In April 2007 I was in a training session with two women’s groups learning how to sew bags from printed fabrics and make jewelry from paper. My phone rang and it was a call from Jim Leftwich of Amani UK, a person and team I had known for a few years. Jim asked me questions about the five groups I was working with: what they did, what we were hoping to achieve, numbers involved, etc. Not wishing to delay my training session, Jim promised to phone back later.
After the subsequent phone call I agreed to form Imani Community Development Organization and later we became a partner of Upendo Foundation, an NGO sponsored by Amani UK. It was only later, as I reflected on the phone calls with Jim, that I realized that he had actually interviewed me at that time.
Eight years later Amani UK has enabled us to fulfil the dreams we had as little groups by enabling us to reach out to 32 groups across the federation. The solid structure we have as a federation has opened ways for collaboration with government ministries and other organizations, notably ElectricAid, Anton Jurgens, Holy Trinity Church Hazlemere, St. Alkmund’s Church Derby and Trade Relief. The Imani and Kirongo CBOs have been strengthened and enabled to collaborate locally on specific programmes with the US Peace Corps, CEFA Value Chain, Tara, and Imani Belgium.
The following are some of the fruits we have realized:
- Strong working relationship with Amani UK as a donor and friend.
- A very effective staff team, able to reach out and assist, even into other organizations.
- Our little groups that started with beads and bags are continuing strong with high quality products, the only challenge being lack of a constant market.
- Enhanced self-esteem for young girls through training, encouragement and the Keep a Girl in School programme. Statistics show improved academic performance of the girls and active participation in co-curricular activities at school.
- Proud and enthusiastic farmer groups who can grow enough food for their families and share with the vulnerable people around them and participate in stakeholder forums and exhibitions.
- Through training in Alternative Nutrition and Value Addition, group members have been enabled to start a bakery, making special bread from amaranth seed and sweet potatoes, while others have initiated catering services, all as income generating activities.
- A community empowered with knowledge and skills.
- We come out of challenges an even stronger team.
As I leave to take up the responsibility of managing a Community Training Centre, my vision for the future is that this will form another base for team members, where they can train members of the community, especially the young women. I see the establishment of the Centre as being enabled by the strength and experience gained from the team work in the Upendo Federation. I dream that, with various organizations holding training courses at the Centre, there will be enhanced donor/ community relationships. Volunteers who can spare time to join us and help impart their skills to the community members will be very welcome and help us to realize an empowered, skilled community, with a future for the coming generations.
At the end of October 2015, I will leave Imani and Upendo Foundation as a very proud leader. The Centre I am going to run is very young and I will definitely need their collaboration, assistance and advice.
I thank everyone for their dedicated co-operation.
Sophie Redemptah Otieno