Black Girls Travel…And They Give Back Pt.1

Recently, eleven black women affiliated with the InfluenceHers organization led by Brittany Grey and Liz Wright, embarked on an important journey. We traveled to Kenya with a commitment to feed into several communities of black people while focusing on women’s empowerment, education and entrepreneurship. Upon arrival we hit the ground running by first visiting Little Rock Inclusive ECD Learning Center in the city of Nairobi.  Little Rock ECD Learning Center is an early developmental school for students ages 0 to 8 years that is hoping to transition into a grade school. It is similar to the American pre-K but on steroids. As a group of educated women, we were unanimously impressed by the work that’s being conducted at the school. For goodness sakes 3-4 years old were learning at a kindergarten to 2nd grade level!  Not to mention the school openly services children with disabilities and cognitive difficulties including autism, multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, and impaired hearing/sight to name a few.

Little Rock Kenya physical therapy

Lily, the founder of the center, works diligently to make sure the kids receive the proper foundation before entering grade school. Her pre-K initiative is top notch compared to other school environments I’ve witnessed here in the States. And the fact that occupational therapy, physical therapy and fine motor skills are incorporated in the treatment of those in need blew my mind. The children were well disciplined and even at the tender age of three have a sense of independence and accountability. We spent our morning and afternoon viewing the site and establishing its needs. We chanted songs, viewed a beautiful theatrical production put on by the drama team–yes, they have special teams– and later fellowshipped with the children by reading with them. Priceless.

It’s difficult to believe that many of these children are living in extreme poverty. In fact, shortly after our tour of the facility, we were able to witness first hand the extreme level of poverty that strikes this area. We walked through Kibera which is the largest urban neighborhood slum in Africa and the third largest slum in the world with well over 500,000 people packed in huts made of cow manure, scraps of metal and hay. We were invited to sit in the homes of a few families that attend Little Rock–to hear their stories and offer support and prayer for them. The families explained to us that having the children pre-K not only gives the parents an opportunity to work while they’re in school, but also sets a foundation for at least a little knowledge and discipline–just in case they are unable to afford additional education.

You see in many parts of the world including Africa education comes at a cost and if your family is unable to afford your schooling, you can’t attend. Can you imagine not having money for food on a daily basis; let alone education. The thought of this is disheartening and it’s every more discouraging to know that many Americans take education for granted. But I find peace in the fact that Lily and her team are committed to this community by creating a foundation for learning and education so that the chances of survival increase. Of course a portion of the donations we receive via fundraising supplied the school with a large amount food, toiletries and supplies. The kids and administrators were super excited and even had small gift bag for each of us. Again, priceless.

The Skinny Tip Give back Kenya

The ladder part of our day consisted of viewing the breathtaking landscape of the city as we traveled to the Kazuri Bead Factory, which provides sustainable employment to Kenyan women who are often single mothers. The ladies here hand make the pottery and jewelry and their work is absolutely beautiful. After I respectfully spent all my coins, we headed southwest toward Ngong Hills where we’d spend the next 3 days….Now that’s where things got interesting.

Random Acts of Encouragement

Women bear the burden of juggling both family and career obligations. We are full-time nurturers to our children, the backbones of our families, the cheerleader, the domestic caretaker, the volunteer and the business woman… ALL while being faced with a multifaceted of racisms and under-appreciation that’s automatically attached to being a woman.  For centuries, women have and continue to sacrifice their wants, needs and even ideas for the sake of someone else’s happiness. And not to mention, those very sacrifices often go unnoticed by those that reaped benefits thereof.  Simply say encouraging words to others appear to become a difficult task to accomplish.

That’s why is it difficult for me to grasp my mind around the harsh reality that women are constantly mean and ugly to one another. As if they can’t relate in any way to their sisters who often times share the same struggles. Day in and day out, I see women tearing each other down as if price money is a stake. And then I turn around and see our children modeling the same behavior. Hell, I am guilty of it myself. But we have to a point where we understand behind every successful woman are other women literally lifting her up.

If women are already expected to wear so many hats and complete our “to do’s”, why not sweeten the pot and add one more task to the list: ENCOURAGMENT. Not only will you make someone’s day by positively reinforcing their self-esteem, but it will in turn encourage you to go deeper in your own purpose. Women have the recipe for succeeding. However, we’ve settled for mediocre ingredients, tools and chefs which ultimately result in undercooked dishes and poor presentation.

To women that struggle with jealousy, gossip and misunderstanding within your circle of friends, it may be time to acquire new friends or look into altering your own actions. Women are responsible for motivating one another as much as possible and understanding that we are not only our sister’s keeper but as Iyanla says, “We are our sisters.” Hebrews 10: 24-25 reads, “And let us consider one another to stir up love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another all the more, as you see the day drawing near.”

What the bible is telling us is that we are in a time and place where we are being persecuted and are in need of constant encouragement, especially from people of like faith and like minds. It is up to us to continue to assemble together and share the good and bad experiences so that we can motivate and be motivated by others. Cultivate your circles. Inspire one another. Never allow failure. And seek to encourage always.