My fashionABLE Ethiopian Genet Scarf

Fashionable Scarf

For Mother’s Day this year I received a beautiful limited edition fashionABLE scarf from ONE because I am a member of the ONE Moms advisory board and in the summer of 2011 I traveled with its ONE Moms on the inaugural trip to Africa when we went to Kenya.

In a trip to Ethiopia last year the ONE Moms visited the fashionABLE headquarters and met the Ethiopian women who make the scarves. They wrote great posts about their visit and about the ways in which fashionABLE helps women achieve a level of self-sufficiency for themselves and their families.

When I traveled to India last month my Genet scarf was always by my side and came in handy on six freezing cold international flights and in our hotel room when I couldn’t figure out how to use the thermostat and it was frigid every night. Even today at home whenever I get cold I always always wrap up in my gorgeous Genet scarf. 100% cotton, my scarf is wonderfully comfortable and is quite large – you can really wrap up in it.

At $65 you can use the Genet scarf in many different ways. In fact, here is a great post about four ways you can wear the scarf.

Last year I am happy that I was able to visit Ethiopia myself. It is a gorgeous country with beautiful, kind people. It’s a shame that so much of what people remember about Ethiopia is starving children with flies in their eyes. That couldn’t be further from the current state of Ethiopia.

If you’d like your own handmade Ethiopia Genet scarf you can read more about it and buy online at

Day 5: One Cow Can Change an Entire Community

Women are the backbones of Kenya. They are the ones who will feed the continent. They are the ones who will keep hunger at bay here. Their participation in the agricultural economy is vitally important to Africa’s future.

In Nakuru, Kenya we met Teresia Riungu, a dairy farmer who has managed to provide a living for herself in her retirement and has created enough work to employ others. Her small dairy farm is contributing to food security in her community as well as a food product that is nutritious for consumers which is important to the overall health of the country. Teresia Riungu through hard work, ingenuity, and spunk, has created an enterprise that has changed not only her life, but the lives of many others.

Teresia has been able to improve upon her dairy farm with the help of USAID. As a part of the five year Kenya Dairy Sector Competitiveness Program (KDSCP) that has been implemented by Land O’Lakes, Teresia has been trained to increase her milk supply, better feed her cows, improve upon breeding, and market her milk. Today her dairy farm produces 35 – 40 liters of milk per day and supplies cash flow to her on a daily basis. She earns $370 per month which is far above the one dollar a day that most Kenyans earn.

The Kenya Dairy Sector Competitiveness Program was designed to help small dairy farmers generate greater income through the sale of quality milk. Currently the KDSCP has reached 170,000 farmers, but its goal is to reach 300,000 farmers in order to create a competitive marketplace to sell milk straight to consumers, grocery stores and restaurants.

Land O’Lakes, who has worked in Kenya for ten years, targets women to help them form dairy cooperatives and work together to improve their household incomes. Teresia is a member of the Njoro Farmers Cooperative Society and has been since 2007. Due to the effectiveness of the collective, in 2005 the collective had 40 members and today there are over 400. Members of the collective, which is 60 percent women, were recently able to buy a two acre plot of land to build a processing plant. Now they are preparing to purchase a cooling facility instead of having to rent one.

These dairy collectives that you can find all over Africa, work because together the farmers are able to earn greater income by bulking their milk instead of selling it individually. Also, they have access to processing and cooling. Through the collective the farmers are also able to receive training on breeding, feeding their cows and growing more nutritious foods for the cows.

Before joining the collective, one of Teresia’s problems was losing her heifers to a shortage of food. Today she has a storehouse of hay that will last through the end of the year. She has also been trained to turn her heifer’s dung into methane gas that she will be able to use for lighting and cooking. This clean energy will enable Teresia to stop getting firewood and over time she will be able to have a small cooling facility on her own property.

Meeting Teresia showed us first-hand how well the program works. With three heifers and four calves, Teresia has earned enough to open her own bank account, an accomplishment she is extremely proud of. She no longer has to rely on her husband for money and is proud that she has a profit making small business to call her own.

Day 4: Life in the Kenyan Slums for a Single Mom #ONEMOMS

We have driven through and walked through Kenyan slums on this ONE MOMS trip and honestly it has been life changing. It has been life changing not because people are living in abject poverty, but because I understand how people can continue to live in the slums and not question it.

I’m sure that is a hard concept to grasp, but stay with me.

Yesterday when we visited the school in the slum that is being funded by USAID I didn’t understand how people can live in such poverty and seemingly not care. But today when we walked through Kibera, Africa’s largest slum, with Carolina for Kibera, I understood. Yes, Kibera smelled of raw sewage, flies relentlessly swarmed all of their food laid out at market, and cholera can break out at any time, but as has been the case this week I have yet to see a person whose spirit is broken because of poverty. Rather, the Kenyan people are filled with a genuine spirit that I have never seen before.

Tonight at dinner I sat with two Kenyan bloggers —  a husband and wife team —  and they explained to us what that genuine spirit is. Kenyans believe that their situation could be worse so they appreciate the moment and circumstance they’re in now. For example, they may only eat two meals a day, but they know someone, somewhere only had one meal today. For that, they are grateful and they express it through a loving and welcoming spirit. The thing though is this: it’s not an act. It’s not for show. And it’s 100% genuine. Throughout this entire week I have seen people in sheer need of food, adequate shelter, health care, and education, but I have yet to meet any Kenyan who has lost hope because they have these needs. In the United States, for example, when people are down and out, there tends to be a lot of sadness, bitterness, and resentfulness. That just isn’t the case for Kenyans. The weird thing is I don’t think you can understand what I am saying unless you visit or have been here before.

In Kibera, we met Mercy, a single mother of a four-year-old daughter, Nicole. Her walls were made of mud and her entire house was about the size of an American bathroom. And yet, there she was happy and content with her life and her ability to sustain herself and her child. Mercy wasn’t clamoring to get out of Kibera, yet she is striving for a better life for her daughter. She lost both her mother and father and subsequently had to become the head of household and guardian of her little sister. Through Carolina for Kibera’s Binti Pamoja program Mercy has rallied a support system around her and has learned financial literacy and leadership that has helped her become a better mother.

Daily Action: Today we are meeting with a group of women farmers near Lake Naivasha, Kenya. As you’re probably aware, the Horn of Africa is currently enduring a horrible famine. Educate yourself about what’s happening on the ground, and learn more about how you can contribute by visiting our friends at InterAction.

Women Enterprise at Dunga Beach in Kisumu, Kenya: Commercial Sex Workers #ONEMOMS

If there is one theme we’re hearing a lot while we travel around Kenya, it’s this: the future of Kenya specifically and Africa in general lies in the hands of women. This morning we met with Lee Anthony Brudvig, the Deputy Chief of Mission for the United States Embassy in Nairobi.  He stressed that in order to attain economic growth and a stable food supply, women would be the gatekeepers of Kenyan agriculture. Agriculutral programs also pave a way for economic growth and stability for women and their children which is a big incentive for women to succeed as farmers. This, of course, is attainable in the rural areas, but what about the cities? How do some women earn money and provide for their household? We saw one example that I wasn’t expecting, but is a reality for some Kenyan women nevertheless.

When we were in Kisumu earlier this week we went to Dunga Beach on Lake Victoria. I learned so much during that visit with the CDC and UNAID especially about commercial sex workers on the beach. It took a bit of understanding, but this is how it works. Fishermen bring in the catch each day and women wait for them in order to purchase fish to sell at the market. Most often the women cannot afford to pay the full purchase price for the fish so they negotiate a price that includes sexual favors. The CDC and USAID got involved obviously because this is risky sexual behavior and the spread of HIV was rampant among the fishermen and women.

Through US-funded programs, women and men were educated about this behavior and were given HIV tests so the people would know their status and get their drugs. And as women often do, they also formed their own collective to support one another even though they engage in risky sexual behaviour just to buy fish. They take care of one another’s children, have created a micro-enterprise business, own a collective bank account, and lend money to one another. They also make sure that everyone takes their HIV medicine and check up on each other if they haven’t seen one of the members in a some time.

Women came from beaches all around Lake Victoria to personally tell us their stories (some from as much as 100 miles away) and also to tell us that these US programs. Without them they would be dead or dying of HIV.

I can still hear this beautiful woman tell us through a translator to not forget them and to please tell their story. Telling their story is the least I can do.

Day 3: Hope in the Slums of Kenya

Today we rode into the slums. Take that in for a moment. If you have been born and bred in the United States or any other developing country it’s likely you have never seen poverty like we witnessed today. There were people at every turn, some running around in the mud without any shoes. Trash was everywhere. It almost looked like a sparse landfill. There were no paved roads at all, just blackened muddy paths with huge ruts throughout. The paths were so muddied we had to ride in in Land Cruisers to get through. People were lined up selling everything from clearly worn shirts to mangos. And while the poverty was palpable, there was still an air of simplicity, energy, and community throughout; that even though these people lived in sheer poverty, their spirits had not been broken.

We went into a slum to visit a primary school that is being funded by USAID. The children were incredibly bright and clearly eager to learn as if they understood that education is their only way out of the slums one day. They took to their lessons with an air of determination that I have never seen in my life from children.

Seeing their lessons in progress I was astounded. Everyone sat in their wooden benches, each one wearing worn and ragged clothes,  but that didn’t matter. Their attention wasn’t on what they didn’t have. Rather it was solely focused on the lesson at hand. They read sentences from the board in unision. And when the teacher called upon a student to come to the front of the class to perform a task, the teacher praised their work when done and their classmates clapped for their success. It was beautiful.

I was enthralled by the extremes — poverty and brilliance — all in one room. It will stay with me forever.

Daily Action: Today we are meeting with women entrepreneurs in Karen, Kenya who are leading in building their communities’ economies and providing opportunities to others. Check out ONE’s report “Africa’s Future is Female” to learn more about how women are leading a revolution on the continent. Then, using hashtag #ONEMoms tell ONE (@ONECampaign) one thing that surprised you. Or leave a comment on ONE’s Facebook page (

In Kenya The Need is Great, Successes Abound

I have spent two days in Kenya now and I am constantly amazed by two things: how beautiful this country is and the welcoming kindness of everyone we’ve met here. I have always heard that Kenyans are some of the most generous of spirit in the world. Now I know it’s unequivocally true.

As we travel through Kenya, meet various groups and see their organization’s work the more I am convinced that when the right people come together with innovative ideas to help those in need, the more successes happen. We saw a lot of success stories today.

The day started in Lwak with the most warm reception I’ve ever witnessed in my life. When our bus pulled up we heard beautiful singing from Lwak women who welcomed us to their community with opened arms. It was so incredibly moving I had to remind myself not to cry, to simply enjoy the moment. Experiencing a welcome like that is moving beyond words.

In Lwak we heard from village reporters whose job is to record births and deaths, and to help their communities understand how to improve their overall health from using bed nets to reduce the number of malarial deaths to not drinking dirty water. The role of the village reporter is highly important as they are the ones who bring the news of how their community’s people can better care for themselves in an area that is rife with malaria, tuberculosis, HIV, pneumonia, and diarrheal disease.

We also were able to speak to a traditional birth attendant. The wisdom on her aged face and in her voice was palpable. In an area where women cannot easily get to the hospital for prenatal care women like this are vital to helping expectant women deliver healthy babies and not die in the process. She talked about using traditional herbs to stop bleeding during births and using them to turn babies around in the womb and even making the remedies herself by going out to the bush to gather herbs.

After meeting the village reporters we drove a short distance to a compound to visit an expectant mother and hear her story, but first we couldn’t talk to her without getting permission first from the head of the compound. With permission granted we spoke with a 23-year-old expecting mother about her life, the joys and challenges she faces. She has to fetch water every day and care for her family by doing the same things as us: wash clothes, make meals, clean her home, send her oldest daughter off to school, care for her youngest, and make sure she is healthy during her pregnancy. She is receiving care through a CDC program and plans to deliver her baby in the hospital like her previous two. It is the village reporters who help her get the care that she needs.

Programs like the CDC’s willlage reporters in Lwak are working and have been for decades. These programs are US funded and need to continue to be funded. You always hear about money being given to developing countries and wondering where the money goes. I witnessed where the money goes and how it has been used constructively to save lives. Everywhere we went today people perpetually asked us to do one thing: take their stories back to America and that’s what I intend to do.

Daily Action: Today we are meeting with teachers and students in Nairobi. WatchONE’s video “Chieftainess” about a remarkable woman who is teaching her community about the importance of education. Then share the video with your friends and leave a comment.

Me, Kenyan Kids, an iPad, and Angry Birds

Today when we had a little time to spare before heading to Siaya District Hospital I had a chance to spend time with a few Kenyan children who had made their way to the porch where I was sitting. They had been given ONE armbands and were definitely looking for more goodies and were milling about. I thought how fun would it be to pull out my iPad and show them Angry Birds. Who doesn’t love Angry Birds?

Just as I suspected the kids loved it and just laughed and laughed at the birds flying through the air and crashing through bricks and wood. They surely would have stayed and watched for hours if I had the time to spare.

Sitting there surrounded by so many children I was reminded how much technology American children have – Wiis, Nintendo DS, iPods, iPads, cellphones, TVs, laptops and the list goes on.

There is definitely a bigger and more profound point to be made here about excess that will likely hit me as I spend more time in Kenya. Until then, though, I thought this was a great moment to share.

Daily Action: Yesterday we visited health clinics that receive direct funding from the United States. Sign ONE’s petition asking Congress not to cut funding for these effective programs that are saving lives. Then ask 5 friends to do the same.