Here is a story about some bags and one of the most inspirational people I know.
I met Susan in 2006. She was a friend of my ex business partner and we had asked her to do some modelling for Mabu. I remember my first impressions of her being this beautiful, effervescent, quick to laugh, bored Cottesloe housewife. She had all this energy just waiting to be channelled into something important. A year later Susan decided to do a three month volunteering stint in Kenya, a trip which was to change her life. And those of many others.
The volunteering trip Susan did was one of those ones where you pay a bucket load of cash to go, under the guise of most of it going to the communities you’re helping out. Which turned out to be, let’s say, misleading. So, after several other self funded visits to Kenya, working with orphans, those with HIV and families in the slums of Nakuru, Susan hatched what most of us would think was a somewhat crazy plan. She would start her own ‘project’. In the slums of Nakuru. In Kenya.
So that’s what she did.
In 2008, in a rented house in the slums of Nakuru, with the help of some local teachers, Susan Saleeba started the Gabriel Learning Centre, a place to teach women to sew, the elderly to speak English and school 30 pre-primary kids.
Six years on, in Susan’s, words from the Nakuru Hope website:
2014 , January 8th, we opened our doors for the commencement of the new school year, and on the 2nd July 2014 we Officially had an Opening Ceremony, where my children Adam and Sarah, the grand children of Gabriel gave the school to the children of Kenya. Currently we have 130 children, at the end of 2014 we will have 200 school children ranging from ages 3 years (pre-primary) to 10 years plus 50 of our children that started with us now go to high school, boarding schools and surrounding public schools. We have the welfare of over 600 families that we assist with food, medicines, HIV education, family planning and housing. We have formed a co-op with our sewing ladies who now make a school uniforms which they receive an income and have a class of seniors learning to read and write for the first time in their lives. In October 2014 our orphanage will welcome 35 abandoned or orphaned children into a safe home environment.
Susan has worked tirelessly to fundraise the money to buy the land and build the school and orphanage. Volunteers from all over the world have visited Gabriel’s to donate their time and money. If you go to the Nakuru Hope webpage,you can sponsor a child. It is now an approved not for profit charity affiliated with Rotary. And all the money raised goes to the families in need in Nakuru. All of it.
And the bags?
Pekho, Fremantle is selling these gorgeous, fun bags made by the women in the co-op at Gabriel’s. They’re made from woven recycled plastic bags so are perfect for the beach, shopping or just a day to day tote. I sold one today to put a pot plant in! The money from the sale of each bag goes directly to the women who made it, the difference to Gabriel’s to buy food, teachers etc. Pop in and pick one up and help us do our part too.
I am so blown away by what Susan has and continues to achieve. She has dared to do what many of us would think is quite impossible.
She is beautiful, effervescent, quick to laugh, and an incredibly inspirational woman I am proud to know.
Check out the Nakuru Hope website. Maybe you could go on a Kenya volunteering adventure too.