Picture taken on an evening walk in Kisii, Kenya in 2019
"Treat the earth well. It was not given to you by your parents. It was loaned to you by your children." --Kenyan Proverb
This past month seemed to float by. We were worried about sales. Worried about the health of our community in Kenya (225 confirmed cases of CV19 in Kenya). We were trying to figure out the transition to teaching by cell phone (not even smartphone) to our Ajiri scholars. And we were worried about how we are going to continue to pay 60 women in rural Kenya when the flow of orders has trickled.
Those worries are all still there. But this past week, instead of swirling amidst the stress and skimming the news and refreshing our browsers, we started to be still.
John Muir wrote "I only went out for a walk and finally concluded to stay out till sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in."
This past week we've been going "in." Going for more walks, laying on the grass, and listening. The world seems inverted right now, turned inside out. In this strange inversion, the "outside" world--the natural world--has never felt more like home.
A photo taken last month by Nairobi resident, Osman Siddiqi, shows One Africa Place, a bullet-shaped glass high-rise in Nairobi, framed by the snowcapped peaks of Mount Kenya, which many residents said they have never seen from the capital city.
This past week, as people stopped moving and pollution decreased in Kenya, Mt. Kenya could be seen from Nairobi. Many Kenyans thought the picture above was photoshopped. The mountains are really right there? How have we never noticed?
This slowdown has put many magical things into better focus. Your encouraging e-mails, your delightful reviews (thank you!!) on our website, your phone calls and online orders--it all feels reassuring. Like seeing what has always been there.
Thank you for being there all along. And thank you for being here with us right now.
To better days ahead,
Kate and Sara
Here are some ways Ajiri is committed to long-term sustainability and how we are maintaining this commitment even today in this pandemic:
1. Label Production and Design:
Right now: We are continuing to employee our artisans even as orders have slowed. The reduction of work, and therefore pay, is not an option for us--especially when so many women rely on this income to pay for basic household needs and school fees.
Always: The labels are all made using recycled materials. The paper is made using water hyacinth, an invasive weed in Lake Victoria, and recycled office paper. The designs are crafted using dried banana bark. Inside the box, the small bracelet is made using recycled magazines and twine from banana bark.
2. Boxes: Our boxes are all made using recycled cardboard. We use local box manufacturers based in Pennsylvania.
3. Tea Packaging: Our tea is also packaged within a 60 mile radius of our headquarters. While tea isn't local, we are trying to keep our production and manufacturing as local as possible.
4. Teabags: The teabags are made out of wood pulp--not plastic. Both the tea and the teabag are compostable.
Right now: Our Ajiri scholars have all been sent home from school. We are trying to continue their education through lessons over the phone. We remain committed to paying for their education even as our sales, and therefore profits, have dwindled.
Always: We believe in creating environmental stewards. Environmental education plays a big role in our programming with our Ajiri scholars including our annual Ajiri camp. You can read all about their musings on the world and on the environment in the Ajiri scholar newspaper.
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