Read Time: 4 min.
Mission of Hope
Hannah used to walk mile after mile, knocking on doors, and hoping to find work – doing other people’s laundry. Being turned away meant no food on her family’s table that day. But Artisans from her local community center invited her to learn how to make fair-trade products that help provide her family with a sustainable income.
Hannah’s Artisan training and work at the community center have given her family hope that one day she can own her own business and earn enough income to allow them to move out of the slum. She never turns down an opportunity to work when there are orders to be filled because every order helps her family take one step closer to their dream.
Behind Hannah’s story of hope – and every story of hope for families in her community – is a mission… a mission to meet needs, feed souls and elevate God in some of the poorest places on earth. The men and women who lead this mission to empower families in Kenya to rise out of the slums have devoted their lives to alleviate poverty through programs that bring better health, holistic healing, and future hope.
Besides sports programs, community fellowship, and job training and opportunities, their centers lead programs throughout the local communities to ensure families in nearby slums have access to clean water, scholarships for education, and sustainable food sources. Without resources like these, local families are threatened by sickness, illiteracy, hopelessness, and starvation.
Chronicles of Hope
In early 2019, Trades of Hope and the men and women behind this mission in Kenya set out to form a partnership to create more jobs for women and parents of children living in Kenya’s slums. Artisan leaders reached out to Trades of Hope to ask what they could create that might help them provide more opportunities to train and employ Artisans at their community centers. Trades of Hope responded based on growing customer demand.
Customers wanted more bags.
Sounds Simple… But…
In a 1st world country, a customer request for bags might sound easy to accommodate. But these Artisans live in a 3rd world environment with limited resources.
Even so, these Artisans were determined to be resourceful, creative, and accommodating to some pretty challenging quality and consistency standards that are necessary when selling products through a global online marketplace like Trades of Hope. Artisans needed to consider color variances, stitching, and uniform size.
After four months of intense research, training, trial, and error, Artisans at the community center produced their first official product sample – a woven sisal bag made from the fibers of an agave plant. But more training was needed, and the Artisans accepted the challenge.
For eight more months, the Artisans were trained in the arts of “saddle stitching” leather, “backstitching” sisal, and mixing dyes to ensure consistent colors and shades.
Ready, Set, Go!… Wait…
In December, their sisal bag was finally approved for production. As Artisans excitedly began production in March and were in full swing of weaving, dyeing, cutting, and stitching, COVID-19-related restrictions threatened to shut down production indefinitely.
“Travel restrictions meant that our teams were not able to get the bags from the Artisans in the Kamba village of Kenya. But the Artisans were determined to finish production, as this meant food on the table for their families.” – Alain, Artisan Leader
After a long and challenging journey together, on June 3, 2020, Trades of Hope proudly launched the release of our Neema Tote, handcrafted by our Artisan partners in Kenya!
Made by women and parents working to overcome extreme poverty and escape the slums of Kenya, every purchase makes a real impact on the lives of real families.
Artisan leaders sent a personal note to celebrate the efforts of their Artisans, emphasize the human value of every handcrafted Neema Tote, and thank you for every purchase.
Photo: Sisal made from the fibers of an agave plant.
Over 60 Families Say, “Thank You!”
“The Neema Tote was made by ladies who are part of the Kamba tribe in Kenya. They live in Eastern Kenya. Kambaland is very dry. That is why the sisal plant grows there as it only survives in dry areas.
Over 50 Artisans participated in making the Neema Totes in Kambaland because every bag is hand-woven. Once the bag is made in Kambaland, it is then transported to the Gichagi slum in Nairobi, Kenya. In the Gichagi community center, the process begins to hand-cut the leather, hand-sew the straps onto the bags, and hand-stitch the beautiful cross stitch design on each bag.
Over 15 Artisans participated in the making of the Neema Totes at the center in Gichagi. As Trades of Hope customers enjoy your new bag, please keep in mind that because of your purchase, over 60 individual families in villages and slums in Kenya were impacted through the income they earned while making these totes. Thank you.” – Alain, Artisan Leader