In case your Quechua is not good, Pushaq Warmi means “Guiding Women” and these women of Chimbote certainly guided us to a good time! We enjoyed the lovely home of Maribel and her family. This women’s association has been encouraging and empowering women for over seven years ever since they began with education in the face of domestic violence. Not only have they helped women’s small business projects, they use radio and television to educate others. Women’s Global Connection and Pushaq Warmi are good partners uniting in mission. One of their members noted, “When you help a woman, you are helping a whole family.” Not only are these women competent professionals, wives, and mothers, they are also dancers and poets.We were entertained with Peruvian folk music and an original performance poem, compassionate writing about a sick child.All enjoyed a lovely dinner with toasts and laughter.Then things got wild and wonderful as more entered the dance!
We wouldn’t leave without getting some of their beautiful handicrafts. Loan a woman a little money for some cloth and thread and amazing things can be created.
How wonderful to be going to Peru again! I was a novice when we blessed the first group of Sisters going there in the early 1960’s. How blessed I am to be taking fine people to carry forward building relationships with the people of Peru and serving with our Peruvian Incarnate Word Sisters. In this picture you see our WGC 2017 visit with the Shepibo women from the Amazon who are famous for beautiful designs. You can see their designs at the Smithsonian. We hope to visit them again.
Do you like a bedtime story? You are invited to read “Harper, come with me to Peru” which I wrote for my grandniece when she was one. We will see many of the same places on this trip. Click here Harper, come to Peru
While the Women’s Global Connection office was closed about a month before the pandemic grew in San Antonio, Texas, women have been connecting globally more and more encouraged by young people. It takes more than a pandemic to stop girls! Global Sisters Report carried the story of how we continued in those hard times https://www.globalsistersreport.org/news/ministry/column/young-women-work-together-present-un-forum and even joined with people around the globe in the UN Commission on the Status of Women.
Si bien la oficina de Conexión Global de Mujeres se cerró aproximadamente un mes antes de que la pandemia creciera en San Antonio, Texas, las mujeres se han estado conectando globalmente cada vez más alentadas por los jóvenes. ¡Se necesita más que una pandemia para detener a las niñas! Global Sisters Report contó la historia de cómo continuamos en esos tiempos difíciles https://www.globalsistersreport.org/news/ministry/column/young-women-work-together-present-un-forum e incluso nos unimos a personas de todo el mundo en la Comisión de la Condición Jurídica y Social de la Mujer de la ONU.
We are growing as the University of the Incarnate Word Young Women’s Global Leadership Project https://sites.google.com/view/uiwywglps/home with monthly zoom gatherings of members in Kenya, Kosovo, Uganda, the US (San Antonio, Texas) with friends in Peru. Sr. Martha Ann Kirk and Dr. Sandra Guzman Foster had an opportunity to build friendships in Mexico City on the UIW campus there called CIW. With the help of faculty and administration, we now have two CIW generous International Business majors, Paty Salgado and Maria Soria, serving at a children’s camp in the most disadvantaged area of San Antonio for the summer of 2022.
Estamos creciendo como el Proyecto de Liderazgo Global de Mujeres Jóvenes de la Universidad Incarnate Word https://sites.google.com/view/uiwywglps/home con reuniones mensuales de zoom de miembros en Kenia, Kosovo, Uganda, EE. UU. (San Antonio, Texas ) con amigos en Perú. La Hna. Martha Ann Kirk y la Dra. Sandra Guzmán Foster tuvieron la oportunidad de entablar amistades en la Ciudad de México en el campus de la UIW llamado CIW. Con la ayuda de la facultad y la administración, ahora tenemos dos generosas futuras licenciadas en Negocios Internacionales del CIW, Paty Salgado y Maria Soria, sirviendo en un campamento para niños en el área más desfavorecida de San Antonio para el verano de 2022.
They and local members of the Young Women’s Global Leadership program and other friends were led by Sister Martha Ann Kirk on a tour of “Creative and Compassionate” Murals which were painted by the community and led by San Anto Cultural Arts Center. Learn of the murals https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ftCc2kHav-c
Ellas, miembros locales del programa de Liderazgo Global de Mujeres Jóvenes y otras amigos fueron guiadas por Hermana Martha Ann Kirk en un recorrido por los murales "Creativos y compasivos" que fueron pintados por la comunidad y dirigidos por el Centro de Artes Culturales de San Anto. Conoce los murales https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ftCc2kHav-c
The next evening Paty and Maria were very helpful as the interpreters for a zoom with some of the CESA, Climate Enthusiasts of San Antonio, a group from the Young Women’s Global Leadership program and a group of young women from Chimbote, Peru, who wish to help a disadvantaged neighborhood by planting trees. While some of the CESA women come from Turkey and speak Turkish, they do not know Spanish.
La noche siguiente, Paty y María fueron de gran ayuda como traductoras en un zoom con algunos del grupo CESA, entusiastas del clima de San Antonio, un grupo del programa de Liderazgo Global de Mujeres Jóvenes y un grupo de mujeres jóvenes de Chimbote, Perú, que desean ayudar a un barrio desfavorecido plantando árboles. Si bien algunas de las mujeres de CESA provienen de Turquía y hablan turco, no saben español.
Astrid, Maria de Fatima, Areaana, and Luhana in Chimbote work with CAMYE, the Center of Attention for Women and Families. They showed a film of going to a village and the challenges of no infrastructure to pick up trash, then slides of their clean up, composting, and tree planting.
Astrid, María de Fátima, Areaana y Luhana en Chimbote trabajan con CAMYE, el Centro de Atención a la Mujer y la Familia. Mostraron un video de como ir a un pueblo y los desafíos de no tener infraestructura para recoger basura, luego mostraron diapositivas de su limpieza, compostaje y plantación de árboles. El suelo y la falta de lluvia hacen que la plantación de árboles sea un desafío. Apoyémoslos en este arduo trabajo.
The soil and lack of rain fall there makes tree planting challenging. Let’s support them in this hard work.
La tierra y la ausencia de lluvia vuelven complicado el proceso de crecimiento de un árbol. Apoyemos este arduo trabajo.
CESA showed and explained an Inter Faith Tree Planting that they, part of the Turkish Muslim community, had hosted with a local Jewish synagogue and various Christian friends. Trees help create oxygen which all living creatures need.
CESA mostró y explicó una plantación de árboles entre religiones que ellos, parte de la comunidad musulmana turca, habían organizado con una sinagoga judía local y varios amigos cristianos. Los árboles ayudan a crear el oxígeno que todos los seres vivos necesitan.
This WGC Travel blog has many pictures of working in solidarity with the people of Peru. With Maria and Paty’s good interpretation in the zoom meeting, all made new friends and we hope to grow in solidarity.
Este blog de WGC Travel tiene muchas fotos de trabajo en solidaridad con la gente de Perú. Con la buena interpretación de María y Paty en la reunión de zoom, todos hicimos nuevos amigos y esperamos crecer en solidaridad.
All three on our power team can agree on one thing: the following experiences made for the greatest day ever! Stella and Claire from WWANC and Theodezia and Consolatha from Tanzania’s BUWEA all accompanied us on a day trip to a community on the outskirts of Kakamega to pay a visit to the women’s church and the site of Rainwater Harvesters which Women’s Global Connection raised funds for. Three harvesters, all donated by WGC, supply water to about one thousand area residents, including the nearby primary school. A long and bumpy ride down winding red dirt roads gave us the opportunity to see aspects of rural life: children playing near creeks and walking to and from school, women balancing sacks of produce on their heads on the way to sell in the market, men walking herd of cattle down the road, and farmers, both men and women, hacking away at sugarcane. After awhile, we stopped on the side of the road where across the street from us a group of women were waiting outside. Upon seeing us, they began to sing and dance towards the car. It was such a sweet and joyous welcoming and made me feel like apart of their community.
Once inside the church, we all gathered and spent some time getting to know one another. The three of us introduced ourselves to the women and shared a little of our own life lessons and our hopes for our growing partnership. The group saw it fit to give all three of us Kenyan names: Tamarra’s symbolizes the water that WGC has given the community, Brandy’s represents family due to her extreme devotion to her pastor husband and their five children, and mine stands for the sound the women make when they cry out during song and dance because I heartily join them in this. After, they all assembled in a line and with song and dance embraced us. Towards the end of the assembly, the women presented us with an assortment of produce from the women’s individual farms: kale, eggs, hens, avocados, sugarcane, etc. Bestowing us with food from the first harvest is one of the highest honors. Then, I spent some time with three of the women interviewing the women on the sustainability of a bicycle initiative WGC has started here. These women endure so much, not just physically but mentally and emotionally. I am happy they have faith and the support of one another. And I love that the women are always singing, dancing, and praising life. Theirs is such a tight-knit community full of friendship and connection. What struck me the most is how much gratitude they have, and especially for the gifted harvesters. Water is so simple and such a basic need, but indeed a gift. Many in the world do not understand how precious it is because they have never been without. Water is something we have in abundance in the States and is often taken for granted. Traveling to developing countries, Peru and now Africa, I have been made more grossly aware of the global water crisis and how there must be more action and attention on the millions of people who not only go without a clean supply of water but any water, dirty or clean.
But there is hope. A few kilometers away from the church lies our next stop: a primary school. As we enter the gates, I turn to the left and see a group of schoolgirls walking across a playing field singing a song of welcome. Tamarra, Brandy, and myself get out of the car and as we join the schoolgirls I can definitely tell that they are as happy and awe-struck as I with the scene playing out before us. Then the teachers of the school walk us to an outdoor classroom and we sit under a canopy of trees as the girls sing songs to us and we are introduced to the teachers and the head of the school. WGC donated the funds to help build a number of outdoor bathrooms on school grounds for the girls. At an age where girls are maturing and beginning menstruation, the discreteness and privacy of a bathroom is so vital. During our conversation with the elders at the school, our team learns how green and eco-conscious the children are and how they have recently planted around one hundred trees. Being a tree-hugger among all these other little tree-huggers made me so happy. I asked the head of the school if there was anything that our team could plant on site as a way to show our support and solidarity with the school and Stella nodded to me that he said this would happen. Then we had time to have some fun with the children playing soccer, a game of volleyball (Kenyans vs. Americans!), and taking loads of selfies which the children were not shy about. We also took pictures of the rainwater harvester on the grounds. Finally, as we were nearing departure, two little baby trees were brought to us to plant. We walked towards the freshly dug holes and with the help of Stella and the school principal, the team lowered the trees into the ground and covered them with soil and surrounding dirt. I can’t wait to see how much they’ve grown in a year’s time. As the three of us say our final goodbyes, we pile back into the car, and make our way down the winding red dirt road and start the long drive back to our hotel. We talk about the day’s events and laugh and sometimes fall silent, each of us reflecting on what touched us most. For me, it was seeing how much the community was in tune with their surroundings, their connection with and appreciation for nature. The schoolchildren, as young as they are, already understand the importance of clean water and planting trees. They see that with water comes life.
Author: Monica D. Hernandez, UIW PhD student
Author: Brandy Weitzel, MA, LPC
Monday was a day full of bustling energy, good vibes, and group bonding between WGC Team Kenya, WWANC, and female entrepreneurs from surrounding areas of Kakamega. We were beyond excited to hand over the eight bicycles WGC raised funds for to these very deserving women. The eight fully-equipped bicycles came with helmets, air pumps, and safety bands. Our goal is to eventually provide every woman with a bicycle to help support their businesses and improve their overall quality of life. Many of the women travel more than 20 kilometers in a given day by foot. Some of the businesses that the bicycles will help support include the growing of vegetables, the raising and selling of chicken, and the marketing and selling of clothing and handmade goods. The Bicycle Safety and Maintenance workshop began with introductions where the women greeted one another with the Kenyan handshake and chanted in unison the phrase “Woman E” meaning empowered woman. As I scanned the room, I was in awe of the strong, independent, and resourceful group. Many of the women have received microloans and have already doubled their business’ profit and intend on expanding. With bicycles, the women will have the opportunity to market and sell their products more efficiently and further increase their profitability. In the workshop, the women learned bicycle safety and maintenance strategies by Tamarra and Dick Waswa, the spokesperson for Exito Investments Limited, an organization based out of Nairobi that provides services to developing businesses to increase their efficiency and productivity in a growing, competitive market. Among these services is being a provider of bicycle transport. Mr. Waswa made our partnering with the organization the perfect match for he is a man of strong conviction and an empowering message that struck a chord with us all: “I am a feminist. I am not an apologist. If we take care of woman, we take care of a community.” These bicycles will go a long way in having women take care of the self and others.
Authors: Monica D. Hernandez; Brandy Weitzel
Saturday, the 13th of July, began with a blessing and the blessings have been in abundance since. The day began with an early but short flight to Kisumu followed by a pleasant one hour drive to Kakamega. Travelers are always grateful for a smooth journey! Once we arrived to the hotel, we were greeted by Claire and Stella, members of the Women in Water and Natural Conservancy team, who welcomed us with warm and friendly smiles and banter. Our group quickly settled in and hit the ground running with our first workshop, and I mean literally. The first workshop on our itinerary was the running workshop and began with a welcoming and some opening remarks by Tamarra followed by the candle blessing, a WGC immersion trip tradition. Then the group along with the two WWANC ladies began with a warm up and light stretching before doing a one mile run/walk around the perimeter of the hotel. The goal of the workshop was to plant a seed in the women and encourage them to begin thinking of starting their own running chapter in Kakamega of 261 Fearless, which was founded by Katherine Switzer, the first woman to run the Boston Marathon, whose mission is to increase the empowerment and social support of women. Thankfully, it began raining during our run which felt cool and refreshing after getting our endorphins up!
Sunday was the group’s rest day; however, we did anything but rest. Brandylynn Weitzel joined Stella at morning church service while Tamarra Mencey and myself took a trip to the neighborhood market. There will be more to come from Brandy on her inspiring and humbling experience at church. I’ll just say that she certainly has a home away from home as we are all beginning to feel here in Kakamega. In the late afternoon, Claire accompanied the group to Kakamega Forest for a five-mile hike through the tropical jungle. Our guide, Jonah, was a very friendly local with a deep love and respect for the land he calls home. Native to Kakamega, Jonah guided us through the breathtaking and green lush rainforest identifying the flora and fauna of the area and the healing properties of its many trees. Out on the main road, he pointed out a colony of ants that make their home high up the bark of a tree, expressing the sentiment that nature is important to all walks of life.
As we walked deeper and deeper into the forest, each of us made time to connect with our mystical surroundings and with one another. Our guide passed a few words of wisdom along and spoke to us of the realities of life as we climbed to the highest peak of Buyangu Hill, giving us a breathtaking view of the forest. The forest is a mere one-tenth of its natural size due to the destruction of man and remains to be the only piece of a massive tropical rainforest that once spanned across Central Africa. The area was also very close to being occupied by Uganda. I asked Jonah why this was, but sometimes stories are too long to be repeated. Fortunately, what remains is being protected and preserved. Another highlight of our hike was entering a bat cave on our descent, which was not for the faint of heart, but worth it to see these beautiful creatures up close in their natural habitat. Going down the mountain was just as grueling as it was going up but we thank Jonah for being our guide, our helping hand, and leading us down paths of gratitude and wonder and left me reflecting on how much we are all blessed with one another.
Monica D. Hernandez, University of Incarnate Word PhD student
After a full two days of travel, the Kenya 2019 team landed in Nairobi excited about the time we would get to spend in the modern city taking in the sights and learning a little about Kenyan culture. The morning of July 10th, we met with a member of Women in Water and Natural Conservancy at the hotel and discussed the purchase, distribution, and workshops for the bicycles going to the female members of WWANC. WGC is proud to have raised enough money in the past few months for eight bicycles! Tamarra Mencey, leader of the Kenya trip and organizer of the bicycle project, is focused on creating a bicycle partnership that will continue advocating for and participating in the project. Her mission is to make the project sustainable and give women the tools and training necessary so they may go back to their villages and disseminate their new-found knowledge.
In the afternoon, our guide took us to the Bomas of Kenya. The Bomas, which translated means homestead, is a cultural center with the mission of preserving and carrying on the rich traditions of diverse tribes in Africa through the art of performance. When we arrived, our group toured the grounds and learned about the different tribes as we walked among replicas of traditional rural homesteads; testaments to each clan’s societal structure. We observed the very subtle and unique ways in which tribes arranged their villages with huts for the husband, wives, and other members of their tribe as well as where they stored their food and animals. Although the women in tribes are greater in number, men hold the most power. This power is visually and ostensibly displayed in the different song and dance performances where the men seem to take the lead and command attention. A notable performance was done by the Maasai warriors who dress in traditional bold red garb and carry spears and chant and jump for the duration of their dance as a show of strength and manhood.
The next day began well before dawn as our group arrived to Nairobi National Park for a great safari adventure. The respect and care that Kenyans attend to in regards to the local wildlife speaks to the rich history and booming tourism. The park rests against an urban backdrop and is kilometers upon kilometers of open grass plain and houses an expansive population of animals including four of the big five: lions, leopards, buffalo, and rhino. Our guide took great pains to teach us not only about the animals but of the park’s conservation efforts. Driving through the open grass plain taking in the stunning Kenyan setting, watching native animals in the wild evokes feelings of serenity. Our guide described in great detail how the biodiversity and ecosystem here is precious and everything coexists in harmony from the Cape buffalo and Eastern black rhino to the hundreds of flora native to the region. This is reminiscent of the many tribes that call this great country home: everyone has a place and a purpose.
After the safari, our guide took us to the nearby elephant orphanage, another testament to the care and preservation of animals. Kenyans know their duty and obligation to land and animals. When an animal suffers, all of Kenya suffers. The pain and sadness in an animal’s eye cannot be shied away from. They are the soul of this beautiful country along with the laughter and the tears of its people. Watching the baby elephants frolic and play in the red mud at the sanctuary brought so much joy to the onlookers. The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust cares for baby elephants, most of them rescued from the Masai Mara. Guests of the orphanage are able to watch the handlers, from a close proximity, feed and care for the elephants as the babies give themselves mud baths, play with hose water, and bask freely under the warm sun. The babies are tender and innocent and watching them and hearing their stories of rescue are remarkable. The fact that these beautiful creatures suffer greatly at the hands of greedy poachers is heartbreaking and one visit alone is enough to compel you to move to this great continent and become a full-time conservationist and activist, that is, if you didn’t already have a mission which the three of us on the WGC Kenya Team are excited and eager to begin work on. With tomorrow being a new day and with the many experiences our group has taken in during our short stay in Nairobi, from the laughs and warm exchanges with the locals to the majestic encounters with the land and wildlife, we are ready to look towards fulfilling our mission of female independence and empowerment.
Three travelers departed from the San Antonio Airport bright and early this morning. We will share more of their work and adventures over the coming weeks. Thank you for your thoughts and prayers as we send off this amazing group!