The EAC has always stayed connected to the community through health education classes with local community groups. Groups are independently formed as small business cooperatives, savings and loan merry-go-rounds, or support groups. The EAC has now started a program of empowering these groups with business development, help with grant applications, and trainings on finance, accounting, and grant writing and reporting.
In 2011, the Takaungu Beach Management Unit, a cooperative of the fisherman and fish mongers of Takaungu and the surrounding areas, came to the EAC requesting help applying for a major grant from the Community Development Trust Fund (CDTF) to build a cold storage building and landing shades at the fishing sites. Over the next year, the EAC appointed volunteers and used our own staff to finish a very demanding grant application. The final package was over 30 pages long and included a 10-page budget! Luckily, after all that hard work, the grant application was successful. EAC staff member Mohamed Said is part of the implementation committee and money should be dispersed after a training is held on managing the grant in 2013.
Vutakaka Sewing Club
The Vutakaka Sewing Club was one of the first projects the EAC initiated in Takaungu — it began even before the Vutakaka Center was built — and it has become one of our most exciting and successful projects.
Classes of 14 (mostly women) come to the Center five days a week to learn how to sew, both by hand and using a pedal sewing machine. Over the course of the one-year class, students learn how to make items such as bags, quilts, aprons, baby dresses and shirts. On days when class is not in session, participants can come to the center to make items and practice their skills.
When the Club first started, all sewing was done by hand. Since then, generous donors have granted the EAC money to buy 8 Singer sewing machines. The pace of production and the excitement of the participants have increased with the profit margin.
The EAC has developed a network of outlets in Kenya and the U.S. where the "Takaungu" label items are sold, with money going to support the Center and to the people making the items.
Many of the products are made using local patterned fabrics called lesos (LAY-soes). The lesos are used by local woman as skirt wraps, shoulder wraps, head wraps, even to strap babies to their backs! They are beautiful and colorful, giving non-Kenyans a flavor of the place where they were made. Many of the lesos contain a proverb in Kiswahili, the local language.
In 2008, the Takaungu Sewing Cooperative became an independent group but continues to be an integral part of EAC activities. The group is currently using 4 mud buildings (rent free) adjacent to Vutakaka Nursery School and Health Clinic. In 2011, the collective opened a showroom in one of the buildings. They are now keeping a stock of bags at the showroom for visitors to Takaungu. The EAC continues to support the work of the sewing collective by placing regular orders of the wonderful crafts sold at EAC fundraising events around the world.
The EAC serves a population of over 20,000 living in the rural Takaungu location of the Kilifi District in the Coast Providence of Kenya. Statistics demonstrate the vulnerability of this population compared to Kenya’s national averages. Nationally, 47% of Kenya’s population is living below the poverty line, while 67% of residents in Kilifi District are considered to be living in absolute poverty (World Bank and NACPD), and 57% live over 5km from the nearest health facility (NACPD). The mortality rate for children under 5 for Kenya is 98 deaths per 100,000 live births (World Bank) compared to 114 in the Kilifi District. Similarly, school enrollment in Kilifi District is significantly lower than national averages, at 66% vs. 107% primary enrollment and 13% vs. 67% secondary enrollment, respectively.