Saturday, 14 March 2020

Corona Virus

I am so sorry to hear that Corona Virus has made it to Kenya. We might tell ourselves that things couldn't get any worse than it is here, or in Italy, but conditions in the most crowded places in Kenya mean that it could run rife. The first case has been discovered within the University at Nairobi and there are currently 22 people in quarantine, but once it finds its way into the slums and shanty towns the death toll could be horrendous.

As the news came out, those that come from more rural areas were forced to leave the city, student accommodation closed down, public transport cramped and crowded. How many people will  inadvertently take the virus home?

More than ever we are united and untied by global problems - poverty, land, space, technology, medicine, hygiene, contact and separation.

Until this is all over we may not be able to function very well as a project - but this is the least of our worries at this time. We don't know if the flights we had lined up to take additional baggage will even take off. Like everyone else we just have to sit and be patient and flexible. If love was enough it would certainly happen.

Stay safe my friends - wherever you are.

Monday, 9 March 2020

When owls are good luck

Young, uneducated girls in pastoralist communities in Kenya sometimes have to grow up very quickly. Girls as young as thirteen are often left to herd the families' goats, and soon married off to older men to have a series of babies while they are still children. Many become ill or even die from maternal conditions. The only escape for them is to go to school and to become educated. This is the story of Neema, one young woman who was diverted out of poverty through sheer good luck...

While Neema was taking care of her goats, she came across some owl chicks. In her culture owls are considered to be extremely bad luck, and the boys that were with her told her to kill them. Ignoring them, Neema decided to take the chicks home to her family. They weren't very pleased and contacted our good friend Ambrose, who was known for his work with leopards, to come and help. He and Neema took the chicks back to where they came from and restored them to their nest.

Ambrose noticed how interested Neema was in the chicks and wildlife generally and was concerned that this interest would go to waste. Through the Loisaba Community Conservation Foundation he applied for funds to send her to school and finally persuaded her reluctant father that she should be allowed to go.

Once permission had been given, Ambrose removed the traditional beads from around her neck which signified that she was available for marriage, and instead she was given a school uniform. Shy and no doubt nervous she went off to school for her very her first day along with all of the things she needed.

Neema now attends Lentile Hills Academy where she is in Grade One and is getting great results. During holiday periods she gets together with Sarah and Nellie, the two young students that my friend Xanthe and I are sponsoring through school.

If you are interested in sponsoring a child through school then please contact: Loisaba Community Conservation Foundation direct.

You can also help by providing a tired suitcase, decent clothing, or the rest of your long haul baggage allowance on a flight to Nairobi from the UK. We will help you to get this to remote communities in Kenya via our charitable links there.

All photos by kind permission Amblai Photography

Thursday, 5 March 2020

You, great knit!

I was a little overwhelmed this morning to receive a neat box through the post which contained the most exquisite knitted cardigans, light jumpers, hats and bootees for small babies in Kenya. I know, absolutely know, that there were created with love, absolute love, since Xanthe has accompanied us on our last two visits to the Mara and Loisaba.

We've taken special care - okay, we asked Ambrose - to make sure that knitted items are appropriate and wanted, and he has reassured us that they are.

Meanwhile Frances has been mentioned in dispatches by the material shop that she frequents in Lyndhurst - Nicola's Fabrics - for turning fabulous prints into a beautiful dress and a whole heap of reusable sanitary pads.

Second hand or new, we know that things that you give us are given with love and compassion. Thank you very much.

Tuesday, 3 March 2020

Good things come in threes

It's been a really good day with our very first passengers all lined up to take three suitcases out to Kenya. Just as you think you might have 'invented' a model that won't work, everything slots into place. I ache to make this work and it is really difficult to explain why this project is so important to me and to the people who will benefit from it. Unless you've got oodles of cash to throw at a charity it is hard to come up with something that is just plain helpful.

 We've also been offered some more clothes by a lady in Wales - another friend just happens to be going on holiday there in a few weeks' time so she is going to pick them up for me. In the meantime we are due to receive more baby clothes and some reusable nappies from three other friends and three large piles of reusable sanitary pads from our champion sewers.

Finally, we are due to make an appearance in a newsletter published by one of the wonderful conservancies which will be accepting our suitcases for their local communities.

Monday, 2 March 2020

The Life Balance

I know from experience that when we stay in one of the Lodges, either at Loisaba or the Masai Mara, we are waited on hand and foot. I feel slightly embarrassed about this and like to make friends with the staff and lighten their load by at least keeping my room tidy. The lodges and their surrounding conservancies employ lots of people not only in the kitchen and dining room but also as cleaners, gardeners at the lodge, or engineers in the garage. There's the anti-poaching team and all the people who look after the domestic animals, camels and cattle, as well as overseeing the wildlife. Of these, it is probably the guides who have the highest profile and their master's degree level of understanding the habits of the wild animals is outstanding.

Places like Loisaba, employ hundreds of people, many of which work behind the scenes. Many come from communities far away which they will only visit every four months, others live in the local communities. Each one of them is likely to provide for ten or more family and distant family members, generously eeking out their wages to share with them all.

It is easy for tourists to forget or ignore the hardships faced by remote communities although they can always give a large tip to the staff or a donation to local charities. Ailsa's Suitcase allows them to do even more at little or no cost - taking an extra suitcase on their flight to be delivered to the charitable organisations that support remoted pastoralist communities. This takes those communities beyond simply existing and helps to give practical support to children going through school, particularly girls.

We provide functional clothing for outside school hours including nightwear and underwear which helps people to stay clean, and to avoid things like bed bugs. Shoes help people to avoid 'jiggers' which are parasitic insects which burrow themselves through people's skin and lay their eggs within their body. They can cause swelling, itching, and infection, and lead to amputation or even death in very bad cases. People who have them find it difficult to walk because of the extreme discomfort. Children find it hard to settle in school too when they are infested with jiggers.

PLEASE help us to get this project off the ground by taking one of our suitcases with you to Kenya. The procedure is very straightforward and we provide the appropriate paperwork.

Take a look at another lovely blog for their description of Jiggers

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...