Jacaranda is a workshop located in Kileleshwa, Nairobi, Kenya. It is a non-profit organization that produces unique jewelry that are hand crafted such as necklaces, earrings and even key holders. Each piece is usually unique as it represents the personalities of the individuals who mold them, paint them and string them and shows out with pride their emotions and abilities.
Jacaranda was founded in 1982 to help the mentally challenged spend their time being productive by working. The organization has two workshops; one where the individuals make products using brass and another where they work in classes. Each individual uses local materials to perform just one task that they are capable of accomplishing. Sponsors are usually highly appreciated as the Jacaranda depends on the profits they make from their sales. The mentally challenged students from the other side of the workshop usually graduate to getting an opportunity to better their skills which in turn boots their self-esteem tremendously.
When I first walked into Jacaranda I must admit I was a bit scared of the mentally challenged people who were there. I tried my best to lie to myself that I wasn’t as it made me feel like a terrible, stereotypical person but I couldn’t help it. My only comfort was me thinking to myself how our school couldn’t possibly send us to a place where our well-being would be at risk. Before commencing my community work at Jacaranda I had never before in my life had any association with the mentally challenged. My judgement for them came from the movies I watched and all the movies painted a picture of them being violent, non-conversant and bipolar.
When I walked into the workshop (where they make necklaces and earrings) for the first time I could not tell that the individuals there were mentally challenged. They all seemed normal to me and I remember having asked my school mate whether it was really a facility of the mentally ill. They all cleaned up nice and all had good etiquette. I had a good bond with them and as soon as I got to warm up to them I no longer felt threatened. I have always been a shy person when it came to socially interacting but my fellow students who I got to meet there were so friendly and that helped me get more comfortable with the environment.
During my first week of community service we were shown the different colors of beads they ad and were asked to separate them according to their colors. That was a bit tiresome as some of the colors were pretty much similar to each other. Joseph our supervisor known as ‘Jose’ noticed that after the second day we were overwhelmed by the work and was kind enough to suggest to teach us on how to make the beads. We were handed to clay and were taught to cut it out, roll it and poke holes in it using a slim metal. We found that work very pleasing as it required team effort and coordination. The first week was really enjoyable as we got to learn so much about bead making and also got to personally interact with the individuals there. Although everyone had not known each other very well, we had all broken the ice by the end of the week. By the end of the first week I was really excited about being there and the work I did there that I couldn’t stop explaining to my family and friends all about it. I also kept telling everyone I met at school how Jacaranda is such a nice place to gain understanding of different situations and people.
As weeks went by we were still making the beads by cutting out the clay, rolling and poking holes in each rolled out clay. There was a difference though. Due to the team work required there had been a greater bond between all of us and the friends we had met there (I will refer to the mentally challenged us our friends). We also got to know a lady by the name of Sarah personally. She is one of our friends and always told us day after day about a wedding she was planning for. She told us that she was getting married to George, a man who is also at the facility. She was always so excited about her weeding and even went ahead to give each of us roles at her wedding.
There was a chairman, a chair lady, the caterer and I was the treasurer as she said I seemed like I could be trusted with money. Each day we got to plan for the wedding and even chose the church which the wedding would be done. Later on I felt really devastated as Joseph their supervisor told us she has been planning for her wedding for ten years straight. He said she always does that with every bunch of students that come. At that point I even prayed to God asking him if he could help them recover.
My eyes had started to slowly open and I realized how much I’m never appreciative of what I have in life. The feeling got worse when at some point we were taken to see the other workshop which had young children in classes. There were beautiful children who had autism and cerebral palsy. We were told that most of those children were in that condition due to their parents taking drugs such as cigarettes and alcohol when they were expectant with them.
We were shown children from the lowest class to the highest class. In the lowest class, there were the children who were in the worst state and needed full time supervision. That was the stage where the ones who are at their worst begin from. We were then taken to the ones who were in the next stage, meaning they were better. They could wave at us when asked to and could even sing songs when asked to, although they weren’t fully aware as at some point some of them would completely forget what they were asked to do and would go on ahead doing something else until reminded to. Onto the next stage were the adults who would deal with carpentry and would communicate better than the children at the previous level, although only if they wanted to.
Finally, we were told that our friends who we make the beads with are at the most progressive level as they can communicate at any time when spoken to and can answer questions when asked. Unlike the others, they don’t need to stay in the premises as they are able to commute to and fro. In conclusion, we were told that the children at the first level also have a shot at getting to where the adults at the bead-making workshop are, with constant training, lots of patience towards them and a well-planned out diet for them, as if they have too much wheat or sugar they get too hyper which isn’t good for their systems.SWOT ANLYSIS
Strengths- The strengths of Jacaranda lie in the way the supervisors and the teachers communicate with the individuals, and how they interact with them. They have so much patience and try as much as possible to try understand what the young children are communicating to them. They make sure that all the activities are done during the times they are supposed to be done. For example when its break time the teacher stops the lesson and the children immediately ran out to eat and play.
Weaknesses- At times the children ran out and play alone unsupervised which has ever lead to a child leaving the premises alone and wondering around Kileleshwa. This might be so dangerous as the child might get distraught seeing such an open environment and exploring it alone which may lead to confusion and an accident may occur, or in some cases the child might get abducted.
Opportunities- The program being done at Jacaranda is such a beautiful program, although there isn’t much awareness about the organization as I had never heard of it before I took up community service. There should be more ways for the organization to be publicized which in return will attract more donors and sponsors.
Threats- Our friends at Jacaranda are not harmful in any way to outsiders but amongst themselves they at times tend to get a little violently playful. The supervisor should always be there at all times to make sure no incidents occur, as at times as they are playing they could hit each other at the back causing one person to cry.
WHAT I EXPECT TO DO FOR THE SITE
I have and will continue to create more awareness about the site through social media forums and word of mouth. I deal with food catering and I have agreed with Patrick, the manager of Jacaranda that I could take some of the Jewelry to sell them for the organization at an art event at Lavington along James Gichuru road. There I will get a larger target to create awareness about the organization and hopefully Jacaranda will have more investors knocking at its doors.
As a group repressing Usiu, we as the volunteers at Jacaranda have opted to buy them buckets as they were in need of buckets to put their beads into according to different colors. We have alreasy saved up and my colleague namely Wairimu and I will go buy the buckets. We have also saved up to make a party during our last week at Jacaranda to show a token of appreciation towards the people of Jacaranda for having welcomed us whole heartedly.