There are people who have come up with their own way of being part of the solution to a lot of the problems in Kenya and around the world. It doesn’t have to be dull and rigid, it can be bright and colorful and inspiring. One of the avenues I have come to appreciate is fashion.
I have had the privilege of interacting with local designers and a few stuck out for me because of the commendable work they are doing.
Life Beads Kenya
This is a charitable organization based in Naivasha, Kenya. Founded by Dr Peter & Minalyn Nicklin, the workshop provides skills, opportunities and a livelihood for local women, disabled people and street children. Peter is also a local Doctor who runs the onsite medical practice, supporting the local community offering free or discounted treatment and medication to those who need it most.
I met Peter once briefly but I’ve had the chance to work with Minalyn. She’s soft spoken and always ready with a kind word and a helping hand. She’s also quite talented when it comes to making bags and jewelry, a talent she’s passed on to others in the Naivasha community. One of my fondest moments with her is when she found me admiring one of her pieces and she gave it to me. Needless to say I tell anyone who comments on it where I got it and how they can get one.
Peter (2nd from the left at the back), Minalyn (1st from the right in front) & their team
She also started a program in a local women’s prison. Follow the link to see what she’s up to: http://youtu.be/B1rynqGCBy0
They have a wide range of items from jewelry to beaded sunflowers.
Buy Online: http://lifebeadskenya.org/shop.aspx
Amani ya Juu
Let me first say that I love their bags, and Joyce – an amazing woman who is Amani’s Kenya Country Director – has never forgiven me for buying a patch-work bag from maasai market and not there. lol I intend to rectify this as their bags are great quality, practical
Amani is a fair trade sewing and training program for marginalized women in Africa. Women from many African nations and cultures are learning to work together through faith in God who provides a higher peace that transcends cultural and ethnic differences. Amani is committed to holistic development.
I’ve been to the shop and it’s quite easy to end up leaving with more than you intended to buy. Joyce and the rest of the women are friendly and the garden cafe has an amazing menu and feels like a little escape.
One of the ladies hard at work.
Buy Online: http://www.amaniafrica.org/shop-fair-trade
The Ocean Sole Foundation works with communities, scientists, conservationists, artists, governments, industries and other not-for-profit organisations that are raising awareness and actively involved in marine conservation. They support actions that recycle, reduce and reuse marine and waterway debris.
They work with women in remote coastal areas where there is high unemployment and create piece work and social awareness in poor areas such as Kibera slum, Ngong and Mombasa.
What drew me to them was their recycled flipflops. Each item comes with a wonderful message about marine conservation and works to protect our oceans.
I know a bracelet made from flipflops is unsual, but I they’re the cutest gifts you could give someone. You can also have comission a statue to be made or get a snazzy handbag.
Mikono Knits was started by Froydis D. Archer as an initiative to help Kenyan women earn an income from a skill that is commonly learned in childhood but seldom used commercially – knitting. The business seeks to combine commercial objectives with a commitment to bettering the welfare of its knitters as well as protecting the environment.
Froydis (far left), Marit Buset (seated) and the Mikono Knits team
From the first time I met her, Froydis seemed determined, focused and passionate about what she does. Her designs are classic with a touch of out-of-the-box. I almost wanted to take up knitting again to attempt asking items as fine as she and her team have made. Almost 🙂
Marit Buset helps to train the machine knitters in export quality finishes. She operates Marit Buset Design that handles design, production and retail of knitwear
Mikono Knits has some beautiful items, exceptionally made items; From hooded coats to handbags. I remember seeing some of the items for the first time and I remember thinking “what an amazingly simple idea”. There was one poncho I fell in love with, with beautiful colors and it felt so warm and soft against the skin.
These are just some of the amazing places and people I have come to learn of and met, doing great work to better the lives of others around them and conserving something for the generations after us. The show creative and fun ways to make our communities better, while enriching the fashion industry and creating awareness both here and abroad.
So next time you’re in need of a new outfit, need to replenish your accessories or need an amazing gift, visit one of these places or order online. You’ll have something great and feel great too.
If you know of any other places or projects, leave a link or name below.