Capital FM (Nairobi)

Kenya: A 'Happy Teddy Christmas!' From Sankara

A Christmas tree unlike any other. A symbol of love, hope and tenderness nothing personifies the season more than the grand Christmas tree, a tradition dating as far back as the 15th Century. Beyond the lights and tinsel, ornaments and angels the Christmas tree fulfilled a vital role casting a watchful eye over the home to ward off evil and shed joy. This year, Sankara Nairobi's tree casts its own joyous spirit in a unique and heart-warming way.

A six metre high marvel inspired by the 'Sankara Seven' (miniature soapstone animal turndown amenities) the tree is made up entirely of brightly coloured soft toys loving handmade by the women of Nairobi's Baba Dogo neighbourhood. Not your usual evergreen conifer, the bright shades of blue, yellow, orange, pink, red and brown just prove that Christmas is not found only in the heart, it is definitely found in abundance on this tree.

The Baba Dogo Women's Initiative Group was founded in 2009 with the objective of uplifting the living standards of women within the slum; and giving each inhabitant a chance at a decent and normal life. This Group of 22 courageous women have been trained in handicraft and waste recycling. Through their creative use of locally produced materials, all sold for profit, community focused projects are brought to life. Creating the toys for this tree began in August and is the single largest order the Group has received at one time. For the women, the tree is a representation of tenderness from the past, courage for the present and the joyous idealism of a future filled with hope and possibility.

Christmas may be a day of feasting, praying, merry making with friends and family, but the Sankara Community find it in their heart to share their bundle of joy by supporting the Baba Dogo women achieve their dream to build more classrooms for their small school. The smiles written on their faces could tell it all as Sankara hosted them to a Christmas celebration.

Gifts of time and love are surely the basic ingredients of a truly merry Christmas. It always feels like a lot of work, but when you look back on all the Christmases in your life, you will find out you have created family traditions and lasting memories. Good or bad, they help to keep the family together over the long haul.

As the festive season culminates, half of the soft toys will be donated to a children's home, and the other half will be sold at the Sankara boutique with proceeds from the sale of the toys to be donated to several homes.Each of these teddy gifts are the perfect way to send a hug to a loved one. Every bear is crafted with care and passion to ensure your special someone will be filled with holiday cheer upon receiving the special gift. Celebration presents to us not what we choose but what it pleases. May this Christmas be a time of thoughtfulness, warm human awareness reaching out of one self to one's fellow man...true love in action!

To contribute to the Mama Dogo scheme, leave your donations in the box under the Sankara tree. If you are able to guess the correct number of toys used in making this very special tree a stay at Sankara will be gifted to you.

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