Parent Cafés Meet Micro-Enterprise in Nairobi, Kenya
On June 1, I visited my friends who are the Soweto Forum Parent Café (Kikao Cha Wazazi) Team in Kibera, Nairobi, Kenya. I first went to Kibera in 2015 as part of an early childhood initiative sponsored by the Utopia Foundation called Harambee Toto (coming together for the little ones). That initiative was responsible for building the beautiful center where today’s meeting was hosted. My part was to train members of the Soweto Forum (a 14-year-old community organizing and housing rights activist group) in the Strengthening Families Protective Factors and Parent Cafés. Since then, they have expanded (with no additional support financial or otherwise) to 3 Parent Café teams and are hosting cafés monthly. John Karanja, our main contact, told me before I came (as a side trip on a personal vacation) that they needed technology to be connected to Be Strong Families’ monthly webinar and supplies to make the cafés more consistent with US cafés. In response, Be Strong Families donated a laptop and webcam as well as T-Shirts which will be used as incentives, and materials (markers, post-it easel paper, pens, small post-it’s) for the harvesting and commitment cards. I chipped in a suitcase to keep the supplies in and a portable urn, cups, coffee, and sugar to start serving coffee at the Parent Cafés. These supplies will also be used as a micro-enterprise, selling coffee in the community, with proceeds going to sustain the Parent Café effort.
Part of the dream of the Forum is to train young mothers who come to the cafés as entrepreneurs. In July, Jimmy Wambua, formerly the country manager for Utopia Foundation and Harambee Toto, and currently founder of Hero Expeditions, will bring a group from Brazil on a “volunteer vacation” to start fulfilling that dream — with seed money and business planning guidance.
I talked to several of the young mothers who are regulars about what they are learning and how they are benefiting from cafés. One said she now knows her neighbors and is on friendly terms with them (which is huge in the slum where distrust and isolation are the norm). Another said she now knows about resilience and is able to practice being strong and flexible.
The Protective Factors are alive and well and doing their magic: I left beyond inspired by love, spirit, and the impact that heart-to-heart connections with vision, intention, and commitment to community can manifest. As an aside, it is exceptionally fulfilling to be part of a unique collaborative effort that is changing the paradigm for traditional NGO-involvement in Kibera: one Parent Café at a time.