By Barbara Krinke, Friends of Ngong Road Handicraft Volunteer
We left Nairobi on a newly constructed highway on a short trip to visit Ann (known to us as Mama Joyce, mother of Friends of Ngong Road student, Joyce). Mama Joyce, a skilled artisan, crafts exquisite handicrafts purchased by FoNR and retailed across the U.S., showcasing her talent.
Our trip was an adventure and her inspiring story deserves telling. Guided by Swahili written instructions, our Nairobi driver led us to exit the highway and follow a dirt road precisely. The only approach to the dirt road was an abrupt 3-foot drop-off from the highway, causing much scraping and screeching from the underside of our car.
The long ride to Mama Joyce’s house got worse the farther we drove, increasing my trepidation for the journey back to Nairobi.
We completed a slow, uphill 5-mile drive, encountering steep hills. Finally, after navigating through twists and turns, we reached Mama Joyce’s house via a short road. She met us at the turnoff with a smile and guided us on foot to her house. There we were introduced to Mama Joyce’s two goats and many chickens. Invited into her modest home, we explored her life, family, and crafts, gaining insights into her world and experiences.
Mama Joyce happily told us how much FoNR has meant to her and her family. Her daughter, Joyce, was a student in the FoNR program beginning in 2008 and is one of FoNR’s success stories. Joyce earned her hotel and catering diploma and at age 23, is now working at a restaurant outside of Nairobi
Mama Joyce emphasized the crucial role of FoNR, which covered Joyce’s education, supplies, shoes, uniforms, food, and healthcare expenses. Speaking in Swahili, she expressed her belief that despite her lack of education, her daughter’s schooling would improve her life. Mama Joyce shared that her handicrafts support her children, including an adult blind son. She sells them to FoNR.
A current hardship for her is the severe drought that is affecting Kenya and surrounding countries. On that 90-degree day, we drove through the countryside to Mama Joyce’s house and saw the dried-up corn stalks in the fields.
During our journey, we often cleared the dusty red soil that gusts carried into our vehicle, stinging our eyes.Mama Joyce shared that due to dried grazing, she must buy food for her goats—their usual forage has depleted.The goats and chickens, which supply her family with milk and eggs, are becoming an added expense to feed.
When we inquired about assisting her, Mama Joyce expressed a desire to increase sales for her handmade crafts. She elaborated on how the Nairobi artisan markets, along with the city, impose fees that make them quite costly. Transporting her handicrafts to the city is an expense in time and money, taking her away from family and her animals.
Our drive out to her home in the country was perilous in our hired car. Mama Joyce pays for motorcycle ride to the main highway, then pay for 1-2 buses to reach city. That is a commute that I would not want to have to make after our experience on this day!
Despite the obstacles Mama Joyce faced, her determination to provide for her family and her passion for her crafts left a lasting impression on us. We were inspired by her dedication and artistic talents.