|My friends Zippy & Francis.|
Zippy will finish her Doctorate in Theology next year. In a country where the majority of children do not go past the eighth grade, this is indeed an accomplishment. Along the way she formed the Blessed Peace Foundation. Her foundation supports widows and orphans.
The last time I visited Kenya, I went to meet with one of the widows groups. The Blessed Peace Foundation had raised enough money to purchase a posho mill. A posho mill is a place people take their maize and have it ground into flour. That posho mill project cost a little over $2,000 U.S.D. The locals pay for this service and the money goes to the widows. Women still can’t own property in Kenya, so if the husband dies they have no rights to the land they may have lived most of their lives on as a married woman. 'Their' land will transfer to the brother of the husband. Sometimes they let them stay. Sometimes not.
On my last trip to Kenya in 2011, Zippy showed me a building she was going to rent to start a children’s home. Blessed Peace serves over 180 children, but the children who are orphans and those who are in deplorable home conditions come to stay at Zippy's children's home. When parents die of HIV Aids, their children usually go stay with another relative. These relatives are not always kind. Some of Zippy’s kids have been forced into prostitution as young as 10 years old to make money for the relative. Yes, it's that kind of 'deplorable'.
The children’s home is tucked away in a section of Machakos called ‘The Burning City’. Not a nice neighborhood. But, Zippy’s place is clean and secure. She hires a house mommy who stays with the children at all times and a security man who also helps with other chores. The older children do the cooking and cleaning.
There are three bedrooms: two for girls and one for boys. They are neat and festively decorated with strands of colorful papers and pictures hanging from the ceiling. In each bedroom there are two wooden bunk beds. Eight children sleep in each room. Three rooms. 24 children.
When Emma and I visited the home, they served us lunch. We had goat stew, rice, ugali, and chipote. Ugali is like really stiff mashed potatoes made out of maize and chipote is somewhere between a pancake and a tortilla made from maize flour. I noticed only the visitors got meat. The children got a dish called kigali instead of goat stew. Kigali is a stew of beans and corn served over rice.
|Cleaning the dishes from lunch.|
|Library at the children's home.|
After we ate they sang us a couple of songs. I LOVE Kenyan singing! There is something about the way their voices sound. There is something about everything here. The colors, the smells, the people, the hope.
Zipporah introduced Emma and I to the children. She told them that I had given the money to purchase the mattresses when she was starting the home. They clapped. I was embarrassed. I had sort of forgotten we (my ex-husband and I) had done that. Something so small but something so big. A little money. They sleep.
I don’t like to give money, just to give money. Uninformed giving, I've learned, usually ends up doing more damage than good. But I know who I’m giving it to and I know what they do with it. It’s the same with the other Kenyan organization I support, Global Village Education Foundation. The difference between Zippy's organization and GVEF is that Global Village is also a non-profit in the U.S. which means donations are tax deductible. Blessed Peace doesn’t have that status in the U.S. yet. It doesn’t matter to me. But it would help Zipporah in the future.
|A place for study.|
Zipporah raises her money from Kenyans. I guess in between teaching at the college, doing her own doctorate work, checking on her projects, she also has time to go around raising money. Maybe she’s Wonderwoman?
I asked Zippy what her next big project was and she said she was looking for land to build a bigger home for the children and then someday a high school. I like this woman. She dreams big. I wonder when things will change for women in Kenya. I wonder when things will change for girls everywhere. If you're interested in women's issues around the globe, 'Half the Sky' is an informative book with many resources of ways to help.