Saturday, 9 November 2013

Looking back and looking forward

I find it exciting that others are offering to help with this project.  My hope is tht they will receive as much as I have from being involved.  Three years ago I hadno idea that one bag, given to a friend for a Christmas present, would lead me to the point where, in three years, I have raised over£10,000 from old jeans.  God has definitely been at work in this.

Three years ago I gave a denim bag as a present to a friend.  She loved it.  She had told me about the project to build an orphanage in Kenya, and something prompted me to tell her that I had a box of similar bags (made several years previously) in the attic, and did she think Debbie would like them to sell for Utange.
There was a little uncertainty at first - would they sell?  Well, they did.  I made more.  They sold.  Debbie told me that at one of the early sales a shop owner came to her offering to buy any stock which was left at the end of the sale to sell in his shops.  She didn't take him up on it.
Six months or so later I attended the first event to sell my own bags - Bromham show.  I found it terrifying!  It makes me smile to look back - but it is a measure of how far God has brought me that I now think nothing of going to sales and shows.  I find it possible to tell people what I have done, but more importantly how God has been at work in the whole project.
I was given the opportunity to go to Kenya myself, to see the project.   What an incredible experience!It was something I had never dreamed would be possible - but it happened.
Now I am being prompted to move into a new phase.  In three years time, in the summer of 2016, I hope to go to Kenya again.  My initial idea was that I would be able to show some of the women in the village how to make recycled bags.  Now that plan too is growing.  I hope there will be several people who come with me, for all or part of the summer.  I hope to facilitate the setting up of small cooperatives, of four or so women each, to craft particular items which can be sold within the village, in the nearby tourist hotels, or brought back to the UK to be sold.  I hope to provide cashew trees for each home in the village, which could provide a cash crop if the villagers pool their crops.  I hope to introduce colar lams, with another group selling them on a hire purchase basis. I would like to train some of the women to use computers, in the hope that this will help them to get jobs in Mombasa.  I would like to donate some bicycles to enable people to find jobs outside Utange (where, currently, there are few opportunities). I'd like to introduce (or find someone else to introduce!) microfinance, where people save tiny amounts in a small group and then take loans from the savings to improve their businesses.
So, from next year, I will be splitting the funds I raise.  Half will go, as now, to support the orphan projects.  The other half will be passed on to The Sure Foundation, which has agreed to hold the funds for me till I go out to Kenya.  They will be used there to fund startup grants for small businesses and projects by small cooperatives in the village.  My hope it that I can help the women to break the cycle of poverty by providing a start - not ongoing funding or aid, but a one-off.  I know some of the businesses will not succeed; I know there will be problems and disappointment.  But I believe I am being called to do this.
If you are that way inclined, please pray about this - that I will know what is the right way to go, and that the right people will want to come out with me.  If you would like to come out to offer the women training or support, please let me know! If you have suggestions or experience, please leave a comment to share them!  I'll let you know how the plans go.

Linked with A Place Called SImplicity

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