Face to Face with Caroline Pouw

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“ I only have one chance to be in this world, if there is any kindness or goodness I can show, I would rather do it now, because I will not be back once I am gone.”

Caroline Pouw

Our guest this month is a special lady with a big heart to promote integration within the two cultures she finds herself as an Africa and a Dutch woman by marriage and having to leave her homeland of Kenya to live in The Netherlands. Apart from pursuing a professional career, she has continued in her own ways to support laudable projects being done to improve lives in Kenya. She is the originator of Fashion High Tea (FHT). It is aimed to bring together the diverse cultures in the Netherlands using a social platform to network, exchange ideas and do business with the proceeds for the event going to a nominated charity. Activities of the FHT with the slogan ‘Fashion with a Cause’ include fashion shows, high tea, entertainment, lotteries (with an assortment of prizes to be won). There are also several temporary boutique stands selling various goods and services. This charity inspired event is an annual occurrence and is the brain child of Caroline Pouw, who by her own right is a fashion authority. Kindly enjoy our interview with her. Quite revealing on her life.

TV: For those of our readers who don’t know you. Please introduce yourself to our readers? Caroline Pouw: My name is Caroline Akoth OmondiPouw. I was born in Kenya at a small town called Kakamega. My father worked at the then biggest sugar miller in Kenya Mumias Sugar Company and my mum was a housewife. I am the second born in a family of 6. I moved to the Netherlands at the age of 26 and I live with my husband and twin boys aged 4.
TV: Tell us what you do for a living?
Caroline Pouw: I currently work part time at Elis Klarenbeek in the Service department in the Warehouse. This is a company specialized in Work clothes, sanitary products, mats and clean room products. Before that I worked at Moduslink BV, under the TomTom contract, but took a break to spend time with my kids after they were born.


TV: You presently live in The Netherlands and how long have you lived here?
Caroline Pouw: It’s close to 9 years now since I moved to the Netherlands. My reason for migrating to Europe was my husband. We first met when he was visiting Kenya for vacation, and after visiting each other for some time, one of us had to make the decision to move. His argument for me to move to Europe, was that I may have a platform to do more than I actually was doing while in Nairobi. At that moment I was working as a reservations Manager at Hemmingways Safaris, it was a very good job. I got to meet people from different walks of life, got to learn how to deal with different pressure situations.
TV: How was life there for you in Kenya?
Caroline Pouw: My life in Nairobi was great, like anyone in their 20s, spent a lot of my time with friends. I didn’t get to see my family that much since they lived a couple of hours away from Nairobi, so special moments had to be planned for me to visit or have them come over. My life in Nairobi was much more relaxed compared to my current life in the Netherlands, but that comes with growth, responsibilities and the cultural differences. Our guest this month is a special lady with a big heart to promote integration within the two cultures she finds herself as an Africa and a Dutch woman by marriage and having to leave her homeland of Kenya to live in The Netherlands. Apart from pursuing a professional career, she has continued in her own ways to support laudable projects being done to improve lives in Kenya. She is the originator of Fashion High Tea (FHT). It is aimed to bring together the diverse cultures in the Netherlands using a social platform to network, exchange ideas and do business with the proceeds for the event going to a nominated charity. Activities of the FHT with the slogan ‘Fashion with a Cause’ include fashion shows, high tea, entertainment, lotteries (with an assortment of prizes to be won). There are also several temporary boutique stands selling various goods and services. This charity inspired event is an annual occurrence and is the brain child of Caroline Pouw, who by her own right is a fashion authority. Kindly enjoy our interview with her. Quite revealing on her life.

“ I only have one chance to be in this world, if there is any kindness or goodness I can show, I would rather do it now, because I will not be back once I am gone.”

Caroline Pouw


TV: Are you still in contact with your country of origin and if yes, what contribution do you make towards its advancement?
Caroline Pouw: I am still very much in contact with my country of origin. I enjoy it when I see a fellow countryman or woman is thriving in something they are doing. I have connected a few businesses in Kenya with different individuals/ businesses, in such a way that both parties benefit from either a collaboration, receiving a service or a product. I also help in marketing products from my home country to the people near me. And I would also say that my contribution to my country is also through Fashion High Tea Eu, we raise funds for different charities, and raise awareness on different issues that affect us as diaspora or our loved ones back home.

TV: You run your own foundation! Tell us a bit about it and what does the foundation do?
Caroline Pouw: FHTeu actually became a reality in 2017 just before we had our flagship event. It actually came up from my need to want to share the beauty and the goodness of our roots with the ethnic Dutch community. And I thought its best to do this on a social platform where the richness of both cultures can be shared. And since Africans are not the only immigrants to The Netherlands, other nationalities are also welcome.
TV: The first time I heard about you was you organizing a Fashion High Tea. Was that a onetime event or regularly. Tell our readers more about it?
Caroline Pouw: Why I use Fashion is that clothes are emotional, they make one feel some kind of way. We all strive to look good in our own kind of way, and it’s also a form of identity and pride. African fashion has evolved in recent years and it will be a dream come true if one day, the African print (designers or fashion houses) can compete with the mainstream brand names in Fashion. I also feel as a human, we owe one thing to one another, and that is to guard humanity, stand in the gap for a brother, use your voice for the voiceless, make noise and speak up about issues that affect us as humans. If we are in a position to help another human, it’s such a fulfilling thing to do. So then I combined these two, fashion and raising awareness on issues such as mental health, lack of water, effects of immigration on kids born from African fathers to Europe to join a family with a European Dad, Sanitation, Food at schools, poverty etc. We do this by working with existing charities by holding an annual event, specifically committed to raising funds and getting as much heard and seen of the charity chosen that year. We follow up once the donation is made to find out what has really happened on the ground.
TV: What are your plans for 2019?
Caroline Pouw: This year, 2019 is dedicated to a charity called Metoyou. This is an organization that was set up by a Kenyan born (Joyce Sando), she is living in Amsterdam. She focuses on providing menstrual towels to girls in the Naivasha region so that they can stay in school and not miss a day just because they are on their flow period. We will be doing this by activities in schools, churches and if possible radio to collect as much as we can. In the long run, we aim to switch to a more sustainable and cheaper solution in the long run.
TV: How do you fund this your event and what do you expect from the public?
Caroline Pouw: We have approached various businesses in Apeldoorn to help us make this years event a success and we are glad that the response has been positive so far. The Gemeente Apeldoorn is also looking into ways of supporting our cause. Hopefully with the additional assistance and support from the Kenyans in The Netherlands, we will reach our goal of providing 600 girls with enough material so that they do not miss a day from school. The event is mostly funded from ticket sales and sponsorship. We call out to different individuals and or business to join hands and donate as much as possible. We would appreciate the help of volunteers, because there is a lot in the organizing of an event. The more volunteers we have, the less costs we incur in the preparations of the event. This year it will be on the 14th of September at the Bolwerk in Apeldoorn.
TV: We know you are married with children so how do you cope with all of these activities?
Caroline Pouw: This will be our 8th year marriage anniversary with my husband. Its not easy combining, work, the organisation, kids, my husband and friends. I did struggle a bit in the beginning until I found my way of doing things. I actually have to say am grateful to my husband, he has been very supportive. He was actually the one who told me that if I don’t put up what I have in my mind, it will just remain an idea. He would stay with the kids in case I have to travel or have a meeting planned. And we also found a way of organizing everything around the kids programme at school so that there is always one of us available. I would also say that I am a very organized person and I work a lot with lists. So at the end of the day or week, I feel fulfilled if everything on my list is checked. I however had to cut down time on social engagements with friends and spend more time on things directly or indirectly connected to my organisation. After the first time it gets easier, because you build a network of people, you know more and can learn from your mistakes.

TV: Do you have time for relaxation and how do you relax?
Caroline Pouw: I enjoy traveling, changing my usual routine even just for a few days is enough to get me rejuvenated. I enjoy massages and reading. Though it doesn’t really last that long, since being a social entrepreneur inspiration or opportunities are almost everywhere, I tend to switch from relaxation to work mode when needed. I have been able to make business deals during vacations, you know just grab the opportunity when it presents itself.
TV: What else motivates outside of your job?
Caroline Pouw: My children are my greatest inspiration. They are my miracle babies and when they were still growing in my stomach, I asked God to use me in any way He will. They are a constant reminder to me that there is a God, and he hears and since he is faithful. Waking up every morning, breathing without a problem, is so much undeserved grace, that I just feel like I have to keep going for as long as my lungs will allow.
TV: What future plans and how do you intend to work more with Africans in Europe?
Caroline Pouw: My plan is that one day FHTeu will be the biggest fashion event in Europe, where Africans from the entire continent will get to share their artistic gifts. That we will have a platform to celebrate our rich culture and share our struggles. Nothing beats telling your own story yourself. We are working slowly with various contacts in Europe to achieve this. And I cannot do this on my own, we need to work together to raise the colours of the respective countries we came from. Its so funny, but my Kenyan flag has so much meaning for me now that I live far from home. She will remain my home all my life no matter where I live, and since our kids are a part of this, it’s our duty to keep our cultures alive, so that they can share in it and identify with their other country.
TV: Apart from your normal job, have you been involved in other activities with Africans and if yes, like what please?
Caroline Pouw: I am open to working with any African that will approach me, I believe strongly that together we are strong. I work closely with Kenya Hub, and organisation for connecting Kenyans around the World. I have also worked with Chakula BV, a Kenyan owned catering Company. I have helped in raising funds for one of our dear Kenyan lady , who was diagnosed with a disease that was not covered by insurance companies but needed immediate action to stop its progression. I have had a hand in coordinating a lot of events involving our people. I helped raise funds for Upendo4kids. I am basically willing to help in any way I can. I believe in being kind, even to those who are not kind to you. I am a big advocate of supporting each other in any way we can.
TV: We cross path at The Voice Achievers Award, what do you think of the awards and what is your impression for the future of the event?
Caroline Pouw: I love the Voice Achievers Award, its a very good platform of letting Africans in the diaspora and also back home, know who is who and what they have done or are doing for the African continent. It also gives a platform where these individuals are celebrated, for the effort taken in whatever they do. The Voice Achievers Award should continue holding these events, also to provide a platform to network and discuss how we can change the African narrative.
TV: Lastly what would be your advice to those reading your interview right now?
Caroline Pouw: My advice to anyone reading is that don’t die with your song in your heart and to never forget how wildly capable they are. Make noise, in anyway you can, someone will hear you. Or someone is watching.

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