Connecting with the Power Women of Kibera, Nairobi, Kenya, Over Great Distances and Through Big Storms

A couple of weeks ago a magical thing happened at the LitWorld office. Don’t get me wrong, magical things always happen at the LitWorld office, but this experience was particularly moving for me. Across oceans and cultures and all types of obstacles, LitWorld was able to connect with the amazing Power Women Group of Kibera, Kenya. We have a Skype date with the Power Women every few weeks and it is the highlight of the day, week, and month for all of us. The Power Women live up to their name & are a truly powerful group of women. After being ostracized by their communities because of their HIV-positive status, the Power Women came together to support each other and work together to improve their living situations - they’re motto is “To pull together is to avoid being pulled apart.”

On this particular Friday - 9 am in NYC, 5 pm in Kibera - we’ve come together to share stories, songs and smiles and I am blown away by how close the women seem. It’s as if we are in the same room - although from their end they are experiencing inclement weather and we can hear what sounds like a torrential downpour beating down on the tin roof above them. We have some trouble hearing each other over the sound, but nothing can drown out the enormous smiles they have on their faces and the pure love that is radiating from each and every one of them. Because of the difficulty communicating we decide to sing songs - Dorothy leads us in singing “This Little Light of Mine” and the Power Women lead us in singing “When the Saints Go Marching On” - songs we all know and sing with ease and joy. It hits me as we sing that even though these women are so far away from me physically and live such completely different lives from my own, and even though we don’t speak the same language - we still have so much we want to share with each other and we have one very important thing in come - the eagerness to connect.

The rain finally settles down and YaYa is able to read aloud from a book that I had never heard of, but know I would have loved as a child. The book is called Frederick and it is about a little mouse who does not help the other little mice prepare for the coming winter months, or at least he does not help them in the more conventional way - by gathering grains and nuts. Rather, Frederick is gathering colors and words to share with his fellow mice when the food runs, so that he might warm their hearts and feed their spirits during the darkest days of winter. The book really resonated with me because I very much believe that every person has their own unique gifts to offer and even if they’re not conventional, they’re still essential.

After reading the book, we all went around and thought of one word that we would share with our children to help them get through hard times, to help them get through their own darkest days. No one woman said the same thing and every answer was beautiful. Some of the words we came up were: love, friends, bravery, hard work, school, hope, strength, family. Each answer was so personal and yet we all related - we were speaking the same language, even though we needed a translator to communicate - we were speaking the language of the heart, the language of stories.

This was an experience that for me truly defined what LitWorld is all about - sharing stories and moments and lessons; across language barriers, despite storms, using every possible technological means to connect. It was truly magical. And what I’m going to remember the most, what will brighten even my darkest day, are the dazzling and infectious smiles of the Power Women of Kibera, Kenya.

- Carey