www.nakurunlapset.fi
www.reilunkaupantahti.fi
www.vrouwen.net/kalimata
www.kehitysmaakauppa.org

 

 

VOLUNTARY WORK AND ACTIVITIES

When I look back to my experiences of doing voluntary work I remember the years 1977-78 when we lived in Heinola, a small town in East-Finland, and I was involved in the activity of so called “Serving Phone”, i.e. the Lutheran Church had opened during weekends the free phone, were we the workers sat and listened to the worries and sorrows of people: Somebody could phone to us and ask for a bedtime story because she or he could not sleep without it – the reason for this question was that she or he had not heard any human voice for days. Or somebody wanted to make suicide and then we, the listeners tried to help him to overcome this thought and reach the next morning alive. I found the activity very rewarding because besides “meeting” with people we were educated in the philosophy of being a human being and by taking part in this I received some new friends. It was important for me – me being a newcomer in town.

 

KENYA - ARAP MOI CHILDRENS HOME, NAKURU

But actually I found my social conscience first in Kenya in the year 1985. By that moment I had already spent many years in Africa (Nigeria 1979-1980 and Libya 1981-1984) but I had not been in a position to have contacts with people in grassroot level: in Nigeria we women were quite separated from the Africans and e.g. we were not allowed to drive and while in Libya the language separated us because nearly nobody of us foreigners could speak Arabic and the local Arabs did not want to mix with us.

We arrived to Nakuru in Kenya, that beautiful town in the Rift-Valley area in May 1985 and by July I had met a Swedish woman, called Louise from Uppsala and she took me to one of the many orphanages in Nakuru and the place happened to be Arap Moi Children´s Home in Governement Avenue. The name sounded very good because Arap Toroitich Moi (a kalenjin by tribe) was the president of Kenya that time, the second one after Mzee Jomo Kenyatta (a kikuju by tribe). The first visit to the Home was a shock for me and soon I adopted as my moral responsibility to do something for these needy children. Louise was a nearly native Swahili speaker and with her help I got easily contact with the children and mamas of the Home. Seeing the reality on a grassroot level was like a pain in me and made me to visit the place as often I could – I had working hours from 8 am to 1 pm at the Forest Training Centre; our working place in Nakuru, financed by Finland – and this meant that the afternoons I could spend with the children and staff of the Home. Soon I was their driver (I had my own car to use), I also wrote their letters (their type writer was very old and mine was an electric one) not to speak about helping Margareth, the Main teacher in the bookkeeping. It gave me satisfaction and with the weeks and months I was participating more and more in the daily life and sorrows of the Home. However, that time the social worker was Mr Okoth, a Mzee and very bright in his comments, and his attitude to my questions and assumptions was often very sarcastic. But this did not harm communication with the staff of the Home - it could have been very needed lessons to me in how to live and react in the African society.

The idea of starting the sponsoring of children came from Mrs Satu from Helsinki. She was together with her husband in winter 1985/1986 visiting the sawmill, our working place, and I was happy to show her the surrounding and of course I seized the opportunity to bring her to the Home.

We have to thank Mrs Satu for her willingness to tell about the Home and its needy children when back in Finland and soon after her visit we could send the background information of appr. 10 children to her and she found the sponsors among her colleaques and friends. This was the beginning of the story of the NGO called Nakurun lapset ry. At the beginning, actually the first 10 years we were just a loosen group of Finns but in the year 1996 we established the society and by doing that we were entitled to apply for the Finnish Development money and thus start to make plans how to do repair work for the buildings of the Home and start our Help A Needy Child Programme in 1998. And the story continues and becomes even stronger - you can read more about it in the address www.nakurunlapset.fi - and join us in this very important activity which brings plenty of joy and happiness to all involved parties.

 

TANZANIA – KALI MATA KI JAI, GEZAULOLE

After Kenya our way, i.e. the work took us to Tanzania and on the 7th of January 1990 we flew to Dar es Salaam. Heikki had an agreement with the Tanzanian Harbours Authority and for me it meant trying to feel at home in a totally new place which looked very “Oriental” to us: old buildings, Indian style, plenty of palms and flowers everywhere and the breeze as well as the rising tide from the Indian Ocean. We were both quite fascinated about our new home town – it also reminded us of Tripoli on the Mediterranean Sea. My time went for making our home (at the beginning we stayed a while in Onnela, the Finnish Village near the sea) a place where to feel comfortable. When we got a house on the Tanzanian Harbours´ Authority Camp the feeling at home got better. We started with planting trees: palms and travellers´ trees as well as bougainvilleas on our new yard. Also a sauna was erected after Leena and Ilkka brought us a Finnish stove in the year 1992.

Little by little I came to know other European women and of them Lea introduced me to the Dutch Lady Trui who had been for years helping women; some of them were psychiatric patients – the help consisted mainly of work therapy. Trui took me to a small village, called Gezaulole on the Indian Ocean in April 1990 and the visit was like an answer to my prayers to find something where I could give some help to Tanzanians – again my love to the grassroot people became awake. When Trui and her family left Tanzania for good in June 1990 I was given her tasks, i.e. to keep contact with the women of Kali Mata women group and bring handicrafts to Dar es Salaam and money and advice from the support group to the women. I was priviledged to have a four wheel drive car (Range Rover) which meant that I started weekly to drive the 15 km from Dar to Gezaulole. As a foreigner and woman I could not drive alone and at the beginning I took our shamba man (gardener) Andersson Nkhata (from Malawi) with me. With weeks passing I came to know more European women in Dar and they were eager to visit a real Tanzanian village which meant that we women drove together to meet the women – nothing bad ever happened to me and my friends on the way: we also had to pass the route all the steamers were using when entering the Dar es Salaam port. These visits meant more customers to village women and all the visitors got an idea how it was to live in a rural village (only 15 km from Dar!). Many women in the village started to earn more money than their husbands brought home which also had with the power to do: money means power! But we were happy that women could now make the family diet a more healthy one and buy clothes to their children. It meant development in many ways. But we foreign women used to “comfort” ourselves and explained that there must be a change in the rural life some day and thought that it had now begun from the women in Gezaulole. . As the Kali Mata women later said “Women are the yeast of development”. Time has passed since those days but I am still involved in the activities of Kali Mata Ki Jai and today we have a NGO called Kali Mata Ki Jai! Suomi ry where I am the vice chairlady. Trying to promote henna powder for using it to colour hair and textiles. But those things you can find from the address www.vrouwen.net/kalimata


1. Cutting henna bush. 2. Grinding henna

 

3. Henna powder.

When working with the Kali Mata women in Dar I came to know the biggest town in Tanzania, Dar es Salaam quite well and I also was now able to find different shops selling raw material (e.g. colours) for handicrafts. It was a very useful period for me and together with the “soul” of women group, Juliana I got the needed experience also from the Tanzanian culture, very different from the one in Kenya. Kenya had for centuries been a market economy while Tanzania just started to climb the latters to the new marketing society. Previously it had been a sort of Sozialist system after Mwalimu Nyerere´s so called ujamaa ideology which stressed on decision making together with the involved persons. For me it meant e.g. in my activity with the Kali Mata women that the quality control was a very delicate and difficult question: I do not remember how many times I had to bring the beautiful tye & die cloth piece back to the village because it had holes in it! I felt some times myself very stupid when demonstrating those holes and stressing that the customer did not want to buy defective handicrafts. On the other hand I came to know the situation of the wananchi women (normal women with no special background and moving around without men and their shelter!) in business transactions: Juliana and me, we went many times to buy a whole roll of cotton material for handicrafts and after a day´s work and waiting we had to go home without the stuff although we had the needed amount of money and the transport to take the big roll home.


Henna mama Maimona

 

KMKJ women.

 

TANZANIA - GOIG, DAR ES SALAAM

All these experiences were very useful for me later on in the year 1992 when the Finnish handicraft Society (FHS) Suomen Käsiteollisuuden tutkimusseura ry (NGO) was looking for a person, a Finn to help them to start with a new project with the Tanzanian Society (NGO) called Getting Old Is to Grow (Kuzeeka ni Kukua). The aim was to build a handicraft centre outside Dar es Salaam in Mbezi Beach and start helping the young girls by giving them an education and getting them away from prostitution, their only way for earning their living. Later on also boys were welcome to the centre. We were proud of the school´s programme of action to enrol also handicapped persons and those who had never been in school before. It meant that besides tye & die, weaving, tailoring, carpentry, silver and paper mache works also English and Mathematics were on the syllabus. It was the meaning that later on they should be entrepreneurs and this brought business principles and bookkeeping also to the agenda.

We started in September 1992 to make the plans for the new building, putting needed calculations together and sending them to Finland wherefrom the money was to come. There had already been a workshop in 1991 where representants and artisans of the FHS had taken part. There was teaching in a very small rented house near the main road to Bagamoyo, 15 km north of Dar es Salaam. On the programme there were tailoring, tye & die and also some trials to using the loom which had been brought from Finland. And at the same time the new building was being erected. Heikki took care of the technical questions and helped me in many ways with the authorities because it gave a better picture of a project if a man was also involved!

My contract was valid only for one year and this meant that I left Tanzania for good in August 1993 and Arja and Pekka took over the project. During the coming years I made nearly every year a trip back to GOIG to check how far the works were and to bring home pictures and papers of work done. Back home I was for years responsible for finding and winning new sponsors for the poor GOIG students. I was also among those Finns who in the year 2001 (the next day after 9/11!) left for Tanzania in order to celebrate the 10th Anniversary of the Centre. It was a very pleasant visit and we Finns really felt that our Tanzanian counterpart valued the work and achievement Finns had done. Asanteni Sana! My last (probably yes?) visit to GOIG happened in November 2004 when Heikki and me drove from Nakuru to Dar es Salaam to hand the school and project over to the Tanzanian hands. The Finnish Ambassador Mr Paukku together with his wife were the wageni rasmi (visitors of honour), Arja was there and also Ms Erja from the Shop Reilun Kaupan Tähti in Helsinki. This shop was already then selling tye & die and sisal carpets made by GOIG and I can only add that being the share owners of this shop, that time, I can end my GOIG story by adding the www-address of the shop www.reilunkaupantahti.fi here and wish for both parts, the producer and the seller – not to forget the buyer of the product - best luck in their endeavours for a better and more fair world!!!!

PR for Africa.   On safari.


FINLAND - MAAILMANKAUPPA KIRAHVI, HÄMEENLINNA

After returning home for good from Africa I got the possibility to be one of the voluntary workers in the NGO Hämeenlinnan Maailmankauppayhdistys Kirahvi (Fair Trade Shop Kirahvi in Hämeenlinna). The tasks were many and very interesting to start with finding a suitable place for the shop, choosing an appealing name for the shop and then taking part in the daily routines, i.e. selling in the shop. Our shop also included a coffee shop/cafeteria which was an interesting meeting place for different people of the town. Many years we together with Mzee Antti went out to various happenings in town and offered fair trade products – as well as gave information about them – to the dwellers in Hämeenlinna (established in 1639), that old town appr. 100 km north of Helsinki. Kirahvi Shop with its staff was also eager to visit the markets in town and organise there special afternoons where the clients could taste the Fair Trade Coffee and get an idea about the facts it meant for the small producers in Kenya, Tanzania and Mexico.

About Kirahvi you can read more in the following addresses www.maailmankaupat.fi or http://www.maailmankaupat.fi/maailmankaupat/kaupat/kirahvi.html

 

THE SITUATION TODAY

Kisgeresd utcá 18.

Since 2015 we live in Lammi, appr. 40 km west from the town Lahti and I am still questioning myself “what will I be when I am a grown up person” In doing it I feel myself optimistic because I have earlier in my life been given the good replies.
I still relay on the Japanese wisdom “halting all of sudden while travelling helps you to reach the destination”.

Since 2015 we also spend some weeks every spring and autum in our second home in the Southern-Hungary – a small village called Geresdlak where we can work in our garden, enjoy the nature and the healing peace around us. We are also integrating us with the village life and its people. I am at the moment studying the Hungarian language, but we are also using the German language with our neighbours.