Among My Souvenirs

Stories of the road

Nanyuki Girls School

When traveling overseas, I am always curious as to how women live and often encounter life closer to ancient ways so different than the cosmopolitan pace I lead.

Here in the small village of Nanyuki, Kenya, one is welcomed to the school for girls whose mission is to train young women in a craft to improve their lives and the life of their families. Next door to the workers room is a school and while the women worked, their small children receive a modest education.

The school was founded through the Presbyterian church of America in 1977 and for many years has been run under the direction of Sister Anne.  Here young women learn a trade and are given money for the sale of the goods they produce.  Many of the graduates return to their villages to teach the crafts that will sustain them and their family.

Sr. Anne and director Mary greeted us.  Mary led the tour, demonstrating the production of rugs, shawls, bedspreads, wall hangings.  The local shepherds sold raw wool to the school.  It was then carded, spun, washed, dyed and woven by the women.

Though the school and grounds looked well cared for, they too have been subject to financial stress as a result of terrorist attacks in nearby Nairobi and the decline in western tourism, which were their primary market.

Almost reverently, I touch my shawl, and wrap it around my shoulders.  I feel the course texture, I see the imperfect weave, I close my eyes and once again I can touch Africa.  I think of these women who put all their hopes and dreams into its creation.  Those fleeting moments, the memories live among my most precious souvenirs.