Local residents' pop-up boutique helps Kenyan students with education

Courtesy of Caren McNelly McCormack
Organizers of a pop-up marketplace boutique that sold handcrafted pieces from Kenya, including the tote bags pictured above, earmarked their proceeds for education and health care in Kenya.

A fundraiser to help the people of Kenya that began 10 years ago in a Los Altos family’s living room continues to grow, thanks to sales from a successful pop-up marketplace boutique.

Caren McNelly McCormack, founder of the nonprofit Kilgoris Project, has joined forces with her neighbor, Dr. Debra Matityahu, founder of the nonprofit Beyond Fistula, on the boutique. The pop-up, which concluded operations Sunday, sold handcrafted pieces from Kenya that included jewelery, handwoven baskets and tote bags. The profits were earmarked for education and health care in Kenya.

“If I could take everyone on a plane to show the work, I would,” McNelly McCormack said. “This is a good way to bring the work back to our local community.”

With assistance from husband Jon McCormack, she launched the Kilgoris Project in 2009. Teaming with local leaders and familes in Kilgoris, Kenya, the project helps operate 10 schools for primary and preschool students in rural Kenya.

Matityahu’s Beyond Fistula is a family effort to help Kenyan women heal and rebuild their lives after suffering the severe childbirth injury known as obstetric fistula. Encouraged by her daughter and co-founder Arielle, Matityahu has used her expertise as an OB-GYN to help provide post-fistula services to mothers in Kenya. Many of the women are disowned by their families for losing the child during birth, according to the doctor, and her nonprofit organization helps them get back on their feet.

Matityahu told the story of Mercy, a Kenyan woman who gave birth in a mud hut. After days of pushing, she was torn up inside and delivered a stillborn baby. Her husband kicked her out of the house, leaving her homeless. After learning of her plight, Beyond Fistula admitted Mercy into care and vocational training to learn how to sew.

Mercy now sends her two children to private schools, and Matityahu said Mercy is most proud of being able to walk her children to the school bus knowing she can provide for them.

Matityahu and McNelly McCormack set the fundraising goal for this year’s boutique at $70,000 – from sales and in-store donations – and said they are on track to reach it. Profits from the storefront go directly to the programs. Funds contributed to the Kilgoris Project will support teachers and meal programs, according to McNelly McCormack.

“My biggest thing is the impact that one person can have on changing the lives of other people,” Matityahu said. “Each of us has the ability to help at least one person, honestly, for the price of a few cups of coffee.”

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