Category Archives: Charity

Kate Copstick – de-worming in Kenya while her sister is handcuffed in London

My Grouchy Club co-host Kate Copstick is still in Kenya, working for her charity Mama Biashara.

These are edited extracts from her latest diary entries.


katecopstick_facetimeTHURSDAY

We get a call from the lady in Dagoretti Market who is supposed to be organising the de-worming. She is hysterical. The elders of the village want to burn her, she says. They have said she is bringing the Devil (me) to poison the children. In an interesting twist, they also claim I am Illuminati.

Always batting for both teams, me.

So there will be no medical. Not today.

But we will meet the woman and try to arrange for it to happen somewhere away from the village.

This is becoming quite a pattern. Doris and David think it might be because we are heading toward election time and anyone in politics – however lowly – wants to claim anything good that happens as the work of their party. Meanwhile they are up to their overactive testicles in sick kids and worn-out women.

I whip round the market, collecting stuff I have ordered and trying to avoid being trapped by desperate people wanting me to buy something so they will have enough for a bus fare home. Business in all areas of tourism is down. The government, the police, the medical profession, the city council operatives and six out of ten teachers are all just criminals of one level or another, but yer basic wainanchi is a great human being. While I do not give a flying fuck about the owners of the big white-walled resorts and the cutesy “Ooo! Look! It’s a zebra!” safari lodges, their cleaners and cooks and drivers are the ones who really suffer when tourists don’t come.

I get a frantic call from Felista who says that the torrential rain is flooding the dorms at Decip and she needs a ton of sand, a ton of ballast, waterproofing, cement, wire mesh and a load of other stuff. I harrumph. But David and I go out to Decip and wade around in the mud and the generalised gloop and, indeed, something needs to be done.

Luckily my school friend Rachel has just sent one of her lifesaving moneygrams from Austria. And so Felista gets the budget for repairs and the kids will sleep dry tonight.

Sometime soon (yeah, right) they have been promised connection to some sort of drainage and sewer system.

FRIDAY

I get a matatu to Junction for the WiFi and am embroiled in the craziest jam ever.

On a road which is basically one lane in each direction, those heading from Dagoretti Corner towards Kawangware have created FIVE lanes of traffic all going in one direction. And no one gives way to anyone, ever, here.

It is a masculine pride thing, I think. Any time there is a tiny gap it is filled with part of a motorbike. The one which oozes next to my window is carrying an electric lawnmower.

SATURDAY

My trip to the market is irritating. I get embroiled in a bit of a hoo-ha with the lady from the soapstone opposite Mwangi.

I bought a lovely red plate there last visit and ordered four more in different colours from the bloke I thought was running the stall. Gave a deposit of £25 and got receipt etc.

It now turns out that the bloke was not in charge of the stall but was a friend of the lad who was SUPPOSED to be running the stall for the real owner, a fiery lady who has now returned.

The other bloke – Dennis – is a broker and took the order for someone else but has now disappeared with the money – 900 bob of hers and 2,100 of mine. The fiery lady is incandescent. She makes me look calm and considered.

“Now there will be a war!!” she bellows.

I really would not like to be Dennis.

Felix, the lad who was supposed to be in charge of the stall but who took a bung to let broker Dennis steal the feisty lady’s customer, is fired before my eyes. I leave.

There is a girl at Felista’s for whom Mama Biashara paid college fees. Now she is on the final stage and has had a very successful placement at one hospital and is supposed to move to another placement at another hospital. But the hospitals charge the students for the placements. Of course they do. This is Kenya. £50, though. So I send the money off. Now Njoki will graduate and will be a lab technician. Not bad for an abandoned kid from the slums.

Doris is knackered. Her father is ill and is now losing weight and there seems to be nothing she can do to persuade him to help himself. He refuses to go for the prostate cancer test. One of her sons (who are about six or seven) was caught telling a girl to remove her panties so he could lie on top of her and the entire neighbourhood has turned on Doris. She is still not that well.

She is overwhelmed with people coming to Mama Biashara needing help and she said that, while she was really ill, she just stopped taking business plans. Our great plan to do Medical Days has been a disaster as we have been stymied by petty politics at every turn. Doris is at the end of her tether.

I buy coffee, we talk, I reassure, we agree to meet on Monday and make a Grand Master Plan. I also make her promise that every single plan and request will just get passed on to me. Immediately. She no longer tries to keep the gate; she just opens it. Till she feels better.

Because of Mama Bashara’s lack of funds, she has to do a LOT of saying No and this is a hugely stressful thing to do. I know. I have to do it too. It is making life as Mama Biashara difficult to say the least.

I go home and schlepp my bags and boxes into my increasingly crazy-looking bedroom.

And then I get a text from London asking for my help.

The volunteers at the Mama Biashara shop in Shepherds Bush – Amanda, Letitia and Souad – are in a bit of a pickle.

A small child (offspring of a regular customer) has handcuffed my sister Amanda with a pair of antique London Metropolitan Police handcuffs given to me by the Staines Police as a thankyou gift for chairing the final of their schools quiz.

I lost the key about twenty years ago.

I was not worried as the handcuffs were in the bottom drawer of my desk and I never imagined that anyone would be so cretinously stupid as to use them. And lock them.

They call the police. Who want to know how we got the police issue handcuffs.

Then they call the fire brigade. Who have to cut sister Amanda out of the cuffs.


There is a Mama Biashara donation page HERE.

2 Comments

Filed under Charity, Kenya

Critic Kate Copstick meets the bane of humanity (and his seven kids) in Kenya

Mama Biashara’s Kate Copstick at a happier time in Kenya

Kate Copstick currently in Kenya

Comedy critic, writer and occasionally TV presenter and producer Kate Copstick is in Africa, working with her Mama Biashara charity.

It funds small-scale sustainable businesses in the poorer areas of Kenya. Their slogan is: Giving a Hand Up, Not a Hand Out.

Mama Biashara is also involved in medical work, as these edited extracts from Copstick’s diaries last week show.

The full versions are on her Facebook page.

Copstick covers all of her own costs out of her own pocket.

100% of all money given to the charity goes to its work; none goes to her or her helpers.


WEDNESDAY

I head to Kawangware to drop my stuff off at my new home before going on to pick up Doris and make for Kiambaa and its many wormy, scabby-headed children.

The rain has scattered those waiting for the medical in Kiambaa. Your child might be riddled with worms and crusted with ringworm but heaven forfend it might get damp. And so Doris takes us out into the back of beyond to see one of our Mama Biashara groups in action.

We financed a group of lads to start their own building group. It is going really well and they have good steady work, but not so as they can exactly splash the cash in helping others. So they have decided to splash their expertise. They identify families in dire need, accommodation wise, and sort them out using begged and donated materials and their own time and building skills.

Here, in what could be an idyllic setting, I am introduced to the bane of humanity. I realise that sounds harsh… OK, along with First World Selfishness and Greed, organised religion, war and man’s general inhumanity to man, ONE of the banes of humanity.

Current patchwork home for mum, dad and their seven children

Current patchwork home for mum, dad & their seven children

A little man who cannot see further than his own testicles seems entirely unconcerned that his beautiful (talk about out of his league) wife is now breastfeeding his seventh child while the other six barefoot, raggedy, hungry fruit of his criminally fertile loins look on. At least No 7 is getting fed.

Their ‘home’ is a kind of patchwork mabati (iron sheeting) hut : 40% rust, 30% holes, 10% plastic patching. There is no food to be seen. Our lads are going to remake the hovel so this Father of the Year can shelter his contribution to world hunger warmly and in the dry.

“How do you feed your children ?” I ask Daddy.

He shrugs: ”Kibarua”.

Casual labouring that can pay a quid a day when he gets it.

“What other business do you know?” I persevere, hoping for a chink of light in this family’s long dark tunnel. Even an oncoming train would be something. Nothing. And he appears unfazed by his complete inability to do anything but squirt sperm at waiting ova. I find myself, to be honest, angry rather than sympathetic. The sheer, total hopelessness, the apathy, the resignation.

I am a little ashamed to say I contribute some money to the building fund and walk away. Without giving anything more.

Mama Biashara’s Doris (left) with the family

Mama Biashara’s Doris (left) with the family

Now, writing this two days later, I am a little remorseful. Still more angry than anything else. But I will send Doris some money to get them some food. And we will go back. But taking with us SOME form of contraception. My first choice would be a large pair of scissors.

However, the building fund desperately needs contributions. So, if you are less hard-hearted than I am, then please do help. It is a truly wonderful thing that the Mama Biashara guys are doing for this family and I am so, so chuffed that our group is so determined to give back any way they can.

THURSDAY

The day from hell. Only because of money worries. So much need, so much I could do, so little money and more than half of it has gone. Ah for the days when I was constantly topping up my personal coffers with a heady mix of porn and motorbikes and I could just pay for everything here. Long long gone… Although if anyone wants a great TV series on either topic…

Doris, one of Mama Bishara’s main workers

Dependable Doris, Mama Bishara volunteer

FRIDAY

My lodgings are with a sweet old bloke who was doing quite well for himself as a professional chef until his wife got cancer and all their worldly goods were sold to pay for her inept treatment. Her grave is outside the door of the house.

He had been reduced to running a small bakery as his wife got sicker but the Luhya tradition says that, with widowing comes enforced isolation. You are not allowed to run your business. And people do not come near you. Only the old can approach the bereaved. And so his business died shortly after his wife.

The house is sweet. No electricity and no running water but I have a toilet in the corner of my room which I can sit on and flush with a jug of water. It is a bit pongy, being, as it is, just an open hole, in a porcelain basin, to the sewer. But at least I do not need to worry about my appalling lack of skill in directing my pee in a long drop. Padding around clutching an oil lamp is positively atmospheric. Having said which, despite the flame, you can see almost bugger all. When I blow it out I am alone with the darkness and the pong of paraffin. And agonising acid stomach. I crunch antacids by the handful.

I empty a packet of ten. I consider the article I read that said women often experience a heart attack as a burning pain in the chest and think it is indigestion.

I consider whether I might be having a heart attack and have another couple of antacids.

I then remember something that popped up online when I last had electricity, to say nothing of WiFi, that said taking too many antacids can lead to a stroke. I wonder which would give me a better chance – marooned here, as I am, in the middle of absolutely nowhere.

Everyday foot work for Mama Biashara

Everyday work faced by the Mama Biashara charity in Kenya

SATURDAY

Today is medical day and I set off on a bike with my Big Box of Medicine. There are already people there, of course. Usually the earlier they arrive, the healthier they are. We create areas – one for jiggers, one for de-worming and one for ringworm.

We set up basins of heavily disinfectanty water, I make up bottles of coconut and teatree oil (for ringworm) and off we go. I have bought needles for jigger removing and a couple of experts set to. My group is ever growing so I get stuck in among the dozens of old ladies and men with sore everything, headaches, ‘rashes’ and ‘ulsas’, for which read acid indigestion. My favourites are the lady who “feels sick when I think of eating vegetables”, the lady who has suffered loss of appetite and can only eat twice a day and the lady who was “threatened by a cow”.

From 11.00am till around 7.00pm, in the glorious outdoors outside Julius’ house, I see 53 people, we de-worm a further 24, we de-jigger about 15 and treat a dozen or so for ringworm, three of whom are so bad they need the systemic meds. Those who had jiggers removed get shoes and the remaining shoes are given to the most needy barefoot amongst those who come.

There are also some properly poorly people. There is a thin woman who has had the raging trots for two months, a vomiting girl with a temperature, a genuinely fluey lady with a temperature and an old lady with appalling shingles.

“Rashes” she says, wincing as she lifts her blouse. I expect the usual scabby, flakey, pimply clusters. But she reveals the kind of shingles that would persuade one to believe Noel Coward, that if they ever meet in the middle she will die.

Meanwhile, we have collected a group of young drunks demanding dawa and an impressive audience of locals.

“They have come to see the celebrity” says Julius.

Ah! How I remember what that felt like… Opening school fêtes, autograph signing sessions alongside Mike Smith, requests for photos…

This is not quite the same thing. More “see whitey give away free stuff”.

Of course, word spreads and the queue grows rather than diminishes. Julius grows harassed, what with the drunk boys and the hangers-on and the children, not unexpectedly, howling as the clumps of jiggers are dug out of their tiny feet.

Then a boy sneaks in to steal shoes and Julius goes completely banzai, picks up a stick and chases him up the path belting him when he can. There is a palpable ripple of approval. I am unsure as to what to do.

We go back to my lodgings and eat the best ugali I have ever tasted. Although, to be fair, to say that you ‘taste’ ugali is a little like saying you ‘feel’ air. Fearing a return of my stroke / heart attack dilemma of last night I try drinking black tea instead of milky coffee.


There is a Mama Biashara donation page HERE.

And there is a 7-minute documentary online showing Copstick at work in the village of Kawangware in 2012:

1 Comment

Filed under Africa, Charity, Kenya

Becky Fury, a compassion glut in the Calais migrant jungle and a new award

overview_of_calais_jungle_wikipedia_cut

Becky with her Cunning Stunt Award

Becky with her Cunning Stunt Award at the Edinburgh Fringe

At the Edinburgh Fringe this year, comedian Becky Fury won the Malcolm Hardee Cunning Stunt Award. But, then, a couple of weeks ago, she got another award.

Last night, she told me: “I did a gig at the Deptford Bird’s Nest which, I believe, was Malcolm Hardee’s old stomping ground.”

“Never heard of it,” I told her.

“And I arrived,” Becky continued, ignoring me, “and I was greeted with another Malcolm Hardee Award. French Fred and Karen decided…”

“Karen?” I asked.

“Was she not one of Malcolm Hardee’s acolytes?”

“She’s a woman,” I said, “so that will almost certainly be a Yes.”

“A woman in South London…” added Becky.

“So almost family,” I said.

“Anyway,” said Becky, “Karen and French Fred greeted me with what is apparently the REAL Malcolm Hardee Award.”

“Which is?” I asked.

Becky Fury with her ‘new’ Malcolm Hardee award

Becky Fury with her ‘new’ competing Malcolm Hardee award

“A framed photo of him. They told me your Malcolm Hardee Awards are just pretenders.”

“They knew you had won the Edinburgh Award?” I asked.

“Yes.”

“Because it is so increasingly prestigious,” I suggested.

“Precisely,” Becky confirmed.

“Where have you hung this picture of him?” I asked.

“Well, I had to give it back to them…”

“What?”

“French Fred wanted it back to put in his bedroom,” explained Becky.

“I have a photo of Nicholas Parsons in my bedroom,” I told her.

She just looked at me and said nothing.

The well-organised Anarchist Bookfair cabaret

The organised Anarchist Bookfair cabaret

Becky is organising the cabaret part of the Anarchist Bookfair tomorrow.

“I heard,” I told her, “that some people who organised it in previous years were too disorganised for the anarchists.”

Becky looked at me and raised a Roger Moore style eyebrow.

“We are raising money for the ongoing support of people stuck in Calais,” she said.

“Ah,” I said, “you went to the migrant ‘jungle’ in Calais this week, before it got demolished. Why?”

“Because it was interesting. And because a lot of people I know have gone and helped. And a friend of mine was driving there with some stuff. And I’m basically writing stuff for my new show.”

Becky Fury and friend in Calais

Becky Fury by the Hitler bunker with a friend from the jungle

“Which is about…?”

“I dunno if I want to say. But I actually got an amazing story by going there and actually finding out what was going on in the jungle itself.”

“Your friend,” I prompted, “was driving there with stuff. What stuff?”

“Donations. Tents,” said Becky. “Tins of kidney beans. That sort of thing. Also a friend of mine ran the warehouse there. He used to have a sound system – Bedlam Sound System – and he sold it to set up the warehouse.”

“The jungle had a warehouse?” I asked.

Helpers hard at work in one of the jungle warehouses

Helpers hard at work in one of the Calais jungle’s warehouses

“Two warehouses. I worked in the one that was set up by the sound system squatter collective. I went for four days. I got a lift and I nearly didn’t stay, because the people who gave me a lift were all going to go off and do a squat party in Amsterdam.”

“What was the warehouse like?”

“It was a really unbelievably lovely experience.”

“Because?”

“It was like a distribution point for random acts of kindness. Everyone was there because they wanted to be helpful. It had a really good sense of community.

“I helped in the warehouse for three days but I wanted to go to the jungle and another lift turned up – a guy from London who I knew from years ago. A very rich man. He turned up with his World Music Covers choir. For some reason, he thought that was what people in the jungle really needed. Not tins of kidney beans, not tents, but some white man singing Bob Marley covers at them.”

“Can I write that?” I asked. “You’re putting him down a bit.”

“That’s OK,” said Becky. “Because he left me there. He left me in the jungle. So I think it’s fair enough to slag him off. This is going in my show as well.”

“So,” I said. “World music in the jungle…”

Some of the British newspaper headlines about the migrants

Some of the British newspaper headlines about the migrants

“I was listening to it in the warehouse,” explained Becky, “and thinking: This is really beautiful, very accomplished. But also very white. And there was some level of cultural appropriation. They also did covers from The Lion King… As if these people had not suffered enough!

“I was thinking about all those newspaper stories about rape gangs and aggressive men and thinking: God, we are going to go and serenade them with Bob Marley covers. If they don’t kill us, they should.”

“And the reaction was?” I asked.

“A polite smattering of applause.”

“How many people were watching?”

“About 50.”

“Of the 7,000 to 10,000 in the jungle…” I mused.

“Basically,” explained Becky, “some of them couldn’t get away from us because it was set up near the queue for the food. There was no escape. And we also turned up in the Sudanese community where they were all drinking tea and one of the guys there was wearing sportswear with a pair of Nikes and a branded hoodie, looked at this posh white man with an acoustic guitar and asked: Are we gonna make party? Sarcastically.

“This guy who organised it was, I think, trying to impress me with his world music choirs covers band but I had really gone there to find out more information about the place and I started chatting to a guy from Peckham. He had come from Afghanistan when he was 12.”

“So he had suffered,” I said. “First Afghanistan, then Peckham.”

“Yeah. So that’s his home. Peckham. But we (the British) refused to give him a visa so he ended up in the jungle in Calais. He told me: I have fantasies about being stuck on the Central Line. He’s basically a Londoner. He speaks perfect English and even had a South London  twang. But he was stuck in Calais.

Becky thought: "As if these people had not suffered enough!"

Becky thought: “As if these people had not suffered enough!”

“In Calais, there was a glut of compassion. People in the West don’t have the opportunity to be kind and to be compassionate often enough. In a Buddhist country, you’ve got that in your culture. It’s more engrained. What happened in Calais was basically a glut of compassion where everyone was going there because they wanted to be nice. And all the compassion was re-distributed to all the people coming from all these places having a horrible time, coming to receive that compassion.

“But it caused problems, because the people in Calais didn’t want all those refugees to be in their town because the compassion was not being distributed out properly. If everyone in the West were more compassionate on a day-to-day level, it would be more evenly distributed and everyone would feel better about themselves and you wouldn’t get this compassion clot like in Calais.”

calaisjunglecard

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Anarchy, Charity, Comedy, Politics

Comedy critic Kate Copstick’s extreme difficulties with trying to be charitable

Mama Biashara’s Kate Copstick at a happier time in Kenya

Mama Biashara’s Kate Copstick in happier times back in Kenya

Comedy critic Kate Copstickas mentioned in this blog yesterday – has been in Kenya for her charity Mama Biashara,

No-one working for Mama Biashara is paid. It survives solely on donations and on sales at the Mama Biashara shop in Shepherd’s Bush, London.

Copstick covers none of her own expenses and 100% of all money collected is spent on the charity’s work. She brings goods to sell in the shop back from Kenya (at her own cost).

Things do not always go smoothly. These are extracts from her diary this week.


 WEDNESDAY

BA is on time and I have slept the entire journey. With hope in my heart I text Benson in Nairobi for news of my precious cargo and its arrival in London. Air France offloaded it, I am told. Blah blah Kenya Airways blah blah strike blah blah tonight confirmed blah blah.

THURSDAY

No sign of cargo.

Les The Cargo at Heathrow seems less than interested in letting me know what the fuck is going on and Benson The Cargo in Nairobi is just getting teary because nothing is his fault.

At various times over a very stressed day my cargo is reported to be:

a) still in Nairobi

b) en route to Paris

c) en route to Amsterdam

d) being trucked from Amsterdam to London.

Les announces he is closing at 3.30pm on Friday and if the cargo doesn’t come in today then I will not get it till Monday. I send off emails to Air France, KLM (who have somehow managed to figure in the equation) and get platitudinous drivel back. A threat of taking my business elsewhere is going to frighten no one as we are such small fry.

Today is not a good day.

And, as it wears on and nothing arrives, Neil The Man in Les The Cargo’s office displays all the people skills of Donald Trump in making me feel better about this disaster.

FRIDAY

Email from Neil: Cargo arriving at 7.40am.

Leaving them plenty time to collect and deliver before 3.30pm.

But, because nothing was confirmed early enough, they are not going to collect and I will have to go to Heathrow Cargo Terminal myself. Great.

Luckily for Mama Biashara and all who sail in her, the absolutely wonderful Helen Cox comes to the rescue with the FinMobile – the van in which she transports her lovely hubby Fin and his wheels.

Not looking forward to this at all. Have cracked and taken a magic pill as I quite honestly could not see my way through all this without it.

Note to Shoppers: attempts to find ANY fault with ANY of the wonderful stuff I am bringing back to the shop this afternoon will be met with what I believe they call ‘extreme prejudice’.

I am so far past taking a joke that all my punchlines are now literal.

(There may be some mention of all this in the upcoming weekly Grouchy Club Podcast with Copstick and me. There is a donations page for Mama Biashara HERE.)

The Mama Biashara shop in London’s Shepherd’s Bush

The Mama Biashara shop in London’s Shepherd’s Bush

Leave a comment

Filed under Airlines, Charity

Comedy critic Copstick to become a nun

Kate Copstick in Kenya last week

Kate Copstick in a non-Christian incarnation

A couple of days ago in this blog, I posted edited extracts from Kate Copstick’s Kenyan diary. 

She is there for her charity Mama Biashara.

Here is another edited extract.


TUESDAY

We are being begged to go to a place just outside Nairobi which is called ‘the home of the Devil’. An unbelievably deprived village.

Sadly, as soon as the mothers were in touch to ask for help with their sick children – who have never even been de-wormed in their lives – the village ‘elders’ muscled in and demanded that, first, I come as their ‘guest of honour’ at a fundraising to build their new church.

Which translates as ‘give us a lot of money’.

The village seems to be run by the church.

Anything that comes in goes directly to the church while the women and children starve and become ill.

The general consensus is that I have no chance of getting to the ground except through the church and they will not let me do that. So we make a cunning plan.

The only way to beat the church here is to BE the church.

And so I shall be going to the ‘home of the devil’ as a nun.

Doris is laying the groundwork now. Sister Catherine Mary. From a tiny retreat in Scotland. The Sisters of Perpetual Poverty. Hence, no massive payout to the scummy elders.

Thanks to an excellent record in Religious Education at school, I can quote scripture till the cows come home. Starting with ‘suffer the little children to come unto me and forbid them not, for of such is the Kingdom of Heaven’.

Unlikely as it sounds to you and me, it takes very little to persuade these horrible men if they think you are from the church or something else important.

I even have a rosary left over from playing a Mother Superior in a play in Edinburgh.

(Continued HERE)

Leave a comment

Filed under Charity, Kenya

Real life in Kenya with Kate Copstick

katecopstick_skype_14oct2016_cutLast Friday, I recorded the weekly Grouchy Club Podcast with Kate Copstick via FaceTime.

She is in Kenya for her charity Mama Biashara.

Mama Biashara gives small grants and advice to individuals and groups so that they can start self-sustaining businesses which will allow them to climb out of abject poverty by their own hard work. 

The charity aims to “give a hand up not a hand out”.

Kate Copstick covers none of her own expenses and 100% of all money collected is spent on the charity’s work. No-one working for Mama Biashara is paid. It survives solely on donations and on sales at the Mama Biashara shop in Shepherd’s Bush, London.

These are edited extracts from Copstick’s diary over the last week.

Mama Biashara logo

THURSDAY

I am meeting Vicky, Our Lady On The Coast, to get an update on our goings-on down there and do some funding. Vicky has with her a young man who was one of our group of rent boys who wanted to ‘reform’. There is plenty of work for a fit lad on the beaches and in the bars and clubs here. But these lads wanted out of the game.

Their chosen new business was renting what they call ‘floaters’ on the beach. Happily, this turned out to be rubber rings and other swimming type floaty things. Phew!

There was a group of fifteen and they were doing incredibly well. Until some of the other boys in the ‘fun in the sea’ business decided to get rid of them. All it took was a few whispers that they were gay and they were regularly attacked and their stuff ripped to shreds.

Finally, they were set upon by a mob and one of the boys was stabbed and another burnt. Fire is huge here as an expression of displeasure. There is an epidemic of school-burnings. Pupils who are upset about anything simply set fire to their dorms and classrooms. Would never have happened at Paisley Grammar. Anyway, at this point six of the boys decided to cut and run. Well, five ran. One was in intensive care. Now they want to start another group along the coast in Watamu. It is a marvellously liberal town by Kenyan standards. They tend not to burn their homosexuals, for example.

FRIDAY

Even when Mama Biashara has no money for funding, our ladies (Vicky, Purity, Fatuma and Vixen) along with Doris, try to find ways to get women work.

For example, we have had news today that a group of our girls are going to get jobs promoting Tusker Beer and Heineken in bars around Nairobi. They get a uniform, giveaways, basic training and 800 bob a day, which is phenomenal money.

Doris had sent a letter to Tusker some weeks ago and the guy had heard about Mama Biashara and so we got in through a sort of back door. Fantastic opportunity which we are hoping will be available in other cities soon. Purity and Doris had also managed to get 18 of our ladies in the Limuru area trained up as vaccination health workers, trained to go out and give polio vaccine as and when it appears. Work like this on their parts keeps Mama Biashara going and punching well, well above her financial weight. Even the baby care in Mombasa – ladies now number in the hundreds – is almost free to run.

Today Purity came with some new groups that want funding. There is a group of ladies who have found a supplier of pepino plants. This is a South American fruit that is purported to have amazing effects on high blood pressure and is much in demand. It is part of the solanum family, grows fast and sells at premium rates. They already have customers keen to buy.

Vixen has also mobilised our groups of sugar cane juice sellers. This has turned into a huge business for us right across Kenya. She has been approached by someone on behalf of a group of fifteen young women – all HIV+ – on a place called Lusinga Island in Lake Victoria. They are sex workers because they know how to do nothing else and because there is not much else to do. But Vixen thinks they could make a really good living from sugar cane juice and has found a good, sturdy second hand machine. The ladies have also asked for as many condoms as I can send.

VIxen is lesbian and has not had an easy time. Like many many lesbian girls, she has been a commercial sex worker. You dare not show your fondness for the flatter shoe (as Zoe Lyons says) or all hell will break loose. And, talking of hell, the current educational trend is interesting…

Across Kenya, girls in their hundreds are being excluded from school, expelled, on the basis that, generally without any substantiation, the Head Teacher denounces them as lesbians and so – as we all know – worshippers of the devil. I kid you not. Worshippers of the devil. They are then expelled with a letter stating their devil-worshipping lesbian tendencies, which ensures that no other school will take them in.

It recently happened to Barbara, the daughter of my lovely friend Janet who died last year. Doris has a pile of letters from parents asking for our help and enclosing the pages of written bile. There is no appeal. We are one step away from flinging the girls, bound, into a river to see if they float. I am not quite sure what to do.

SUNDAY

Currently, the Somalis have taken over almost all the viable farms in Meru, buying them from the older farmers, or, more easily, from their widows. This is the heartland of miraa (khat, jabba, call it what you will) and it is now monoculture.

The Somali growers get the young locals to pick it. But this is picking like no picking since cotton picking in America – complete with bullwhips and sticks with which the pickers are beaten. If any of the pickers is seen eating even one single leaf of the stuff, then the overseer takes that person’s hand off at the elbow. And if it happens again, the other forearm goes. Apparently the idea is that just losing the hand is insufficiently crippling. And the local police and other authorities are simply paid to look the other way.

MONDAY

Julius brings some great news about a boy Mama Biashara set up in a water carrying business in Kawangware about two years ago.

He was bought a wheelbarrow and some jerrycans and he would go to the water point, fill up and then go around houses selling water door to door. He has now given that wheelbarrow to another young bloke and started him in a water business while the first young man now owns and runs two motorbike taxis and is in the process of getting one more. This is huge. And makes me very happy.

CONTINUED HERE


Mama Biashara survives solely on donations and on sales at the Mama Biashara shop in Shepherd’s Bush, London.

You can donate HERE.

Leave a comment

Filed under Charity, Gay, Kenya, Sex

Political killings in Kenya and in the UK

On Friday (in London) I recorded the weekly Grouchy Club Podcast with comedy critic Kate Copstick on a bad line from a noisy cafe in Nairobi.

Copstick is in Kenya until this coming Friday, working with her Mama Biashara charity, which helps deprived individuals and groups to start up their own small legitimate businesses to support themselves; and also deals with medical problems.

Here are some more highly-edited extracts from her diary entries which appear in full on the Mama Biashara Facebook page.


Mama Biashara logo

TUESDAY 14th JUNE

Equal opportunity rejection yesterday… A Presbyterian organisation turned down my pleas for help and we were told that the Moslem children of Kibera would rather be worm-ridden and scabby-headed than have us help as I am ‘unclean’. Not even an infidel. Unclean. To be fair, that is actually quite true at the moment

Doris calls to cancel our afternoon de-worming in Kibera. She says she has been warned off because there is a LOT of tension following some members of the government publicly calling for the shooting of the Leader of the Opposition. Doris has been told to leave if she wants to be safe. So she leaves. Shortly thereafter I get sent a photo of a woman’s body burning on the streets of Kibera.

David and I sit in a massive jam on Moi Avenue caused by the fact that a matatu sacco has its stage there and, on a small two lane road, one lane is permanently blocked solid with parked buses. Ten of the buggers I counted. Why is it allowed? I wonder aloud. I am told: It is not allowed. It is against the law and by laws and City Council rules. But these buses are owned by MPs and so no one will touch them.

In the city centre, everyone is talking about the Kuria – the guy who started all the hate speech and calls for Raila to be killed – and his cronies. Nairobi is not happy.

WEDNESDAY 15th JUNE

A woman burned to death in the streets of Kibera.

A woman burned to death in the streets of Kibera, Kenya.

The government have put six of the hate speech MPs in the cells. The opposition want theirs released immediately as it was the government MPs who started it all. I fully expect one of them to threaten to scweam and scweam until he ith thick. But, instead, they threaten more disruption.

On Facebook yesterday, I posted a fucking picture of a woman ON FIRE in Kibera. They went crazy in Kibera a set a couple of random people on fire because they were the wrong tribe. NOT ONE COMMENT ON FACEBOOK !!! WTF are people about?

I mean, I know that the Orlando massacre was horrific and appalling and now all right-thinking people are standing in silence in Old Compton Street because – of course – that will change everything and not just because it will make THEM feel better. But for fuck’s sake. Sorry. Rant over.

Has America come round to the disappointing realisation that Orlando might just have been old-fashioned homophobia and not new and exciting and politically useful terrorism?

THURSDAY 16th JUNE

A new Mama Biashara juice bar

A new Mama Biashara juice bar recently opened in Nairobi.

As the picture I posted on Facebook of an actual woman on actual fire during riots in Kibera got not one reaction, I thought I would revert to something nicer in the hope that people will notice. This is part of a Mama Biashara Juice Bar. And this tiny space is home to sixty business people : chapati and coffee sellers, sugar cane juice makers, fresh fruit salad and juice sellers, samosa makers and boiled egg peeps. Mostly funded yesterday and raring to go.

I go to the market at Junction to collect stock. Worryingly, Evans – who is making two chess sets for us – has not returned from Kisii. And his phone is not going through.

Online, I read about the MP who has been shot and stabbed in the UK. Bloody hell!

For once, the craziness in the UK exceeds the craziness in Kenya.

Here, all hell has broken loose because some MPs were calling for the assassination of the leader of the opposition. In the UK, they have actually killed an MP. These are bad times. I feel like watching a Shirley Temple film or going to see Spencer JonesHerbert, just to reassure myself that there is sweetness around somewhere.

And my wonderful Uncle Bob has had a stroke. And a child has been eaten by an alligator (or something) at Disney World. And a magpie is stealing blue tit chicks in my stepsister’s garden in Scotland.

Back in my Nairobi home, I discover we have no water and I lug a jerrycan round to my cell so I can wash some clothes. Oh yes. That is how we roll here at Mama Biashara. My hopes of having hot water explode with my kettle on a dodgy plug, so a cold wash has to do. Then I organise the pile of de-wormers, malaria medication, painkillers and calcium, cod liver oil and garlic, multivitamins and cough syrup to be sent to Jayne in Awendo and Julius in Western.

Thence to bed. I play Solitaire obsessively every night, because it is about creating order out of chaos it is incredibly therapeutic for my fraught mind. I have wildly scatological dreams. A first for me… and not in a good way.

FRIDAY 17th JUNE

The administration block of Kenyatta Hospital

Administration block of Kenyatta National Hospital, Nairobi.

There are a couple of things I have forgotten to mention and one new horror to regale you with.

It turns out that Joan’s account of there being no more free ARVs for HIV+ people in Kenya is true. Médecins Sans Frontières is withdrawing from most places – Homa Bay has gone and Kibera is on the way out. Their clinics are being taken over by the Kenyan Health Authorities which means paying for everything and being treated by doctors who are – in general – doctors in name only.

Felista was also called to a meeting by the NACC (National AIDS Control Council) along with all concerned parties in the Dagoretti area to be told that the ARVs have almost run out completely and there are no more testing kits. It is one way, I suppose, of keeping your HIV infection stats looking chipper – just don’t test people.

In other news, a news crew (Kenyan) got into a small room in Kenyatta Hospital (the biggest in Eastern Africa… A beacon of light and hope blah blah blah) where 36 people were crammed in various stages of injury. These are people who had been injured in an accident and brought to Kenyatta Emergency Department. When it transpired after a couple of days that they could not pay their bill, they were dumped off the ward into this small room. Just a room – absolutely nothing that could be construed as an amenity – and relatives have to bring them food and clothing. No beds, just the stone floor. Some still bandaged up. A couple still bloodied. One bloke has been there for a year.

SATURDAY 18th JUNE

Copstick with Mama Biashara co-worker Felista

Kate Copstick (right) with Mama Biashara co-worker Felista

I am still angry with the world.

There is a new girl whom Felista wants me to see. Also the dormitory floors are oozing water. And the gate is falling apart.

The new girl – Shiko – was rescued from her uncle. She was sent to live with him after her parents died. She was beaten and locked in a back room. She is mentally impaired because of the appalling traumas she has been through – including being trapped in that locked room when fire broke out and being very very badly burned. It is impossible to tell how badly. Her scars are horrible and she has almost lost a hand. She exhibits quite a lot of obsessive behaviour – as a lot of the badly-abused kids at Felista’s do when they arrive – and eats paper. But she responds to stroking and when we put some music on she dances with me.

Another girl, Muthoni, came to Felista utterly broken after ten years of sexual abuse at the hands of her uncle from the age of five. The uncle has not been imprisoned. He said that, because he ‘married’ her when she was thirteen (and had already been abusing her for eight years) it was all OK. The police agreed.

Muthoni is now a bouncing, healthy, happy teenager. She is very cuddly – sort of like a large seven year old – and she can now see men without screaming. Recently, she has told Felista she wants a husband.

So there is great hope for the new girl Shiko. And Muthoni is looking after her.


MAMA BIASHARA EXISTS SOLELY BECAUSE OF DONATIONS. COPSTICK RECEIVES NOTHING AND SHE COVERS NONE OF HER EXPENSES IN ANY WAY. THE MAMA BIASHARA WEBSITE HAS DETAILS OF THEIR WORK.

1 Comment

Filed under Charity, Kenya, Medical, Politics