Mama Margaret's - helping women in Kenya earn a living

Mama Margaret's - helping women in Kenya earn a living

Posted: Thu, 22 Oct 2020 10:39

Mama Margaret's - helping women in Kenya earn a living

Recently, we've shared news of how the Salesian Sisters in Dagoretti Market, Nairobi, have been supporting local families during the COVID-19 crisis, helped by kind donors from our Province, but now, we'd like to tell you more about 'Mama Margaret's' one of the regular projects run by the Sisters, and its UK origins.

Mama Margaret's provides work and skills development to local women, who make handcrafted items that are fairly-traded to provide an income for their families. The concept grew from a visit by Salesian teachers, Steve and Alison Burrowes, and their two children in 2001, when they went to Kenya to work on a VIDES project with the children of Namango. During their stay, they visited the Salesian Sisters in Dagoretti, one of the poorest slums in Nairobi, who were working to support women trying to bring up their families in abject poverty.

The visit had a profound effect on the family, and when they returned, Steve put an idea to the Sisters, that could provide the women of Dagoretti with the thing they most needed – a regular income so they were no longer subject to the uncertainty of casual work, and could plan to meet their living expenses.

Many of the women had traditional skills in crafts like jewellery and basket-making, and Steve liaised with Sr Eleanor Gibson FMA in Kenya, to look at how a sustainable business, integrating the training of more women, could be developed from these foundations.

From a small beginning, with just 8 women, and with students at Thornleigh Salesian College handling sales of the goods at school fairs and gatherings, by 2014 the growing project was attracting attention more widely, and won an Observer Ethical Award that year.

Over 250 women – both mothers and single women in the project are affectionately known as 'Mamas' – have now worked and trained in Mama Margaret's, having their lives transformed with dignity as they gain skills and a regular salary.

The range of products offered has also grown and Steve has now overseen the sales of thousands of pounds worth of handcrafted goods, sent over to the UK and sold by hundreds of volunteers in parishes, schools and at seasonal events.

Additional fundraising efforts and support have been valuable in boosting the trading income to enable the project and its facilities to develop, and in offering a wider range of vocational training. A UK project called 'Mission Possible' organises fundraising activities and volunteering to provide this development. Last year, Steve took part in a 4 day bike ride from Tanzania to Kenya, and in May each year, a 'Mission Possible' volunteer team travels to Dagoretti to work with the project for a short time. This year, Steve and Alison Burrowes and Sue McDonald, our Province Youth Ministry Animator, were part of the team, but unfortunately, their visit was postponed because of the COVID-19 crisis. However, funds that were raised were sent via Fr Francis Preston SDB in Nairobi to support the Sisters in feeding local families impacted by the COVD restrictions.

Download the Mama Margaret's catalogue below, and choose some beautiful handmade items as gifts or to treat yourself, and help the women of Dagoretti Market at the same time. You can place your orders by emailing Sue McDonald

Tags: Homepage, Kenya, Salesian Missions, Salesian Sisters, Salesian Youth Ministry, Salesians of Don Bosco