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Every time I step off the plane in Nairobi, Kenya, I make a commitment to myself to have conversations designed to test my assumptions about this place that I've been working for the last decade. Why is this something good? Because what's important to me may not be important to the very women that I am trying to help. Without having tough conversations (that might end up blowing my ideas out of the water), I risk continuing a legacy of marginalization and misunderstanding. If I actually want to do good, I need to come with an open mind, a willingness to learn, and a drive to make change that is fueled by the acumen and experiences of the women of Kenya. Then I will truly be a partner to these women, co-creating opportunities for change that make a real impact in their lives.

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Stories (6)

  • Liz Courtney

    I work with a social enterprise that has also been endeavoring to learn more about people in the communities in Namibia and Ghana where we have partnerships. For example we learned that beyond the added income we were able to provide through fair trade exchange (we sell their hand made jewelry around the globe), what the people in rural Namibia needed badly in their community was access to a reliable source for fresh fruits and vegetables. This led to us launch a project to reinvest the proceeds from our bracelet sales to build a 42-acre sustainable community farm in their town with the help of a local NGO. Not the first thing you'd think of starting with fashion, but a natural outcome of having lots of conversations with the locals.

  • Kristin Pedemonti

    Thank you! Yes, Listening and Learning is imperative, important and makes all the difference. I collect real life stories throughout the world as part of my volunteer work with Artfully Aware. We seek to highlight the incredible potential and possibility that exists Everywhere. So often when I ask, "what would you like people to know about your country?" They respond, "We are more than poverty. We are tired of being pitied. We have ideas and solutions, but very few people Listen to us. Please, tell them to see we are more than poor, we are human beings with brains and intelligence."

    When we "help", I prefer the word Serve, we have an obligation to LISTEN and not do more damage by bringing in outside ideas. We can serve as a connector or catalyst, maybe we can bring in some resources, but first LISTEN. This was true in Belize, Guatemala, Ghana, Kenya and Haiti. So many people have good intentions, but lack listening skills.

    Thank you so much for this discussion! Kristin www.storytellerkp.com (if anyone wants to learn more about how Storytelling serves) HUG.

  • mindsnapshots

    This is really great. Sometimes we get so focused on wanting to help and how we think they should be helped that we fail to see what's really important for them. Thanks for this, after all, that's the only way we can truly make an impact is by listening to their needs. Such a great post :)

  • Jen Gurecki

    I learned that water and energy were the most pressing problems for women living in the Kasigau Corridor, not access to the economy. That created the opportunity for the distribution of 50 eco-loans, rather than micro-loans for businesses. The result? Women and their families are healthier and happier. They are saving time and money. And they are starting to get creative about how to earn money from their solar lamps and rain water catchment tanks.

    http://blog.wildlifeworks.com/2014/04/02/eco-loans-from-the-zawadisha-fund-to-boost-women-entrepreneurship-in-kasigau-corridor/