Mama Biashara - Helping the poor in Kenya

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The bad news is yes, Mama B wants your money!

The good news is that we will do more with it than you could ever imagine was possible.

We hear a lot of things about the problems in the developing world ... TV nowadays is full of ads voiced by mournful sounding celebs - Stephen Tomkinson has it down to a fine art - and cut to the accompaniment of rock ballads from the big hair era of pop. But where is the line between information about the appalling plight of people in, for example, Africa, and advertorial for the charity paying out your money for the glossy ads ? These ads tell us about the enormous problems, the vast needs, the nasty diseases and the terrifying statistics. They tell us that they are the ones who are solving these problems "with your help". Each one vying for our sympathy and, more importantly, our money. It is a dog eat dog business, charity. So there is probably a charity somewhere that rescues half eaten dogs.

But really, it is all very simple. The problems are tiny - each individual is a small, easily fixable problem. And they deserve to be seen as individuals and not as an invisible statistic in some amorphous mass because the statistics look better that way. And the diseases do not have big scary names, they have two simple names - poverty and ignorance. They say money can't buy you love, but here, in Africa, it can most certainly buy you life ... leaving you time to work on the love thing once you are healthy and fed, with a roof over your head.

Mama Biashara gives people in the developing world, people with nothing except illness, hunger, homelessness and a family of children who need help that they cannot give a business grant - sometimes as little as £5.00 - to set up a business that will give them a life. A hand up, we say. Up out of poverty, disease, starvation, homelessness and ignorance. Not just a hand out.

And we do this with 100% of the money we make (see info about our lovely shop in Shepherds Bush) or that we are given. 100% - we pay no rent (thank you Land Securities) and we pay no salaries. We pay no travelling expenses and we pay no accommodation. 100% goes to the people for whom it can do most. 100%

From the archive: 13/12/2013

So far this Christmas Season

So far this Christmas Season we have had one ring and one pendant stolen and many many many soapstone pieces chipped, cracked or minus a vital part. Is it wrong to be MAma Biashara and want the people who do this to BURN IN HELL ? IS it ?
Anyway, last diary from last trip. Off again in January - so you had better come and buy or the peeps over there will not be getting much business from us ...

Diary 8

Wednesday (continued)
By the time the girls' hair is braided and extended and oiled and twisted it is dark outside. We take them for kuku (chicken) and then home. The tiny one bedroomed tin shack (when I first came to Kenya I was constantly amused by people describing their homes as “shit houses” until I realised that what they were saying is “sheet houses” - ie made from sheets of corrugated metal) is freezing when we get there. No sign of Dad, of course. We leave them after Doris burrows around in the piles on the floor for some warmer clothing for them.

I collect a Western Union contribution from my school friend Rachel. She is a great supporter of Mama B – along with her daughters. And is about to be co-opted onto the Board of Trustees. Making us a seriously multinational bunch .. England, Scotland, New Zealand and Austria. And Kenya of course. I get the last of the ordered loveliness for the Mama Biashara Emporium and, when Doris arrives, give her a tour of the market and the Mama Biashara peeps who sell there. Then we set off for Ruaka, where Doris has found premises she thinks would be suitable for the Mama Biashara School of Everything. To avoid 'jam' we take the scenic route. The place is quite tiny. Very secure but basically a bedsit. I shake my head. There is another place but we cannot see it. It has two rooms, a kitchen and a bathroom inside. And is not much more expensive. The short road back to Nairobi is pitch black. I don't fancy the journey in a matatu.
Back at the Tiny Slum Palace I drag my stuff in and continue packing and repacking. I also send off a smiley email to BA customer services just confirming that I will be on the 11.40pm flight on 30th November with my free excess baggage. I add the flight number and copious thanks and take my scabs and my itchy bits and scaley bits and bleeding bits to bed.

I do some more packing and repacking and then fire up the laptop. Nothing from Customer Services except an 'out of office' reply from Elizabeth. I worry slightly and decide to check my booking just to see that the excess had been acknowledged by The System. Oh the horror, as they say, the horror.
Firstly I notice that I have been allowed only 4 free excess bags. I have ten. BA excess charges are punitive. My heart sinks. Next, I am puzzled by the fact that the website seems keen for me to check in. Now online check in only opens 24 hours before the flight. And mine is at 11.40pm tomorrow. IT was booked by a nice lady in BA who got me £100 discount. I look at the online check in page. To discover that my flight actually leaves at 00.40am tomorrow. IE tonight. I am devastated. I cannot leave tonight, I have too much to do tomorrow. We have no electricity and my laptop battery is dead so I head to Junction to the cyber cafe. First I pay £500 for the four bags that are outside my 2 allowed and four waived bags. £500. Then I call BA. Changing the flight incurs a 100 pound charge PLUS a £25 admin charge PLUS any difference in flight costs. By delaying my return till Monday I get away with only paying £125. When I was earning this would all have been bad. Now it is devastating.
To add insult to injury, on the way back I have a mother, a grannie and a baby beside me. And occasionally on me. The baby has lungs that would have impressed Pavarotti and minimal interest in keeping milk in its mouth once it was forced there by grannie.

But I get the ten boxes back and into the shop where they are ready to be bought ...