I was lucky enough to travel to Kenya for the first time when my mother invited me and my sister to join her on a Fringe Road Adventure with a group of Ibusupporters. I admit I was hesitant, yet the opportunity to share such an exciting adventure with the two of them overtook my fear and I said YES!
All of my expectations were exceeded. The purpose of our trip was to meet some of the expert bead workers that Ibu partners with to create beautiful jewelry showcasing their heritage skills. These groups are keeping their cultural traditions alive, and also changing the narrative around the value of women and their initiative in earning money. Some have even reinvested funds into their communities in order to build schools the kids can attend while their moms are working.
One of the most impactful visits was to the Satubo cooperative where women from three warring tribes come together to bead in a communal space. Women of all generations gather with their children to work and share stories about their lives. In addition to supporting them financially, it provides a social support system for these Ibus.
When we arrived at the village, the women—fully ornamented in their traditional regalia—greeted our group singing and dancing with outstretched arms. They grabbed us by the hand, and showed us how to dance by shaking our shoulders back-and-forth. I have never been greeted by a group of strangers with such openness and a willingness to share and connect—it felt so joyful, fun, and happy. Even though we didn’t speak the same language, the simple act of joining hands, singing, dancing, and then learning how to bead, connected us in a way that I will never forget.
When they saw Susan Walker, there were tears of joy in their eyes. Jane, the woman who leads them, said, You came back. You said you were going to come back and bring your friends, and here you are with them!
That trip was so impactful and opened my eyes and my heart. As soon as we came home, we started to plan a return trip for our whole family. There are 19 of us including my parents, siblings, spouses, and our 12 children that range in age from 4 to 20. We chose to return to Kenya and mirror the Ibu itinerary. On Thanksgiving Day of last year, we made the pilgrimage back to that same Satubo collective. This time the kids of the village were on holiday, so not only were we greeted by the same beautiful women, we also had the good fortune to be greeted by 100 kids—also singing and dancing with unadulterated happiness. It was so infectious we couldn’t help but return the joy. Our entire family laughed, smiled, danced, ran foot races, beaded with the women, and connected with one another. Our children chatted with the other kids, taking pictures, exchanging phone numbers, and deciding who wanted to be set up with an African boyfriend or girlfriend (or two)! It was the purest expression of what Thanksgiving is meant to be.
I am grateful to be a part of the Ibu Movement, which uplifts women around the world. If you want a trip of a lifetime and an experience that you will never forget with a bunch of like-minded individuals, consider joining one of Ibu’s Fringe Road Adventures in 2025!