mat making

Creativity Works For The Mothers Of The Forest

Listen to this article:

Creativity is a vital skill that is important in all aspects of life. Through creativity, one is able to think outside the box, communicate better, stand out, adapt to change, build relationships and connections and improve physical and mental health, not forgetting that it also increases happiness and wellbeing.

The sad thing is, as children, we Mothers of the Forest on Rusinga Island were not taught creative skills. However, thanks to Word Forest’s kindhearted supporters, we have a fantastic opportunity to learn them as adults! 

We Mothers have decided to engage in creative works as a way to help each other to reach our destiny. When we come together, we also create a perfect environment for our members to express their emotions, their feelings and to talk about their social lives. Prior to our twice monthly Word Forest meetings, we never had opportunities to do this.

We now feel like we are all leaders of Rusinga women’s empowerment! We have a lot of creative activities lined up in the year ahead. Not only will they enable us to learn new skills, but we will be able to sell the products we make. Having more financial stability changes our lives for the better in so many ways.

The workshops we have lined up in 2024 will teach us more about a great many things including mat making, which we started in the early part of this year and enjoyed very much. With expert guidance from our teacher Mary Atieno Odhiambo, we will be able to create different pictures and designs using materials like sacking which was previously used to carry food, so it is rubbish now being used as a resource. We will also have chances to use beautiful coloured threads and simple, natural straws of different colours for basket making. We are very excited to learn pot making as well, using a special, locally-sourced clay.

During our creative arts lessons, we have a great time communicating our ideas effectively to each other in a relaxed, stress-free, feminine environment. In addition, we also discuss our problems and challenges and, as a result, we gain fresh perspectives and find innovative solutions. Through our meetings, we’ve been able to express love, care, understanding and encouragement, all by working together and bonding as sisters.

One of our number is Atieno, a Mother of 3 who never had a chance to go to school as a youngster. She suffered with very low self-esteem and felt like she was a failure in life. To some extent she believed nothing good could come out of her. When we started our creative lessons it was a bit challenging because she was full of fear of doing something wrong.

However,  thanks to Word Forest and with motivation and encouragement from the rest of the group, she started changing her perspective about herself. Now Atieno has become one of the best and most productive Mothers in the arts sessions! She made a very beautiful mat recently. 

Atieno is very thankful to Word Forest for thinking outside the box for her and more so to our CEO, Tracey who I talk to every week in our video meeting. Atieno wanted to say: “Nimeishi bila mtazamo katika maisha, sikujiamini, sikujifahamu kuwa nina uwezo wa kufanya kitu hadi nilipofundishwa sasa naweza jivunia na kujiamini, mmenitoa katika giza na kunieka kwa mwangaza nashukuru sana Tracey”. Translated, that means: “I have lived without perspective in life, I didn’t believe in myself, I didn’t know that I was capable of doing something until I was taught, now I can be proud and believe in myself, you have brought me out of the darkness and into the light, thank you very much Tracey.”

Tracey commented: “I am absolutely blessed to be a part of the conduit that makes so many amazing things happen over in Kenya. I am deeply grateful to Atieno for her kind words, but I need to distribute them to each and every donor and supporter of our work. We’re all changemakers! Atieno is living proof of the additionality Word Forest brings to the table. We do so much more than tree planting and tree growing. We nurture people to be the best they can be too. Thank you everyone.”

Another of our Mothers is Achieng. She’s an elderly woman who has greatly benefited from these creative lessons. In her life, she hadn’t been able to secure a job opportunity. She has been completely dependent on farming since she was a young girl. At her age now, tending to her farm has become a struggle and it’s really difficult for her. 


Achieng decided to engage herself in our creative arts sessions which she is doing with passion. She wanted to say: “Giko mari ok en gima iketo e geno lakinini obiro ka okalo kuom gima iloso’’ which means: “Now I have discovered that destiny is not what you believe, but what you create.”

Whenever we attend our lessons we always do it in high spirits. We venture into making decorations with designs of our choices and it’s very fulfilling since we get to choose the colours we love.

We started by making flowers and decorating them. We believe that every flower is a soul blossoming in nature which creates Joy! Love! Purity! Faith! Hope! and Growth! We  empowered women of Word Forest can proudly say, this is yet another new beginning, enabling us to generate another strand of income and we are grateful to you all.

Creative arts encourages us to recycle more used items like plastics, sacking, old clothes and cloth. It allows us to make and sell truly recycled, self-sustaining and sustainable products which are joyful and fulfilling to dream into existence.

I have learned that creative arts are self-propelling. The more we learn, the more we want to learn! Everyone here now has a chance to earn good money and it encourages them to embrace the skills and rise up out of our daily financial challenges.

We are now receiving orders for our mats and flowers and this is such a boost to our confidence! We are absolutely sure that through hard work we can continue to make a good honest income and generate our own sustainability!

Of course, for everything we learn in our workshops, we ‘pay back to Word Forest’ by planting and caring for saplings, helping them grow to maturity. That helps us too, especially the food bearing trees. It is a pleasure to do this and we are extremely grateful for the opportunity to do so.

We continue to be approached by other members of our local communities who admire our group and our achievements. There is a queue of women who want to join our empowerment group. We hope we’ll be able to expand in time, as funds allow. For now, may 

I close this report with a smile and a happy wish to you all. Feel blessed, because we certainly are!

Joy Maseno

Subscribe to our blog

Want to stay right up-to-date with what’s happening? We can notify you by email when we post a new article or let you know which articles we’ve published at the end of the week. What to expect: If you wish to withdraw your consent and stop hearing from us, simply click the unsubscribe link at the bottom of every email we send, or contact us at [email protected]. We value and respect your personal data and privacy. To view our privacy policy, please click here. By submitting this form, you agree that we may process your information in accordance with these terms.

Daily Weekly

Marketing permission: I give my consent to to be in touch with me via email using the information I have provided in this form for the purpose of news, updates and marketing.

Skip to content