Artisan Interview Series with Akuleu
The Artisan Interview Series showcases the artisans of Baskets and Beads. We share insights into their lives and how making the beads and being part of the group has had a positive impact on them and their families.
We have over 30 ladies in the Kipsongo Slum in Kitale, Kenya and 1 other artisan in Kitale who also works with street kids and recently added a group from Kisii, Kenya where our soapstone is made.
Akuleu is one of our older mama's that makes the beads and lives in Kipsongo. She is from the Turkana tribe in Lodwar. Lodwar is about a 10 hour drive from Kitale on a bus. Akuleu only speaks Turkana because she was not able to go to school so didn't learn Swahili or English. In the video interview you will hear her speak in Turkana and Dorcas our Kipsongo leader translates to Swahili to Leila our Kenya Team Director. Leila then translates into English.
Akuleu came to Kipsongo because of the conflict between the Turkana and Pokot tribes. There was cattle rustling going on where cattle would be stolen back and forth and there was a lot of violence. Her husband and daughter were killed during this time. She fled those conditions and came to Kitale.
She originally went to the street and was begging with all her children and collecting things from what they call the dust bin (the trash dump in America). Life was really hard so they lived on the streets and were begging on the streets.
When she came to Kipsongo slum they used to live in houses made of plastic bags. There is no land to plant on. They do not own any land. In Kipsongo it is only a small mud hut that they live in. They aren’t able to plant and grow food to feed their families there. One of our goals with our non-profit is to buy some land and build housing and a farm so they can plant and produce food to feed their families and sell to earn additional income.
Most of the older people in the slum cannot work because no one will hire them. Akuleu depends on the beads orders and when we order beads from them, they are able to feed their families.
Many in the slum drink alcohol to deal with living in the slum and sell illegal alcohol to make money. She doesn’t drink alcohol and couldn’t provide before and now when we order beads she can provide for herself and her family.
She is living with 2 grandchildren and she is the one taking care of them and it’s hard for her. Her children go to town and look for work. The food packs we provide helps them be able to sustain themselves too and they are very grateful for the basic food they receive.
Akuleu is sad because she lost her daughter and it took a toll on her. She said in the video she is really happy whenever she see’s me she feels like she’s replaced her daughter and when she see’s me she feels like her daughter is around and it makes her very happy. She surprised me when she said that and I feel honored that she see's me as a daughter that makes her feel like her daughter is still with her. She always needs to hear that I made it back home ok when I leave Kitale.
One thing I love about Akuleu is despite how hard life is for her, she is always singing and dancing and laughing. She makes everyone else laugh. We play a game called whoosh where you "pass" the whoosh around a circle and she whooshed the wrong way and then just started laughing and made everyone else laugh.
She is grateful and hopes we can help other women not just these women in our group. She is empowered and has more confidence because she is able to make and sell her beads.