The Swahili word for hope is ‘tumaini,’ and for a Sault Ste. Marie-based volunteer group, hope is what Tumaini Afrika wants to bring during its upcoming visit to the continent.
The group will be sending five of its members to the Mathare slums of Nairobi and the village of Homa Bay in order to bring food, educational supplies and sanitary items to young women in February.
Tumaini Afrika leader Holly Wickett, a retired school principal, said that donations from Saultites - which she estimates to be "at least 40 to 50 thousand dollars" - has made a number of relief efforts possible since the group began in May of 2014.
She said the group, consisting of about a dozen volunteers, gives 100 per cent of its donated cash and goods directly to the people it’s trying to help.
“We’re pretty passionate about it,” Wickett said. “People have been amazing here. We’re so thrilled with the support we have received.”
For this trip, Tumaini Afrika will be going to a school situated in Mathare, a collection of slums in Nairobi, in order to educate school teachers on ‘differential learning’, a learning method that educates people across a broad spectrum of skills and abilities, and how to accomplish that without many of the resources available in more developed countries.
The group will also be donating money, school supplies and reusable sanitary products for the young women at the school. The sanitary devices are hand-sewn in a Sault Ste. Marie-based church as part of Days For Girls International, an organization that supplies women with hygiene products and health education.
“They’re reusable sanitary products,” said Wickett. “Over there, the girls miss a week of school a month because they’re on their periods. It’s pretty awful, and if you get that far behind, you’re not likely to stay in school.”
“Sometimes, they just have to stay in their huts because they can’t afford sanitary products.”
Members of Tumaini Afrika will also visit Homa Bay, a town just west of Nairobi, to bring goats to young women. Wickett said that young Kenyan women ‘usually don’t have property there.’
“We’ll have a local buy the goats, and we’ll present them to the girls when we’re in Homa Bay,” Wickett said.
The roots of Tumaini Afrika
The first trip for the Sault-based group happened in 2014, when it sent some of its members to the Compass School, a school for orphans and refugees located west of Nairobi, after the group raised money to feed students at the school.
The group also raised enough money to hire sewing teachers for the Compass School.
“Sometimes the only way people make funds over there is to do something entrepreneurial,” said Wickett. “They’re teaching these girls to sew all sorts of items that can be sold so they can make some money to eat, or to help their families out.”
Tumaini Afrika , through cash donations, and the sale of donated items, enabled the volunteer group to complete the following initiatives during previous trips to Africa in 2014 and 2016:
- Fencing around a school in a Maasai village outside of Nairobi to keep animals out
- Water tank for a Maasai village, made possible through donations by retired teachers union in Sault Ste. Marie
- Chickens for Compass School in order to provide students and their families poultry to eat, eggs for both sale and consumption
- Roof for a Compass School classroom
Fundraiser announced for January
Now Tumaini Afrika is looking to generate money for its latest initiative by hosting a fundraiser featuring live music and a silent auction at The Pavilion, located in the Water Tower Inn, on Jan. 26.
Group member Jeannine Jefferson and her 10-piece band, The Reptiles, will be performing rock music, complete with a horn section, from 8 a.m. to 12 a.m.
Jefferson, who has made the trip to Africa to volunteer with Tumaini Afrika in the past, says she’s looking forward to this year’s initiative.
“I knew [after] the last time I came home, I had to go back,” said Jefferson. “I’m not done. You know, you get that feeling once your eyes have been opened and you see the poverty, and you see how our kids here are just so spoiled, it just changes you.”