Mothers of the Forest making mats

Training For The Mothers Of The Forest

It is with great delight that we bring you news of a recent training course run for our women’s empowerment group, the Mothers Of The Forest.

Women are the backbone of the tree planting community in Kenya. Pre pandemic, the Mothers Of The Forest met twice a month to have a meal, receive and share information and collect saplings to be planted on their shambas. They were also able to pass on knowledge and support to other women in the community. Of course, due to lockdowns and Covid restrictions, that has all had to stop for the time being. However, as restrictions have begun to lift in Kenya, it has been possible to start organising small events, and so some of the women were able to attend a mat making course. This new skill will give them another way to earn money, as they can sell the floor mats they make, as well as an outlet for their creativity. 

The course was led by Dora Kalama, supported by Eva Jefa (the facilitator of the MOTF) and her assistant, Esther Kombe. The maximum number of people allowed to meet in Kenya at the moment is 20, but the six day course was run twice with 10 attendees at a time; Eva feels that this was an advantage “because it gave the mothers more space and time with Dora.” The course started at 9 each morning. The women, some of them having travelled a considerable distance to get there, gathered in the shade of a tree. 

On the first day Eva made the introductions and then, she says, “Dora began her training by naming the tools and the materials that were going to be used during the training and their functions. She then cut small pieces of tapestry which Esther and I helped distribute along with a bundle of yarn, ruler, marker pen, scissors and the two types of crochet needles. After tea that morning, Dora started teaching the basics of crocheting and it was good to know that a good number of the mothers knew the basics.

Over the six days, we learnt how to make floor mats from yarn and tapestry; we learnt the ragged method and the pompom method. We also learnt how to make pompom cushion covers and a mat out of worn out t-shirts.”

Each day of the course, the women shared food which was prepared on site; a midmorning tea break with something to eat, plus a delicious, nutritious lunch. Porridge was available for the babies and there was also plenty of clean water to drink. The two cooks were able to ensure that the meals were ready on time; in fact, Eva did comment that. “Sometimes we would get carried away with the crocheting and the cooks would start complaining that the food was getting cold!

Mothers of the Forest sharing tea and sandwiches
Image by The Word Forest Organisation

Eva has facilitated courses and teaching for the Mothers in the past but she noticed a change this time, saying, “I have had trainings before but this one felt different. The connection the mothers had amongst themselves is something I had not seen before. It was lively but calm and when someone cracked a joke, i could feel the mothers’ laughter come from the heart. This made me feel a certain peace flow through me. 

I listened to the mothers discuss various things and by them sharing their life experiences, some got solutions while others realized that there are some customs that don’t make sense in this time. 

I was also very pleased with Dora. She is very patient and a very good listener. Being a mother herself of 4 adult children, it was easy for her to connect with the mothers. She really motivated the mothers, encouraging them to never give up.

This wasn’t just any kind of training. It was a training that touched the soul and cleared the mind. It was a training that not only brought the mothers together for the common purpose of learning a new skill, it connected them in a way that is bringing out the best in them and allowing them to be creative. Creativity is looked upon as a threat and being hard headed when it comes from a woman but this workshop has helped the mothers not to be afraid of being creative. Not only in mat making but in other aspects in life.

As you can see in the pictures, some of the mothers’ mats are shapes of blocks but others are not. This tells that some of the mothers are beginning to explore which is good.

I would like the mothers to be creative and become problem solvers. This way, no mother will stay stuck to a problem.

In a few words, the training achieved more than I expected. It was awesome!!”

Dora the tutor and Eva mat making
Image by The Word Forest Organisation

It is really great to know that the course was so successful and that the women got so much out of it. Not only that, but 1,000 more trees will be planted because of it, which is the icing on the cake. Heartfelt thanks to Eva, Esther and Dora for organising, facilitating and teaching the course, the cooks for keeping everyone fed and of course the Mothers for attending.

Izzy Robertson, Eva Jefa and The Team

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