On a recent trip to Kenya I met with old family friends in Nairobi. It was the first trip I had taken since having my son in July 2020. Mrs. Ambundo, who is 85 years old and a mother to four children, took me into her arms and said "welcome to the other side." She didn't mean welcome to "the other side" of the world. She meant welcome to the world of motherhood. The war in Ukraine had just intensified, and Mrs. Ambundo kept repeating "Those poor people, those poor mothers, those poor children. Just imagine." And for the first time, I really could imagine. It is as if parenthood (or sleep deprivation or seven cups of tea) had dialed up my empathy.
When we visited the Tabakan women's group who craft the labels, they all congratulated me. After all, I've known them since I was 19. But this was the first time that I felt like I knew them, it was the first time we had this common ground or common experience.
And I'm embarrassed to write that while I thought I understood their struggles before, I don't think I really did. I didn't understand what it meant to live with fierce love. I don't think I understood what it meant to put others before yourself.
When we were meeting with the wo men, Ann (my mother) and I made 100 butter and jam sandwiches to go with our tea. A small child, around the age of 4 wandered in. His mother wasn't a member of the group, but he must have sensed there were sandwiches or excitement or other children, and he sat right down in the circle. I watched as one of the women dipped her hand in a nearby bucket and wiped his mouth and hands with her wet hands. I watched as she gave him a sandwich and extend her lesso, or piece of fabric, so he could sit beside her. She did this all while focusing on the group meeting.
It is this second-nature maternal love that we hope to extend to our 30 Ajiri scholars, all of whom have lost one or both of their parents. Regina and Difna are the firm and compassionate forces of the Ajiri Foundation. They anticipate our scholars' needs, they extend their lesso for under-the-tree meetings, and they dole out compassion like jam sandwiches. They love fiercely and advocate for our scholars every step of their education.
Thank you for celebrating this Mother's Day with Ajiri Tea. Your orders, your affirmations, all help to create a company culture of empathy. In a world that feels unbalanced, your presence, your support, is that familiar lesso of love.
With love from this side and that side,
Kate, Ann, Regina, Sara, and Difna
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