Support our Good Wood Carvers!

My last blog at the Colobus Trust!

This is Heidi, eco volunteer and I have spent the most amazing last three weeks at the Colobus Trust.  I have helped to plant indigenous tree seedlings, cared for the tree nursery, helped with a re-release of a Sykes monkey, observed and photographed the Colobus, Sykes, Vervets and Yellow Baboons, help teach some of the local kids in the Education program and most importantly revamped the lovely Gift Shop!

We now have some ethically sourced and fair trade items for sale in our gift shop as well as having developed some positive relationships with local carvers and artists to promote conservation in particular working with “good woods.”  I am very sad to be leaving Diani Beach but hope to come back next year for a much longer stint to work at the Colobus Trust (fingers crossed!)  The Colobus Trust is a very worthy conservation project that is actively doing so many things in the community of Diani and beyond.  I hope I made an impact with the carvers as I showed some of them around and spoke to them in depth about conservation, deforestation and using sustainable materials for future generations.  Even if I only made some headway with a handful of local artists, I am very happy to have had the experience in meeting and working with some locals in the community (and practice some of my Swahili!).

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Pics from top: Daniel, Daniel and me, Stephen

Late this afternoon I had to pick up the remaining Colobus key rings I ordered from one of our new “good wood” carvers, Peter James.  I met Peter about two weeks ago when I went around viewing all the different sorts of carvings and curios available in Diani.  Peter carves many animals out of all kinds of woods and he is very good at carving key rings with people’s names in them.  I noticed he used ebony (a hard indigenous wood) so I asked him if he ever considered making key rings in mango or neem instead.  He said he would try making some in mango wood as the material was readily available but no one had ever asked him for key rings from mango tree.  Now the second time I checked on Peter about a week ago I happened to meet his wife and two new little babies (twins named Esther and Mangi).  I could see his babies didn’t look well and they were crying their little heads off.  Peter was in a hurry and told me he couldn’t finish the order of key rings as he had to take his babies to hospital but could I please give him a large deposit for the key rings even though the work wasn’t finished.  I normally didn’t give the carvers any hefty deposits before the work was finished but on this occasion my heart sank as I looked at how ill his babies were and I gave him half of the money towards the 10 key rings.  I knew he would spend it all at the hospital or on medication for his babies.

The next day I saw Peter and asked about his babies and checked on the outstanding order for the key rings.  He said he was still working on them as his babies were in hospital and he hadn’t had time to work on them but could I give him another order for key rings and another deposit!  I was a bit reluctant but he pestered me to give him a chance to make a new style key ring with the sample Colobus Trust logo I had given him.  He promised he would make some good key rings and deliver key rings on time next week.  I kept checking up every day this week and some days Peter wasn’t there at his shop but his fellow shop keepers told me he was at the hospital with his sick babies.

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It really is Pole Pole sometimes in Kenya (slowly slowly!) but today I picked up the last of the key rings for the shop.  I was very happy to have seen one of the twins, in Peter’s shop lying on the ground all bundled up in her blankets.  She still didn’t look that well but she was out of hospital.  I ended up babysitting Esther while Peter was still working manning his shop and finishing the remaining 9 key rings.  I really didn’t mind waiting and keeping Esther entertained by picking up Maasai carvings and talking to her in my best Swahili (I don’t think she was that impressed with my Swahili though).  I must have entertained her for about 30-40 minutes or until I ran out of all the different types of animal carvings and Maasai people that I had talking to her.

Unfortunately Peter’s little boy, Mangi is still in hospital but now able to get some much needed medication because the Colobus Trust ordered quite a few key rings for the new Gift Shop this past week. The Colobus “Good Wood” key rings which are made out of mango tree are all hand carved and painted by Peter.   They are very simple but I am hoping that some volunteers and other visitors to the Colobus Trust will pick up one or two as a souvenir and not only support the Colobus Trust but help support Peter and his family.  All the new items we have sourced are fair trade and ethically sourced (no middle men making a commission).  I really wanted to make a difference in some small way and I believe by helping the local people in Diani we will continue to build relationships towards positive thinking for our future.  It is up to Peter’s children Esther and Mangi to carry the hope of conservation so I am happy that we were able to support them this week.

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Peter and his little girl Esther

You can help support Peter and his family by donating online now to the Colobus Trust and purchasing “Good Wood” items from our Gift Shop.  We will soon have an online shop where we hope that many people will support Diani local “good wood” carvers and artists through fair trade.

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Thanks to everyone at the Colobus Trust for making my three weeks so memorable and special.

I will miss you all and look forward to coming back next year as a long term volunteer!

Kwaherini

Heidi, Eco-Volunteer

www.colobustrust.org

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