Wednesday, 26 February 2020

Above Board

When I took my first extra suitcase to Kenya last year, I must confess that I was a little concerned about it. I should have been travelling light since I was taking an internal flight to go on safari. Not only did I have a heavy suitcase, but I also had my Mother's ashes with me, which bore a remarkable resemblance to cocaine. However, with all of the right paperwork for both, I needn't have worried at all. Everything went extremely smoothly and there were no glitches.

This time, the main beneficiary was Angelique, a lady with diabetes who has trouble getting around. 

I am aching for more suitcases to go out to Kenya to be distributed to the communities that need them most. At the moment we are being thwarted by the global threat of coronavirus and also the fact that it is the low season for Kenya. All we need is our first intrepid traveller to have the courage to take us up on our offer and to discover that it is all very simple.

Travelling light? Internal flights have a 15kg weight limit whereas most international flights allow at least twice that: Why waste a baggage allowance?

We provide the suitcase and its contents plus the relevant, simple, paperwork. All a traveller needs to do is:
  •  Check through the suitcase to make sure they are happy with its contents
  •  Take the suitcase to their check-in desk
  •  Collect the suitcase at baggage reclaim in Nairobi
  •  Hand the suitcase to a representative from Elewana Tour Company
Elewana will hand the suitcase over to their sister charity, Land and Life Foundation, who will ensure that the suitcase and its contents are distributed to remote communities in Kenya.

If you want to help the ordinary people of Kenya while you have an extraordinary experience on safari then please get in touch. There is nothing to it apart from a little effort and a lot of love!

Luxury lodge accommodation
Help to give something back to remote communities

Tuesday, 25 February 2020

Oh Pants!

We will accept pants! 

In some areas of Kenya there is a cultural reluctance to handle women's pants - connected with the practice of FGM, which although outlawed by the Government, is still prevalent. Accordingly some charities are cautious about taking pants for local communities since they would not be welcomed. I am pleased to say that pants will be happily accepted in at least one of the communities that we are going to help, and even more pleased to be able to say that FGM has been replaced with a far more positive 'coming of age' ceremony for young women. This is thanks in no small part to the work of my good friend Ambrose Letoluia, and also a wonderful charity called SAFE (see more at: www.SAFE Kenya). 

Whatever our own views on this subject, it is one that must be handled sensitively if it is to be eradicated. It is no good shouting 'no' or saying 'it's their culture, you'll never stop it." The fact is that it is being abandoned in many places with the help of tactful, diplomatic people. This little girl, for example, will escape the practice because of the work that has been done on the ground in the communities. 

Thursday, 20 February 2020

Charity Starts at Home

We often hear people say that 'charity begins at home'. With low wages, zero-hours contracts, and sustained austerity in the UK, there is no doubt that many people are struggling to make ends meet - the massive rise in the number of food banks is further evidence of this.

This is why we have tried to make Ailsa's Suitcase as cheap and cheerful as we can. We don't take monetary donations (we're not registered as a charity anyway) but we accept donations of suitcases and useful supplies, connecting then with travellers to Kenya who can hand then straight over to The Land and Life Foundation whose sister company is already travelling to the remote areas that we want to help. All we need from people is love and effort - no money required.

Whilst some sections of society in Africa are doing well and the middle-class is growing, people who live in remote communities struggle to survive. There is no welfare system and little back up when times get especially hard through drought, floods, and civil unrest. Yet, the people we have met are rich in tradition and rich in culture. Men and women in work tend to support at least another ten relatives, whilst others work hard at looking after their cattle and goats. Nevertheless many people struggle to pay for the food that they need and struggle to pay for medicine. Clothing comes way down any list. Many children have no more than the clothes that they stand up in.

We're not interested in money, politics, or ego - we just want to help.

Sunday, 16 February 2020

Menstruation - is a very long word

If you think menstruation is taboo in this country … blue liquid in all of the panty-pad adverts on the TV! - then it is even more so in Kenya. Girls often stay off school when they are having their period - for lack of pads or even knickers. That's four or five valuable school days out of every month.

No-one wants to litter remote places with more disposable tampons and pads. However fabric reusable sanitary pads have the advantage of being durable, washable, and discreet.

We are gathering sewers who are forming do-it-yourself production lines in making reusable pads. We're also coming up with our own practical pattern which will appear on the website. In the meantime I am negotiating for toweling in Africa so that we can save weight when sending the pads over by plane.

Friday, 14 February 2020

Ailsa's Suitcase - Unpacking our progress

Late last year, David and I were undertaking Swahili lessons with Leanne who runs a charity in Kisumu in Kenya. When she returned to Kenya we sent her home with two extra suitcases full of clothes for the local community.

We've always loved Kenya, for it's wildlife and its wilderness, but not really had much to do with the local communities. Over the years, as we have made friends, we have become more aware of the great divide that separates rich, middle class, and really poor in Kenya. Whilst the traditional life of people living in remote communities is extremely rich, life is also bloody tough, with everything beyond the most basic food and water, out of the reach of most families. As always, the key to escaping extreme poverty is education and yet families cannot afford to send their children to school, never mind provide them with suitable clothing. As Leanne said to us, some people can't even afford an aspirin if they are ill.

Many would argue that these sort of problems have beset remote areas of Kenya for a long time and that hand ups are better than hand downs. Nevertheless, the gains made by pastoralist communities can easily be blown away by extreme drought, flooding, disease and tribal invasion. There is no benefit system in Kenya that can cover these sorts of events.

We needed to come up with a cheap and cheerful way of getting supplies of clothing and educational materials to the charities which directly help remote communities, especially women and children. Earlier we had sent three complete football kits via a freight company to Loisaba in Laikipia. Despite the kits being donated freely, the cost of the freight was prohibitive and we knew that we couldn't repeat this on a regular basis - especially when that money could be spent instead on more supplies.

As we explored the idea of sending more suitcases to Kenya, we learned that it was even more straightforward than we had thought it would be. As long as we had a supply of second hand suitcases, we could accept donations of clothes that were new or secondhand, along with supplies of educational equipment. At the other end the Elewana Collection, owners of a dozen or more lodges, and their associated charity The Land and Life Foundation, agreed to collect the suitcases from the international airport in Nairobi, and to distribute them to the remote communities around all of their lodges. This was an unbelievable step forward.

We called the project Ailsa's Suitcase after we received an incredible donation of her lovely clothes  from her husband and yet the spirit of generosity came directly from my Mum, Patricia, who loved Africa too.

From the outset we received some lovely donations of clothing - everything from maternity wear to baby clothes to older children's clothing. People started to make things too - pillow cases dresses and reusable sanitary pads. Pens, pencil and pants!

A neighbour created a website for us and gave his time and skills for free.

ALL WE NEED NOW IS PASSENGERS TO TAKE THE FIRST SUITCASES TO KENYA - we provide everything. All a traveller needs to do is to examine the contents, take the suitcase to check-in and then collect it at baggage reclaim in Nairobi and hand it over to an Elewana Driver. Almost effortless.

Holding our Breath

Who would have thought that within a few short months of creating Ailsa's Suitcase we would be entirely on hold? All of the clothes that...