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"Together We Can" SIA visits Transformers Mathare

In the middle of the Mathare informal settlement in Nairobi, Kenya, where people live very close together in informally constructed houses without utility services, is the vibrant SIA Grant Partner Transformers Mathare. The organization is led by the passionate Jack Owuor, who grew up in Mathare and now coordinates tailoring and carpentry vocational programs. He radiated positivity as he pointed out the inspirational quotes painted on classroom walls and smiled.  “You only lose when you give up. Remember this a thousand times.” 

Jack, Transformer Mathare Founder and African Advisory Board member Naomi celebrate the positive messages of empowerment and hope that are featured around the space.


This week, the AAB members from Uganda, Canada, and other parts of Kenya gathered to review and dream for SIA programs. Each afternoon, we visited SIA Grant Partners in the area as a learning exchange and encouragement for Grant Partners. 

On Tuesday, the SIA African Advisory Board (AAB),  Kathleen (SIA Board President), and Tanya (SIA Executive Director) made our way down the busy roads in a big van to meet Jack and the members of Transformers Mathare. We saw the small shops, well situated along the road (rather than down the dirt paths into the settlement), where they run sewing and carpentry classes for anyone who wants to attend. Practical skills enable youth without many other opportunities to seek employment or start their own businesses. (Mathare has 300,000-500,000 people and only two public schools!) 

Tanya, Kathleen, and AAB members visit SIA grant partner Transformers Mathare

We met Miriam Nyakworo, a young mother of two who found Transformers through Facebook and said she wanted to learn tailoring skills. She didn’t know how to sew at all, but over six months, she learned to sew uniforms. When she finished the first course, Jack invited her to join the advanced class to learn how to make toiletry and tote bags. Now, she is training other young women (and a few men) to make the bags. When we visited, Miriam demonstrated how they make matching buttons for the uniforms using a button machine!


After seeing the training studios, we met three of the savings and loan groups that have received business training and coordination support from Transformers. Each AAB member introduced themselves and shared encouraging words with the young women. Wow—we have some good storytellers and motivators on our team!  

Margaret Ikiara, AAB member and Founder of CIFORD Kenya, giving a motivational talk to the savings and loans groups coordinating by Transformers

Thank you to Faith Episcopal Church in Cameron Park, CA, for supporting the fabric for Transformers Mathare.  

Interested in hearing more about Tanya's Kenya trip? Join us this Saturday, April 20, for a live Zoom where Tanya will share stories about her trip so far!


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