African market will be swan song for organizer
The annual open-air African market in Tigard set for Saturday, Sept. 10, will be the last for Grace Kuto.
Born in Kenya, Kuto has called the Portland-area home for 47 years. But she and her husband, Paul, will move to North Carolina in October to be closer to their grown children.
However, that doesn't mean that Kuto will abandon her prize project, continuing work on the Harambee Centre, a nonprofit organization designed to connect those in the Pacific Northwest with countries in Africa through cultural exchange trips, education and exchange programs, rather sharpen the center's focus.
Going forward, however, the focus of that organization will be providing educational scholarships for young people.
"In the past 20 years, we've built the infrastructure of schools and health care facilities in … Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and Ghana, but we just want to focus on a much more simplified mission of scholarships only," Kuto said recently.
Kuto promises that the African market, which is set from 10 to 4 p.m. at Tigard Community Friends Church, 15800 S.W. Hall Blvd., will offer some bargains.
"Everything is priced to sell, because I don't want to take a single item to North Carolina," said Kuto.
The market will include 10 to 15 baskets made by Kenyan women, Kuto said.
Also available will be about 20 handmade quilts, all made in Kuto's hometown of Chwele, Kenya.
And for those who want a taste of Africa, Kuto and her helpers will be making mandazi, a sort of African donut — although it doesn't look anything like the round donut with a hole in the center that Americans are used to.
"When you're cutting them, you can cut any shape you want to cut, which is very African," she said. "Whatever goes, goes, and there are many different shapes of that pastry."
While African recipes generally don't call for as much sugar as American ones, "when we make them for the American palate, we make them a little sweeter," Kuto noted.
"Once you start eating them, they're very addictive, like you don't quit eating them," she said.
Kenyan chai tea also will be available.
The open-air market also will offer African clothes, fabrics and a cookbook written by Kuto.
Also available will be jewelry made from African beads and natural materials.
Kuto said the proceeds will mostly benefit young women, helping them to continue their education, which is often hard to come by in some parts of Africa.
While students attending primary school in Kenya pay no tuition, after the eighth grade, parents must make a decision on which children they will pay for so they can continue their education.
"If they have a choice between a boy and a girl, they'll choose to pay for a boy and the girl gets married at a very early age, and so we want to interrupt that," Kuto said.
The Harambee Centre will also benefit from proceeds from Kuto's upcoming fourth book, "Be the Gift, Be the Light," which is due out by the end of the year.
"This book is a book of stories from the work we've done over the years, but it also weaves in my mother's legacy," said Kuto. "She was a light of all this work and I'm the one carrying her light into the world and inviting everybody else to come and be part of this light."
Three years ago, Grace and Paul Kuto were able to fundraise to buy the first ambulance for their small village in Kenya. The Kutos went on to found the Chwele Community Resource & Peace Center, a compound that includes a medical clinic and extensive health care services, a guest house and retreat space.
Kuto said she's appreciated all the support everyone has given her over her years in the Portland area. She plans to continue her work with the Harambee Centre after once she's in North Carolina, noting, "Grace is not leaving Harambee, she's just changing locations."
'We'll really miss this community. We are really connected to this community," she said.
An in-person farewell for Kuto and her husband will be held at 5:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 22, also at Tigard Community Friends church.
That gathering will include members of the Tigard Rotary Club, where Kuto has been a member for the last five years. The organization has helped the Kutos with their African fundraising efforts over the years.
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