The Vision of Maono

We were all inspired by our visit to the micro enterprise group that is known as Maono (which means vision). The idea was born when the founder Daisy who has a background in business, was on leave from work after the birth of a child. She was feeling a little bored one day and “coincidentally” three people approached her for a loan that same day. It started her thinking about a micro- enterprise idea. She said to one of the people who had approached her “I will meet with you this evening and bring along any others who may be interested”. About 40 people came and Maono began.

The way it works is that people join small groups and effectively form a bank together. They pool resources and lend money to each other from the mutual fund.

In Nairobi there are 4 million people and 70 percent of those people live in slums. There are one million people living in the slum of Kibera alone. We visited the meeting of two Maono groups in the slum of Karangawe. The dream of Maono is “a world with no slums”. We reached the meeting place by going across a rickety bridge over a drain.


Lee introduced our group to those gathered for the meeting. It was very appropriate that she did so because she used to work for Trust Bank a bank in New Zealand formed for the purpose of community development. It has now been absorbed into the multinational bank Westpac.

The ” solidarity” groups can be made up of 10 to 30 people but smaller groups work better so they usually split when numbers reach 15 people. The group I observed had several people who sell secondhand clothes, someone who burns CDs and sells them, someone who sells clothes door to door, a small grocery shop vendor, a man who makes and sells mandadazis (cakes which are like donuts) and a man who makes chapatis. Each group has its own constitution and rules for the way they operate. The group collected in 1900 Kenya shillings which is a good amount. The money was loaned out to the person who makes chapatis for the purpose of buying more flour. The borrower pays ten percent interest which is much cheaper than the 40 percent charged by moneylenders in this community. The usual practice is that the capital is to be paid back after 3 weeks at the most. They each pay 5 shillings in as a form of insurance. If a member of the group was robbed the group would help them out. If a member of the group was irresponsible with the money, they would be disciplined by the group accordingly. Over time the fund grows benefitting the members and raising their standard of living and self-esteem as part of the process.

This group was at the first stage of the process being a newly established group. When a group has been together for some time and has shown a proven record of working together and repaying loans made to each other they may become eligible for larger loans provided by donors. This is the second stage.

This is a proud member of a savings group with her savings book.


We met an inspirational woman called Evelyn. She makes and sells clothes and also makes bead jewellery funded by the Maono system. She mentors several groups and is raising 24 orphaned children. Eight of those children sleep with her in her small house at night in addition to two children of her own who live with her.


There was an opportunity to buy from some of the business owners. Here is Rowena sizing up some fabric.


Erin Hammond wearing some beautiful beads she bought. .


Our group with some of the people involved with Maono:

Glenis inspecting the wares:


A fruit stall business in a slum area:



The Last Days

After our return from Safari and visiting Roto Recycling and BawaLa Tumaini we had one unscheduled day before flying out in the evening. Some of us caught up on sleep, emails and journalling while others headed out for shopping opportunities and coffee. As you have seen on the blog two of us had amazing things done to their hair!

Jane did not go on the Safari so was itching to see some African animals up close. A wonderful woman called Debbie came and took us to the Safari Park located in Nairobi itself. We did see lots of animals and one of the keepers even took this picture of a leopard for us. I wouldn’t want to be this close to a leopard myself…


It was the safari scenes in the movie “Out of Africa” that sparked my interest in visiting Africa for myself one day. I was surprised to learn that the home of Karen Blixen ( the woman in the movie played by Meryl Streep) is no longer out in the wilds of Africa but is actually in a suburb of Nairobi and the house is now a museum. Debbie took Jane and I to look at the house and grounds. Many of the original pieces of Karen’s distinctive Danish furniture which she sold to pay debts have been brought back to the house so you do get a good picture of how it looked when she was living there.

En route for home we stayed one night in Dubai. The sparse, opulent and somewhat sterile atmosphere was a big contrast to being in Kenya.

Many of us had a fun evening going four wheel driving in the desert,riding camels and getting henna tattoos done. We also had an appropriate middle eastern meals and were entertained by a belly dancer and very skilled plate juggler.


It seemed that in the streets of the old part of Dubai we were the only women out and about and there were no women in the shops. However there were women serving in the shops of the indoor shopping malls and women shoppers dressed in burqas.


On the way home I reflected on the special group of women God brought together to make this trip and the many wonderful experiences and conversations we shared. Encounter Africa has not just been about the journey or the stops along the way but my travel-companions and their life stories- particularly the way God has journeyed with them in happy and hard times and the way their faith has sustained them and enriched their lives.

This photograph of the group was taken when we visited Beacon of Hope.


On Wings of Hope

On our second to last day we visited an organisation called “Bawa La Tumaini”and met the founder Anne.

The genesis of this organisation was in 2007 when Anne did the Mizizi ten week discipleship course at Mavuno Chapel. Her aim in doing the course was to connect with God and find purpose in her life . Week seven of the course is on social justice and after this week, Anne began to think about what she could do to make life better for those around her. Anne was working as a consultant in the Fair Trade area and accordingly was well-versed in the principles of Fair Trade. She realised that many people in the slums in Nairobi have talents for making products but do not have any connection to markets.

Anne met a man called Nicolas who was selling products at one of the Masai markets. He made good craft items but was not marketing them successfully on his own. He was so poor that he had no home and used to sleep in the outpatients department of a hospital at night. Anne bought products from him and found markets for him. She manged to get a large order for his products from a buyer in Austria. Now he has a bank account and life has changed for him.

Anne and others founded the organisation Bawa La Tumaini which means “wings of hope”. The statement ” the poorest person in the world is someone without hope” is an important statement for Anne. She saw that economic prosperity makes an enormous change in someone’s life. It provides hope for a better life that is sustainable for a lifetime and this gives a huge boost to a person’s sense of self- esteem when they can provide for their family on an on-going basis. The Bible verse Matthew 25:40 has been a significant motivation also ” Whatever you did for the least, you did it for me (Jesus)”.

Bawa La Tumaini currently has 300 women in Nairobi and beyond providing products for markets in Austria, Canada and Australia. Bawa researches what people like in different countries and they train people to make products that will sell well. They also offer training in branding,pricing and communication with customers.

When our group came up to the counter (when we were let loose in the shop), Anne and others commented how ” different groups like such different things”. Kiwis must have distinctive taste. There was certainly a great range of very attractive jewellery, baskets and other items at a good price.

The organisation is based on sound Fair Trade , Kingdom and environmental principles. Fifty percent of the price of the product is paid to the person straight away upon delivery of the items and then the further fifty percent upon the sale of the item. All materials are Eco-friendly eg. Natural dyes are used and they do not use hard wood. Bawa has a tree nursery and when one tree is used they plant two more.

There are challenges for them as the credit crunch in Europe has meant that their sales have only been a quarter of last year’s sales. They also need an injection of funds for funding of training and marketing. They have a web-site and are working on a secure payment system so people can purchase items on-line.


This is Anne with some of the jewellery on sale on the day we visited.

Keep an eye on us!

I know we are now almost almost all back home in NZ – we only left one of us behind and that was planned.  Christmas is upon us and most of us feel like we have hit the ground running with work,  school prize givings and end of the year events.  We may have supported projects in Kenya with our “purchasing ministry” but beads bags and books doesn’t always cover the blokes of our lives very well.  Biosecurity has a very nice mat destined for one bloke so some of us are busy with a bit of family oriented “purchasing ministry” and all of us are regaining familiarity with the whiteware of our homes.  Ovens, fridges, washing machines, freezers, supermarkets and cooking – things that has become just memories for a few weeks are now back in our lives with Christmas vigour.    SO …  

We have a few more stories to tell before we finish Kenya  AND perhaps even more importantly we have stories just beginning of what having “encountered Africa” has done to our lives.   SO maybe not before Christmas but later on keep an eye on our blog and follow our last stories and our new adventures.   Thanks for joining our journey and supporting us in lots of ways.  Blessings  Rowena.

Fast, frantic and fairly fraught! – last moments in Dubai. Part two

A hundred AED to deal with in Dubai duty free, not many minutes to deal to these vouchers. Let’s go. Chocolate. Shop located, bits of money counted. Things gathered. At checkout – oh you need to take that voucher and your boarding pass over to that kiosk and exchange it for a slip to use here. Mary goes with vouchers and boarding passes. Rowena holds space in queue. Millennia seem to pass. Checkout operator and Rowena’s eyes return to desk at about the same moment to realize Mary’s package is no longer lying there. Stolen ? Mary returns – you need to re-shop. That is happening while the honest bag pickeruperer returns Mary’s stuff. Stop re-shop. Time is passing. Mary’s done. Rowena offers 100Kenyan shillings note instead of 100AED – oops. More time passes. Sorted, done, RUN. Still 4 mins walk to gate so it was running time as we had no minutes to get there.

We fInd Kristi at the desk pleading our case. Thankful for that or we might have had a night in Dubai at our own expense! Not the time to be unable to find the passport easily – Rowena throws stuff out of her bag and appreciates the real humor from the airline official who kindly suggests I might need it again in Christchurch and keeping it handy could be wise.

Thru the door, down two escalators, and onto the bus to take us across to the plane. Kristi still pleading our case thru the glass to the driver. Can you go, please??? There were only three of us on the us After a few moments the adjacent bus begins to offload its passengers onto our bus. – apparently its doors wouldn’t close. Suddenly we are joined by more of the team. Stories are exchanged as we head across the tarmac. Onto the plane and jubilation – as far as they knew Mary and I were stuck in Dubai for another 24 hours. So we were all there as planned, exhausted, excited and all going home.

Home we go… yes! no?…yes, no, maybe…. Last moments in Dubai part one

Just sitting at Dubai airport. Praying that a couple of the team do get to travel with us this morning.
It’s always freaky when suddenly the system wants one person to do something different to everyone else …….

Suddenly now at home in NZ. Well it seems like that as I reopen my IPad and find a few Dubai lines. Things got crazy and a but confused for a while. It appears that last two of our team were booked after our initiation group booking were never joined to the group in the system, so they were bumped off the flight. Oh no!

We had some group discussions, found two who could stay an extra day in Dubai, had a further idea of two traveling via Auckland which would have given Glennis traveling companions and returned to the desk. Lots of to and fro discussions, telephone calls, two needing to travel were booked, other two onto standby, no thanks to Auckland idea. Passports returned boarding passes issued for those who needed to go, boarding passes handed in by those on standby. Phew (wonder how the Stevenson and Maina families will love this news)

A moment later before we even left the desk the turn up time for online checking turn up must have passed because the airline lady is giving us new info – you can all travel today, enough people didn’t turn up so for the two on stand by here are your new boarding passes and a voucher for 100 AEDs each for being willing to stay an extra 24 hours. Wow and delight. The boarding passes were for the same seat numbers as before. puzzling. We started together and we will finish together.

Laidlaw Graduation at Nairobi Airport

The graduation ceremony for Rowena and Mary’s class was yesterday 7th December in New Zealand. They had hoped the ceremony would be after they came back from Africa so they could graduate with the rest of their class but it was not to be. Rowena has completed a Bachelor of Theology and Mary a one year Post Grad Diploma in Theology.

They were both stunned when a graduation ceremony was arranged for them at Nairobi airport. Regalia was supplied in the form of Masai blankets as robes courtesy of Erin Scott and racy jungle mortar boards courtesy of Dorothea and a quantity of masking tape!


Not Nairobbery but rather Generosity

We had been warned about Nairobi’s reputation as “Nairobbery”.

We were nervous about security and tried to be vigilant about taking care of our belongings. One of our group did experience the “disappearance” of a handbag in a shopping mall which was unsettling. However when Jane left her cellphone on a shop counter today the shop proprietor chased her for quite a distance to return the distinctive pink iphone cell phone to her.

The generosity of our host families from Nairobi Chapel has been exceptional.

Here is Jane gleeful after the recovery of her cell phone!


Roto Rubbish Recycling

Today we went to the plastics recycling business called Eco Post. This was started by a woman called Lorna and her business partner Charles about 3 years ago. Lorna grew up in a slum area. The waste in the streets really concerned her and also the state of mind of people with no jobs and no hope. Through her parents’ hard work she was able to get an education and a job in a bank. Although her own situation was greatly improved she felt she could not ignore the faces of despair from her past and she wanted to do more with her life and to really make a difference.

She chose to work in the area of waste because waste does not discriminate – everyone creates it and has the problem of disposal. In Nairobi there are 2,400 metric tons of waste created every day and there is no waste collection service. Also 5,000 young people enter the job market every year and there are very few job opportunities even for graduates. Lorna’s philosophy is that “waste is not waste until it is wasted”. Lorna’s dream is to remove waste from the environment and to use it for good things. Eighteen months ago, the Eco Post business began. They salvage plastic products from rubbish dumps and process it into fence posts and other heavy duty plastic products . They have processed one million tons of plastic waste and saved 250 acres of forest being turned into fence posts. Employment has beqqen created for 300 people and as demands exceeds supply for the posts there is more potential for employment growth. Lorna has plans to employ 2,000 people by the end of 2013. The plant will need to be expanded for this to happen. The plant manager showed us around the plant. The first stage of the process is that street boys collect plastic rubbish from various places where rubbish is dumped. Then the rubbish is sorted and shredded and then people sift through the plastic scraps with magnets to take metal out which would not be good for the melting process. Then the plastic remains are melted down at high heat and poured into different moulds and then cooled. When we visited, the heating part of the process and the shredder were not working because there was a problem with power connection. This means that they are running behind with orders. We asked a few questions and found that it would cost 5 million shillings ($70,000 NZ) to get production running without interruptions and specifically 2million shillings ($28,000 NZ) for a generator.

What was the process of the dream becoming a reality? Lorna did the 10 week discipleship Mizizi course at Mavuno. Lorna felt that going ahead with a recycling project was a big step of faith like Abraham leaving his home in pursuit of the promised land. She had great support from her Life Group at Mavuno church and her family.

Lorna and Charles won several awards which gave them a small amount of capital and enabled them little by little to buy the equipment they needed. Now the business is sustainable (if power issues solved). They just need capital to expand further.

This is rubbish waiting for processing:


This is the process of sorting through the shredded plastic to sift out the metal.


Some of us had a go at sifting through the shredded plastic with magnets!


This is the extrusion moulding machine:


This is Anna looking at one of the finished posts before trimming with Aynsley looking on.


This is the core of the finished posts:


This is Anna looking at a small building with cladding made out of the recycled plastic:


This is Liz inside the display building clad with the recycled material.