Category Archives: Fundraising

Kenya Trip: Kilgoris

Back in Nairobi to change out my clothes, I caught a matatu the next morning to meet back up with Jen, Judi, and Cindy in Kilgoris, where they had a Zawadisha group of Masai women called the Upendo group. Upendo means “love” in Kiswahili and I would soon understand why the group was called this. I sat in the front of the matatu and the driver was remarkably safe by Kenya standards. As a result the trip took almost 6 hours, but I was alive and starting to get the hang of traveling on my own in Kenya.

Roadside maize stand from the matatu window

On this trip, I met the first Kenyan to say that the president was very good and not corrupt, which I thought was interesting. During our short time in Nairobi, the front pages of all the papers showed President Uhuru Kenyatta on trial at the International Criminal Courts in the Hauge. He was charged with having people killed in the opposing campaign. I didn’t have a lot of time to read up on it, but at least 10 Kenyans had told me how corrupt their government was. I did take some time to read about Kenya’s first president, Jomo Kenyatta, and some of his successors and there was quite a hint of corruption through power and land consolidation. There were tumultuous times in this relatively new democracy and comparatively, the past 2 presidents were quite an improvement from the previous one. In 1997 I was here during one of the most corrupt regimes in Kenya’s history and I was none the wiser. As a teenager I thought Kenya was all about lions, cheetahs, and elephants, but as an adult, I couldn’t help but think about the living conditions of the local population. Still, apparently the middle class is growing in Kenya, while it continues to shrink in the United States.

En route to Kilgoris, we passed through some very dry and dusty agricultural lands which felt like what the dust bowl might have looked like. Locals said there was less rain this season so far. We climbed up a hill and out of the rain shadow and into an area known for tea plantations. Kenya is one of world’s biggest tea suppliers and the area was lush and green. A light rain started to fall that stopped as we reached Kilgoris and I hopped on a motor bike to the convent where we’d be staying. I was looking forward to meeting back up with Jen, Judi, and Cindy and having a short retreat within a familiar Catholic compound. I found the convent and was shown my room, which reminded me of my days at middle school basketball camp. Jen, Judi, and Cindy hadn’t arrived yet, so I headed out for a long walk to take some photos, stretch my legs, and check out the surroundings. As I left the gates of the convent, I saw a large group of school children leaving school. They were quite surprised to see a “Mazungu” (white person) in their neighborhood and so they proceeded to walk with me for the next 15 minutes. Every once and a while one would get the courage up to talk to me in English and it would send the rest of them into fits of laughter. Despite the general feeling of being laughed at instead of laughed with, I enjoyed their company and had friendly greetings with many of the other locals on my hour long walk.

Classic Africa views on the way to Kilgoris

Kilgoris is really green

When Kenyan children first learn English, they are taught the phrase “How are you,” much like we’re taught como estas in Spanish class. So as I walked past plot of lands, I’d hear children yell out “HOW ARE YOU!” and I’d respond, “Good, how are you!” and then they’d respond, “FINE, HOW ARE YOU!” and thus began the possibly never-ending “how are you cycle” as I called it. It was definitely good for a few laughs!

When I returned, the others arrived and we observed a beautiful African sunset and sat down to dinner prepared by the sisters. We met 2 other Americans staying at the convent who happened to be University of Michigan graduates! They were working locally on project called “World e-Reader” which provided e-books to local people accessible via a mobile phone and also kindles which are provided to schools. There are so many projects in Kenya which is why the legitimacy of the government is so important.

Sunset at the convent

The next morning, we set out to visit businesses run by Zawadisha loan recipients. This would be my first time following Jen, Judi, and Cindy around on their tour. We headed up a crazy dirt road and marveled as our driver made it in his 2-wheel drive sedan to Mororo’s maize distribution warehouse. We were greeting warmly by Mororo and friends who were dressed in traditional Massai garb. Mororo spoke proudly about her business and was excited to increase her loan amount and maize stock. I took some photos and the women were amused that I took a photo of their dog and asked me to also photograph their donkeys. I was not quite in on the joke, but it was still hilarious to see them laugh in delight as I photographed the donkeys. After the visit, we were given tea and andazis which were delicious and headed out with Evelyn to check out her shamba (small farm) that Zawadisha helped support. Evelyn is a local school teacher and so her English was great. She talked about her farm, her improved quality of life, and also how, this year, the rains haven’t come. There was no irrigation in this region and the success of crops were dependent on rain. Lack of rain also put additional financial stress on families as water was often collected for drinking and cooking.

roro making a maize sale.

“How are you?” “Fine. How are you?” “Fine, how are you?”….

Can you believe I took a photo of these donkeys? HILARIOUS!

The scene in front of Mororo’s

The scene outside the “hotel” where we had tea and andazis.

Evelyn made a hilarious joke!

Our next stop was to meet up with the entire Upendo lending circle at a home of one of the members and do a seminar on empowerment and have lunch. When we arrived, the women welcomed us with a song and dance and took our hands leading us into their world. It was so incredibly moving that I had to put my camera away to fully engage. I was able to shoot some video and a few photos. Here is a video of the Upendo group welcoming us.
We piled into the living room area of the home and Jen and Cindy began the day’s workshop. Again, the women were so happy to receive the help from Zawadisha. They talked about the importance of family, a house, animals, clean water, and a farm. The needs were different than the Nairobi group, but so similar throughout the Upendo group. There were many smiles. After lunch, they had another song and dance for us and then gave us traditional Massai bracelets with our names on them. I exchanged emails with one of the daughters and I do hope she writes me. It was an incredibly moving day of warmth, happiness and celebration. Unfortunately the leader of the group was very ill at the time of the meeting. We all made a pilgrimage to her house and prayed for her and visited with her, but we learned that she passed away no more than a week later from pancreatic cancer. The condition we saw her in provoked deep thoughts about end of life care for people in poverty versus wealthier developed nations. It was a heartbreaking end to an inspiring day.

The welcome from the Upendo group

We were sad and thoughtful at Lorna’s home, but this baby made us smile. (photo by Judi)

Our new bracelets. Thanks Upendo!

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Kenya Trip: Kilifi and the Saidia kwa Moyo Orphanage

Just 3 days prior, I had no long term plan for the remaining 4 free days I had in Kenya. Then, just by staying at the hostel and talking to new people the plan became incredibly clear. Traveling with Lina and Lena, two 20 year olds, and Nico, a 25 year old, seemed to just work. Lina and Lena seemed like Kenya veterans and navigated the matatu and restaurant system with ease. We grabbed one matatu to Ukunda, then transferred but grabbed a $1 lunch first, then got off the matatu before Mombasa to board the ferry by foot for free transport across the river. When we landed in Mombasa, there was some confusion as to whether a matatu would connect directly to Kilifi and the 20 Kenyan men yelling in our faces didn’t really help the situation. We decided to just walk away, which is a vital skill in Kenya – sometimes removing yourself from the situation is the only way to find a solution – and sure enough, a Kilifi-bound matatu showed up. Departing Diana around 12:30, we landed in Kilifi via 3 matatus and a ferry at 4pm and Lina and I decided to walk to the orphanage while Lena and Nico hopped in a tuk tuk with our bags. A tuk tuk is a 3 wheel taxi. I’ve only seen them one other time in a town in Peru’s Amazon forest. They speak hot weather to me.

View from inside a Tuk Tuk

As we walked to the orphanage, we saw some of the older children from Saidia kwa Moyo leaving school for the day. They were middle school aged boys and girls and they politely introduced themselves. We settled in to our new temporary home which was really nice as the orphanage has guests on a regular basis. The guests are usually “godparents” that sponsor the children and then visit for a few weeks a year. We met the founders , Petra and Helmut, a lovely, older German couple, and many of the staff including “the mamas,” kind and beautiful Kenya women who cared for the children daily and taught them vital Kenya skills like traditional cooking and hand washing. Many of the children at Saidia kwa Moyo had lost their parents to HIV, Petra explained the “missing generation” to me – where the children had grandparents but no parents. Of the 34 children at Saidia kwa Moyo, many were brothers and sisters. Some were away at boarding high schools and the oldest was at university. Petra and Helmut’s plan was to support the children through young adulthood, until they were successful and self-reliant. Though the orphanage couldn’t replace their parents, the support they provided in access to water and food, clean shelter, showers, clothing, tutoring, sports, games, and mentorship was better than 90 percent of what I’d seen throughout the country. If you’re interested in getting involved and supporting a child, visit their website.

The scene inside Saidia Kwa Moyo. Cuteness OVERLOAD!

We sat down for a dinner of dango and rice. I think dango is red lentils – it was delicious. The children have a rotating menu that consists of dango and rice, small fish and rice, beans and rice, chicken and rice, ugali and greens and some other traditional Kenyan dishes. They rotate in helping to prepare the food. I have to admit, the scene at the dining room was straight out of Annie or Oliver Twist. I do think the food was better though! Nico and I were introduced and the children were told they could ask us any questions they wanted to. Questions flew off their tongues, “Where are you from? How old are you? Do you have any siblings? What are their names? Are you married? Do you have kids? What is your favorite food? Do you have any hobbies?” It was amazing and hilarious. After dinner, the children sang a beautiful song for us and showed us some awesome dances. My “whiteness” showed through in my dance moves, but they accepted me anyway. Everyone was super happy and it was a great welcome. Nico and I looked at each other and proclaimed that we definitely made the right decision to visit Kilifi! We spent the rest of the evening talking to some of the children about Michael Jackson, Rhianna, and movies and then called it a night after a long day of traveling.

Dinner! Beans and rice with James and Elisha

The next day Lina and I headed to the Kilifi beach which was as beautiful as Diani beach, but without all the tourists and beach boys. We were even able to leave our stuff on the beach while swimming. After lunch, we headed into town for a look and some groceries. Kilifi had at least 40 tailors and I regret not having something made. We returned to the orphanage in time to help the children with homework and play some sports before dinner. I hung out with Robin who used an old tire to catapult himself into the air doing a variety of flips. It was super impressive. He tried to get me to give it a go, but I just couldn’t trust the tire or my front flipping ability!

No one’s here!

Might as well do some handstands!

Fun on the beach with Lina!

Robin sending flips off the tire “trampoline”

When more children returned from school, we started up a football (soccer) game. Because we only had about 4 players, the game was keep away, basically every player for himself. The boys stared in disbelief as I was able to take the ball from them and keep it from them. It’s always nice to show Kenyan males that women can play football too. With more players, we were able to shift into another type of game and by the time dinner rolled around, I was covered in sand and sweat! Since the children were eating small fish that night, which none of the volunteers liked, we headed out to the Kilifi club for dinner.

Battling David on the pitch. He was pretty good!

Um, we’ll pass on the small fish.

We decided we’d stay one more full day. I was having fun and Nico wasn’t feeling well, so it was the best option we had. Lina and I were up early to head to the beach. The weather was great and the tide was out, so we walked a few miles all the way down to Kilifi Bay. When we returned, we decided to head to the Distant Relatives Backpackers Hostel to check it out. It was run by Americans and I found out the girl was actually from Maryland, quite near where my husband is from. The eco-hostel had a beautiful common area and bar, composting toilets, outdoor showers, comfortable looking rooms, chickens and a pig, and two friendly dogs. We decided to check out the beach, which was on the very wide Kilifi Creek, not the Indian Ocean and one of the dogs joined us. She swam with us and when she was done, sat guard over our possessions. It was nice to have a pal. On the way back to town, we met a local woman who offered us a ride to town. It was a kind gesture and we accepted. It was probably one of the first times of the trip a Kenyan stranger had helped me without expecting anything in return.

New friend in Kilifi

When we returned to the orphanage, volleyball was the sport of the day and we had 3 large and competitive games before dinner. I announced our departure to the children at dinner. Part of me wanted to stay, but Nico needed to return to Nairobi and it was nice to have someone to make the long bus trip from Mombasa with. So, we reluctantly caught a matatu out of my favorite place of the trip early the next morning for the 8 hour bus ride back to Nairobi.

Hard to say good bye to cuties like this.


Filed under Fundraising, Travel

Kenya Trip: Nairobi Locals

Arriving in Nairobi around midnight, I took a taxi to Jen’s friend’s house in Loresho – an area of Nairobi. My driver was friendly and we discussed the current state of affairs and his family. The roads in Nairobi were much more modern than I remember and there were even traffic lights, though as far as I could tell, no one was abiding by them, which I later confirmed to be true. We passed a few large building, so billboards and clubs, and made our way towards Loresho – a quiet, mostly gated neighborhood where we’d stay while in Nairobi. The house was nice and very “Kenyan,” not much detail, just functional – bars over every entrance, buttons for hot water, outlets, and the stove, and hard, but practical beds.

The next day, the plan was to head to Eastlands for an event in the home of a member of Zawadisha and a seminar on empowerment. After a taste of a classic Nairobi traffic jam, we met up with Cindy, Zawadisha’s local employee, and Joyce, a woman supported by Zawadisha who runs a salon and made our way through a chaotic market to a matatu (colorfully decorated buses) stand to head to the outskirts of Nairobi.

When we arrived at Cecila’s house she had food on the table and we lingered over greetings. She was very proud of her house and her accomplishments and grateful for the help of Zawadisha. Other women were supposed to arrive shortly, but Africa time is even worse than Tahoe time so we ate without them and some showed up 2 hours late! The women were from 2 different lending circles and represented many different ages and businesses. They shared how they each used their loan and what it meant to be empowered. They shared their dreams and encouraged one another. They took us in as friends immediately. It rained hard during the end of our meeting and we were told it was a blessing. It gave me a whole new outlook on rain.

Zawadisha women drawing their version of empowerment

Proud and empowered small business owner!

We traveled home from Eastlands via a muddy dirt road and a very loud matatu and were caught in another rain storm as we dashed through Nairobi, trying to beat the dark. A rule of thumb in Nairobi is to never travel at night, so we grabbed a taxi back to Loresho with our new $1 umbrellas.

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Ladies Climbing Night in Reno!

Join She Jumps for an evening of climbing at the world’s tallest climbing wall in Reno, Nevada. From never-evers, to experienced climbers, this event will jumpstart Rocktober in the Sierra Nevada! If you’re on Facebook, RSVP here! If not, just show up and climb anytime between 5 and 9pm, Thursday, October 10th! $10 gets you in and any gear you might need AND helps support SheJumps!

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SheJumps Whitewater Weekend Recap!

Twenty-five women came out to kayak, learn, camp, share stories, and laugh at the first annual SheJumps Women’s Whitewater Weekend on the South Fork of the American River in Coloma, California.

We arrived at Camp Lotus on Friday night and set up camp as women rolled in. We shared a few beers from Lagunitas, one of the sponsors, and set up a slackline, prepped our gear for the next day, and tried to make a fire with very little wood.

The scene at Camp Lotus

The next morning we were up early to get ready to hit the river!

Coffee was essential (Photo by Rose McMackin)

Clinics included a First Leap which was for never-evers or very new boaters, the Next Leap, for aspiring Class 3 boaters, and a Creeking Clinic with inspirational pros Shannon Carroll and Katie Scott.

The first leapers at the put in! I think they’re ready!

Next leapers out on the water

The creekers at the put in for Chile Bar! READY TO BOOF!

Some women opted out of clinics and did a group run on the Gorge!

Hospital Bar rapid!

High paddles after a successful gorge run!

That night we enjoyed a potluck dinner, a few more beverages, and an inspirational slide show by Shannon Carroll. Shannon shares the women’s waterfall record and has completed some cutting edge expedition boating. Her slideshow covered her descents of the Royal Gorge and a recent women’s trip to Iceland.

Shannon showing us the insanely beautiful and challenging Royal Gorge photos.

Thanks to Shannon’s slide show, most of us woke up fired up to hit the river! First we were treated to yoga by Antoinette McLean.

Yoga for paddlers prepared us for day 2 of kayaking

With new female boating partners, we set off to hit varying levels of runs and help each other shuttle!

Shuttles are better with more boats!

All in all it was a fantastic weekend and we can’t wait to do it again next year!

Thanks CCK, Lagunitas, Patagonia, and OARS!

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Sign Up For the SheJumps Whitewater Weekend!

SheJumps has an awesome event coming up September 6-8th in Coloma, California! Make sure you register for clinics, especially if you’re new to whitewater kayaking!!!

Join us for a weekend of whitewater instruction and progression on the South Fork of the American River! We will camp along the river at Camp Lotus for two nights and do runs varying from Class 2 to Class 3. Open to women of all experience levels.

Kayaking with the girls is FUN!

Kayaking with the girls is FUN!

Gear is available to borrow from California Canoe & Kayak. Bring a kayak, skirt, helmet, pfd, and paddle if you have it.

Scheduled activities include:

First Leap Clinic ($85/day), Saturday & Sunday. This class is for total beginners to the sport of whitewater kayaking. Students will learn how to exit the kayak safely, how to maneuver the kayak, and how to engage currents correctly in a Class 2 section of the South Fork American river.

Next Leap Clinic ($85/day), Saturday & Sunday. This class is for women that have taken a introductory whitewater class before and are ready to get back on the river and work on skills. The class will run a section of the South Fork American River from Marshall Gold State Park to Camp Lotus.

Creekboating Skills with pros Shannon Carroll and Katie Scott, Saturday ($75; open to Class III paddlers with a reliable roll). Learn the skills to step it up to the next level and get out on a California Creek next spring!

Playboating with pro Jessica Yurtinus ($75; open to Class III paddlers with a reliable roll), Saturday and Sunday. Saturday is a park and play clinic and Sunday as a Chile Bar play run!

Sign up for clincs here and make sure to choose the ones with SheJumps in front!!! They will fill up!

Other Scheduled Events:
Friday Social Hour: beer, wine and BYOdinner at Camp Lotus at 7pm to get aquainted and talk about the weekend.

Saturday Dinner: eat well, drink heartily and make some new paddling friends! Slideshow of kayak adventures by Shannon Carrol (Saturday evening, $10 recommended donation)

Yoga for Paddlers with Antoinette McLean, Sunday morning, 8 AM (free; open to all)

Group paddle on Chili Bar, Sunday, 9 AM Camp Lotus (free; open to Class III paddlers with a reliable roll)

After-Party at Marco’s, Sunday at 4pm: come eat, drink and be merry! And don’t miss out on some great raffle prizes! Sunday evening, open to all.

Camping at a SheJumps group camp at Camp Lotus both Friday and Saturday nights. $10/night.

To register for clinics, do so at CCK by going here. To register for the weekend, please email just so she can get a count! Otherwise, show up to hang out and paddle for the weekend!

We are excited to recognize California Canoe & Kayak, O.A.R.S. – Whitewater Rafting, Marco’s, and GoPro as partners for this event!


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Filed under Fundraising, Travel, Whitewater Splash-a-thon!

Pretty exciting event coming up in Tahoe to raise much needed funds for Oklahoma schools damaged in the recent tornados. The schools were completely destroyed – the footage on the news was heartbreaking. To top it off, one of the participants is from the town where the most damage happened, Moore, Oklahoma.

A cadre of adventurous souls and myself will be dropping off a powered paraglider and getting launched off a giant blob 50’+ into the air. There will also be BASE jumpers hitting the blob! All of this is going down July 14-17th. So come on out, or pledge a 25 cents or 50 cents per jump! I’ll only be jumping for 3 days, July 15-17, maxing out at about 20 jumps per day.

A powered paraglider above Lake Tahoe

The "blob" we'll be launching off in Lake Tahoe

The “blob” we’ll be launching off in Lake Tahoe

The set up for the launch. BASE Jumpers and jumpers like me being dropped from the air!

The set up for the launch. BASE Jumpers and jumpers like me being dropped from the air!

Pledge your donation now! Email me at to make a pledge!

Pledge your donation now! Go HERE to make a donation or email me at to make a pledge!

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