knows what it means to ‘roll the dice.’ It’s ‘toss’ or ‘throw’ the dice. It’s not ‘minus’ but ‘take-away’ when you are subtracting for change with a child.

Figure 9: Many areas outside of Nairobi are considered malaria-zone. My policy is if there is a net provided I sleep under it. It can get warm, but it's better to have a restless night than malaria.

Before Alice, Kristen and I headed to the Mara we were in Western Region visiting one of our partners. It was a good trip but also quite difficult. I have a posting on my blog regarding the difficulties and encourage you to read it – “They’re Out.” The morning of our departure we drove straight into a riot in Kisumu town. We were fine but it was definitely unnerving. It was strange to have made it through the post-election violence and then be involved in a riot eight months later. Please, check my blog and feel free to ask any questions you may have. I want to thank Andy Ryskamp, the US CRWRC Director, who God placed in Kenya at the same time as this event. Andy debriefed the three of us and was a blessing to each of us. Just another example of how God provides. I am ever-humbled by His provision for me.

The trip was so much more than just that riot though. God showed us some awesome things about our work, culture and agriculture – amaranth, honey and sugar cane.

Figure 10: A trailer filled with sugar cane on its way to the factory. Much is lost along the way and the farmer is paid by weight that is measured only once the trailer arrives at the factory.

Figure 11: One of the communities that we visited was utilizing the reeds growing nearby as an IGA (Income Generating Activity). This man is making a table that our partner staff purchased for his home.

Figure 12: These pins are made by many of our partners. Everywhere you travel in Kenya you will find people who are infected or affected by HIV and AIDS. This is a reminder to break the stigma and embrace with love and help all of God's children.

Figure 13: This woman was eager to share her story of how CRWRC, through our partner, was helping not only her, but her children and community. It’s humbling to hear such stories. You can read her story on my blog under “Sex vs. Agriculture.”

Figure 14: Chai, or tea, is an important part of Kenyan culture and you are often offered chai wherever you go. It is part milk and part water boiled and steeped with tea. Sugar is added, one or two spoons, to the steaming hot mixture and then everyone enjoys time together in fellowship.

Figure 15: This Muslim man was the only man present in one of our meetings. As the women talked of the men's behaviors he sat quietly until we asked him to respond. He agreed and talked of the pressures that are prevalent in the culture for men.

Figure 16: Recycling hits a high point. This purse is made from recycled bottle tops and wire. Kevin makes all sorts of great things while trying to protect the earth and recycling. The purses are common but he added the fabric so that they are easier to use without losing things through the holes. He has also taken old newspapers and made them into awesome gift bags of all sizes.

September brought the annual EAMT (East Africa Ministry Team) meeting. Uganda, Tanzania and Kenya staff gathered for a couple of days of meetings. We were then joined for the latter part of the week for some great environmental training, lead by a local NGO, one of our consultants from CRWRC – Tanzania and a staff member from the Burlington office. If you are interested in some of the things we discussed, I encourage you to talk with any of the staff in this region that you may know. You can also look up Care of Creation Kenya that led part of our training. One of the consultants led a discussion of what Scripture says about stewardship of the land God has given to us. It was awesome and such a blessing!

Some of us were so excited and talking about all of the ways that we can individually help our offices and partners make improvements, and we started talking about all sorts of IGAs. Our conversation continued as we walked into a mall on our way home and into a fair trade shop. That’s where we saw these awesome gift bags made from old newspapers and where I started a relationship with Kevin, the creator. It’s amazing how God brings people and ideas together.

This is only a small look into my work and life here in Kenya since July. I will try and keep in better touch.

I’d love to hear from all of you. Have a great fall!

Rejoice in the Lord, Amy in Africa

PO BOX 66490
00800 Nairobi

Friday, October 24, 2008

blog updates

I try to go through here periodically and shake things up a bit. You know, check to make sure all the links are still working, etc. So I've moved things around, added a slide show and other such funness. (funness?)

Have a great day my friends! I bought four Kenyan films today and that's instore for this weekend. WE'll see. this weekend is actually the third annual KIFF - Kenyan International Film Festival. This is how I may celebrate since I can't find a schedule anywhere. bummer.

Thursday, October 23, 2008


As the holidays are approaching I wanted to share two of my fave places to shop.

The first is my sis, RubesDesigns. She makes everything herself and rocks the planet. She even has some fun jewelry made from beads that I have sent her from Kenya. Look under the Kitengela section for most of those. Fun, huh!

The second is my friend, Jackie, and her Gifts on a Mission. She lives in Atlanta and travels to Kenya to get to know artisans and pay them a fair wage for their product. She then gives a portion of her profits to a children’s home in Lodwar, which is in northern Kenya. She has beautiful things and I’ve also met some of her vendors.

I really encourage you to check out each of these sites and make some purchases. Look for something unique to give this holiday – you, and those you give to, will not be disappointed, I promise.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Hunger videos

This is a great project to get the idea of hunger into the broader population. I encourage you to take 5-10 minutes to check out this website and watch the videos. Then choose your faves and add them to your blog, your myspace, your facebook. Share the news. Hunger is real. Real people CAN and ARE helping. Please join the fight.

death and illness

I have been on the road and away from the internet for most of the past two weeks. Upon my return I read some sad and heartbreaking emails.

Cancer, test results pending, cancer, more test results pending, typhoid, malaria, still no new job, cousin passed away, great aunt passed away, kidney transplant.

It's a bit overwhelming to say the least. I'm not even sure which to respond to first. Some of these folks I haven't seen in two or three years but it still hurts.

I am currently awaiting my own test results to see if and which tropical disease I may have. Damn, I feel old, how can all of this happen? Where does it come from? How much can we bear?

Now to be fair, I did receive some good emails and the pending joy of my nephew turning 2 this weekend and everyone getting to be there (except me). Oh, but the partying we'll do when I return.

So, now as I sort through all the hundreds of emails and facebook and blogs and such, I am praying for only good news today.

Bear with me as I catch my breath.