My wife Judy and I recently visited Kenya in East Africa. She is a Kenyan native and wanted me to meet her family and see the country she grew up in. It was an amazing trip. Kenya is a very diverse country and a land of contrasts. We explored world-class shops and restaurants in the bustling and frenetic capital of Nairobi, went on safari to the Maasai Mara and relaxed on the Indian Ocean in the resort city of Mombasa.
Mombasa is home to The Bombolulu Workshops and Cultural Center, a program dedicated to helping physically disabled individuals overcome their physical limitations and live a productive, independent life. My wife and I visited the facility during a tour of the city. Founded in 1969, Bombolulu began as a rehabilitation project sponsored by the Association for the Physically Disabled of Kenya. The program provides training and employment for over 100 adults who are blind or physically disabled. Bombolulu also provides housing, medical care, and adult education for individuals and their families. The facility consists of numerous workshops which provide artisans with training in jewelry making, screen printing, textiles, wood carving, and crafting. In addition, Bombolulu is also involved in the construction of wheelchairs and other adaptive devices for use throughout Kenya.
Our guide, Ali, took us around the facility and introduced us to several artisans. One of the artisans showed us his carvings of African game animals. He had beautiful miniatures of zebras, elephants, gazelles, rhinos, and lions. He showed me a beautiful piece of ebony which he was carving into a crocodile. Bombolulu is also known for its jewelry and its ability to turn recycled materials into radiant and whimsical pieces. Artisans were hard at work crafting bracelets, necklaces, and earrings. Another artisan was working on handbags made of cowhide. He explained that cowhide can be worked into leather and retains the original coloring of the animal. He said that sometimes they have difficulty selling their products as customers want handbags without any imperfections which original cowhide has. Judy and I agreed that the authentic cowhide enables the artist to create a unique style for each handbag.
Bombolulu sells all of their products at a gift shop on their grounds. It boasts a wide array of products, from carvings to jewelry to clothing. Sales from the gift shop enable each of the artisans to live an independent and productive life. My wife and I purchased numerous items for our friends and families. When I returned to The Arc, I enjoyed seeing the happiness in my co-worker's faces’ when I gave them carvings of various African game animals.
Additionally, Bombolulu features a cultural center which depicts Kenyan life as it existed in the past and how it continues to be in remote areas. The center also has a restaurant which serves Kenyan and other African specialties.
Visiting Bombolulu was one of the highlights of my trip. I found their work uplifting and it will inspire me to do my best with our individuals. My wife was especially pleased to see a developing country such as Kenya providing people with disabilities the opportunity to develop their potential and contribute to society. Our visit provided further proof that all people, no matter where you live, strive for independence and want to live happy and productive lives.
Click here to check out the beautiful work that is done at Bombolulu!