Following on from my previous blog – more extracts from comedy critic Kate Copstick’s diary, slightly edited. Full versions on her Facebook page. She is in Kenya where her Mama Biashara charity is based.
Mama Biashara (‘Business Mother’) gives small sums to impoverished individuals and small groups to help them start self-supporting small businesses.
Their slogan is that it is a hand up not a hand out.
Saturday 4th November
I get a call from Doris who has had a call from Vicky to say that the farmers who own the land in Kisii, where the refugees are huddled, have let it be known that, if anyone brings any form of help to the refugee community, all hell will break loose (I loosely translate from the angry Kisii).
So we are holding off on our mercy mission. David and I cancel our trip to the Indian Blanket Supremo and the medical supplies wholesaler. I head straight to the market.
Doris also tells me that, overnight, the government has pulled a U-turn on the NHIF restriction (mentioned in the previous blog). It will now continue unrestricted. I am saying nothing. But am impressed with the swiftness of the reaction. It is the right decision.
Doris has gone out to Limuru to see a group of people she is desperate to help. They are currently working for £1 per day on a big tea farm. They are wholly uneducated, helpless, hopeless people. Too frightened even to try starting a business in case they are thrown out and lose their £1 per day. They want us “to empower them” says Doris.
The Mama Biashara method of a brisk talking-to, a decent business plan, a good chain of supply and a useful choice of business location, topped off with start up grant and a hearty hug is obviously not going to work here. Doris says she will update me.
I get round the market in about four hours. I am knackered and sore and my tiny ears are ringing to the cries of “Mama Biashara! You are my Mother! Promote me!” I can only disappoint so many people in a day without breaking.
Sunday 5th November
I am going to DECIP (the home for children that Mama Biashara built) to make some little videos to put up on Facebook in the hope of getting some money for Felista. She is a woman with a heart the size of Kenya and has been rescuing kids from abandonment, abuse, rape and destitution for a decade.
Mama Biashara sends her about £170 per month. She gets nothing from the government, although the Children’s Department are very supportive. She is the reason I am in Kenya and I often feel bad, as I hare off all over the country setting up businesses for the desperate poor, that I do not do more for her.
So we are going to put out some pleas for help for her and I will set up a MyDonate page for her. She is someone who infuriates me but whom I am so very proud to know.
I have brought her some shoes, a bag, a skirt and two tops. Felista almost never gets anything for herself. Even the one room in the home that should be hers is always full of the youngest children playing and looking for a cuddle.
DECIP has had improvements. A marvellous lady paid for the dormitories to be re-floored so the water doesn’t flood them any more, the passageway from dorm to dorm is now covered over and the water from the roof harvested, many places have new roofing, and a nice rich Chinese man is going to build a big hall for them to use for exams and recreation.
At this time it is proving really difficult to help people – because of the numbers of weapon-wielding other people in the way. So I am going to concentrate more on DECIP this trip. And see what we can do there.
Monday 6th November
I suddenly start to feel decidedly not OK. Just the usual crap, but that tends to mean getting horizontal and trying to sleep it out.
That not being possible, I turn to the small packet of gifts from our newest volunteer Chris.
There are few things that can go wrong with the human body that have not gone wrong with Chris.
There is absolutely no upside for her. But for me, it means that any painkiller is available. And I have with me a selection of the finest. I curl up till all is made chemically well.
Now I have a meeting with Joan. Through her we have worked quite extensively with the albino community and with groups of women with badly disabled kids. The businesses we started with the mothers are doing really well in Kibera, apparently. I will go and visit. Joan’s main work is with child victims of sexual violence.
When we last met she was in a little house in Kabira with six small girls who had been raped and one older girl, mentally and physically challenged, and also a victim of rape. I wrote about them on my last trip.
During the endless, tit for tat, post and para election violences here, a group of militant kikkuyu took it upon themselves to attack the compound where Joan was sheltering the girls. All of them were beaten – from the two-and-a-half year old rape victim to Joan herself. Everyone ran. But Susan, the big girl, was too frightened and she hid. And was discovered. And was beaten and raped again. Everything was stolen from inside Joan’s house.
The men from the compound caught the rapist. They took him to the local police station (well, the one that had not been burned down). Where he was released because the police did not want the militants to come and burn down their police station too.
The girls are now with Joan’s aunt but that cannot continue. She is looking at places in Ngando and has been offered a four bedroom, stone built, self-contained house beside the Catholic church. Great security.
What I am thinking is that Mama Biashara can help pay the rent here, we will help set it up as soon as we can and we will support it as a Mama Biashara project for victims of child rape and sexual abuse.
All of the current group of victims are the children of women who do low-rent commercial sex work. The girls are locked in the house while the mothers go out at night. Which is why they are so vulnerable to passing rapists. Mama Biashara would – as part of this project – work with the mums and set them up in a decent small business so they can give their daughters a proper secure home.
I am hugely enthused about this and we are going to see the house tomorrow.
Anyone fancy taking money out of their offshore tax haven and using it to help these kids?
You can now uncross your fingers about the money from the lovely trust who helped us before. We did not get anything. They are concentrating on more formal, UK-based charities. Pretty devastating for Mama Biashara. And it means, short of a miracle, I will be cutting my trip here a bit short.
Going to my tent now.
Mama Biashara subsists solely on donations and from sales at its London shop. Copstick covers 100% of her own costs, including flights and accommodation and takes zero. 100% of all donations go to the charity’s work. You can donate HERE