Egan mother-daughter pair start nonprofit for Kenyan women

Photo By: Courtesy of Debbie Matityahu
Photo Courtesy Of Debbie Matityahu

Egan Junior High eighth-grader Arielle Matityahu, left, started A Little 4 A Lot, a nonprofit organization that supports women in Kenya, such as Pricillah, above, as they return to school or pursue vocational training.

When Los Altos residents Debbie and Arielle Matityahu took an around-the-world trip two years ago, they returned home transformed.

The mother-daughter duo – Debbie is a physician and Arielle, 13, an eighth-grader at Egan Junior High School – spent a month in Eldoret, Kenya, encountering women who struggled to recover from obstetric fistulas, injuries sustained after prolonged and obstructed deliveries while giving birth. In most cases, the baby doesn’t survive and the mother is left with a hole in her rectum or bladder, causing leakage and odors.

“These women end up ostracized and are kicked out of their homes and schools and communities,” Debbie said.

Debbie worked with a Kenyan doctor to repair the women’s fistulas, and Arielle interviewed the patients as they recovered from surgery.

“When we asked the (young mothers), ‘What is your plan?’ they all said their dream was to return to school,” Arielle said. “I asked, ‘What keeps your from going back to school?’ and they answered they needed money to buy a uniform, books and shoes.”

After learning how much it would cost them to return to school, Arielle said it shocked her that it was only approximately $24.

“Everything is really cheap there,” she said. “I went to my mom and said, ‘Seriously, $24? Just give me your wallet.’ We could do so much here for so little.”

A worthy cause

Armed with a cause, Arielle was inspired to start a nonprofit organization, A Little 4 A Lot. The group raises money for women recovering from fistula repairs and provides them with resources to return to school or learn a trade to work in their communities.

Arielle and Debbie are collaborating with Hillary Mabeya, M.D., and his wife, Carolyne, who live in Kenya, to fund a return to school or vocational training for sufferers of obstetric fistula.

Debbie said their goal is eventually to help enough women that those who benefit from A Little 4 A Lot will pay it forward.

Mother and daughter hope to expand their mission to provide women with micro loans to start their own businesses.

The program currently assists three women who have returned to school and three who are learning vocational skills.

Debbie and Arielle said that coming home from their trip around the world was a humbling experience.

“I was just touched by how young they were and how much we have and how little they have,” Arielle said.

“When we came home, it was hard to accept how we live, knowing how little others had,” Debbie said. “My son asked, ‘Why do we have so much stuff?’”

Spreading the word

A Little 4 A Lot recently received 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status, and Arielle and Debbie are working to spread their message.

Last year, Arielle created T-shirts for the organization and sold them at Egan’s annual Holiday Craft Faire, raising more than $300. She hopes to earn more money at this year’s faire.

Arielle, who recently celebrated her Bat Mitzvah, used the occasion to publicize A Little 4 A Lot, including information on her invitations and raising money through gift donations.

“I’ve told all my friends about A Little 4 A Lot,” she said. “I tell all my friends to ‘Like’ us on Facebook and share our page with friends. We want to spread the word. The more people who learn about A Little 4 A Lot, the more we have a chance at donations.”

In addition to fundraising, Arielle added, she and her mother are recruiting volunteers to help.

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