Visiting Baraka Women’s Center Part 1

July 18

Arrived in Nairobi via Rome and Doha. About 11,000 air miles and 10 time zones. I should be recovered from jet lag a few days before I return to the Bay.

Baraka Women’s Center is organizing a 6th Anniversary fundraiser following a week-long fundraising workshop with Kenya Community Development Foundation (KCDF).  A new Board has been selected to work on this event and others related to fortifying and expanding BWC’s work.

BWC Temporary office Ngara
BWC office

I’m spending most of my time with Teresia Waikuru, Baraka Center’s Manager.  The Center has moved a couple of times since early 2016 when a strange ‘coup’ was organized by the first Center Manager in concert with formerly trusted colleagues, to undercut Teresia’s authority. Despite numerous betrayals and weird intrigues, she prevailed in her vision for the Center.  Currently it’s on the lower level of a commercial building in Ngara, one of the poor neighborhoods near Nairobi City Center. The Center is a single room about 12×15 feet. Space for a desk, file cabinet, supplies, and an area dedicated to a vocational program teaching women hair styling and related salon skills.  Poor lighting from two weak tubes on the ceiling. Unlike an earlier site in Pangani, seriously too small. Put 20 people in it, and you’ve got no room to move.  The search is on for a bigger space – and money to support expanded operations.

As with Oakland Center, eating is a regular group activity, but not nearly as elaborate.  Today’s lunch was spiced rice with bits of meat.  Some days it’s PB&J. Heavy carbs to fuel up. And always milk tea.

View out front door of Center
View from the entrance to Baraka Women’s Center

Most non-Kenyans drive or are driven where ever they go. I walk to the Center from a little hotel about a half-mile away. People stare at me curiously and a few offer friendly greetings. I’m beginning to get my bearings; my last visit here was three years ago. The equivalent of 2 cents will get you a bus or matatu ride downtown. Matatus are basic passenger vans seating 15-17 people.  Some are tricked up with slogans and art.  Too many have aggressively loud music.

Inside a Nairobi bus; the wide screen TV is something new.

Weather is much like the Bay Area’s this past May:  cool, cloudy days in the 70s, maybe a splash of sun in late afternoon. The long rains are couple of months away. The Great Migration has started in the Masaai Mara.

Busted-up sidewalks splattered with trash are the norm in Ngara.  The main street in this neighborhood is  lined with second-hand clothing and shoe dealers. Some hawkers sell slices of pineapple or roasted corn on the cob.  A whole block of fabric stores, mostly run by Indians, many here for generations.

I’m so proud of how Teresia and a few key allies (including two devoted sons, Christopher and Alexander)  have nurtured and expanded the Baraka Center vision against big odds.

Shelmi, teckla, Adrianna, Me and Teresia
Shelmith Njeri (BWC Board member), Teckla Onyach (former BWC staff member, now teaching tailoring), Adrianna (Teckla’s amazing daughter), Susan Burgess-Lent, (WCI), and Teresia Waikuru (BarakaCenter Manager and Board Secretary)

Part 2 coming soon.

2 thoughts on “Visiting Baraka Women’s Center Part 1”

  1. Jambo Susan! Please give my love to Teresia ( I know her through GWLN association). She told me about the coup ; the natural leader that she is, she has weathered that storm, learnt from it and grown stronger. I wish both of you great success in realizing your vision. It is a tough fight, but one that needs to be fought.
    Best wishes,
    Radha

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