Providing the tools and the training they need to become self-supporting, strong members of the community.
Human dignity is priceless, but does not require material wealth to thrive. It is discovered in the opportunity to make good choices and to work hard to improve our life, and the life of the community we live in.
As we sit in the homes of the families we work with, we are always amazed at the daily obstacles to survival they face. Yet when we ask them,
"How can we pray for you?" the most common answer is not, "give me money", but "that God would give me a way to make money to support my family."
Tailoring Program and Small Business Group
The Tailoring Program has been the most stable and successful of Africa Connect-supported Empowerment Programs. It began in 2010 as an after-school program with one machine and one teacher. The next year a nearby storefront was rented and a season of steady growth ensued. In early 2016, the program moved into the new Tailoring room of the Graceway Community Center, with 12-16 students in two classes daily. The program is offered free to the moms and guardians of the preschool students, who find it rewarding that their first contract is making the uniforms for the preschool students for the following year.
Also in 2016, the graduates of the program formed a Tailoring Business Group, and began making items to sell. Africa Connect is now able to purchase aprons, bags and wrap skirts made by the group to sell in America, with proceeds going back into the project. We were also able to add to the seven manual machines three electric machines, including an overlap and embroidery machine which are vital to producing a diverse range of quality products.
Biointensive Organic Agriculture
The most basic form of self-sustenance is to grow your own food. Though Kitale is known as the "breadbasket of Kenya" because of its rich soil, the reality is that decades of chemical fertilizer use and lack of proper planting methods have stripped the soil of its nutrients. A movement is under way to bring back biointensive organic farming, hoping to wean farmers from their planting habits and dependence on chemicals to produce a crop. We are grateful to partner with experts in this area, to benefit the families involved in our programs as well as the entire community.
In this picture, a staff member of Organics 4 Orphans is teaching parents to make a "bag garden"; a crop of kale growing in a feedbag will not occupy much space in a crowded slum. Besides instructing the parents and guardians, Organics 4 Orphans is now overseeing the Organic Agriculture Business Group. Africa Connect has leased a plot of land near the school, which the group is cultivating: 1. for their personal nutrition, to better fight disease; 2. to sell for a profit and re-invest; 3. to produce seeds for planting in the next season.
Africa Connect also plans to grow our own food for the preschool, the next step toward self-sufficiency.
Graceway Harvest Chapel and Africa Connect have been sponsoring basic classes in budgeting and business practices over the years, as many of the parents involved in our projects are eager to do business, but do not have the basic knowledge or investment capital to begin. They struggle with lack of product diversity, and with storing perishables in the slum, securing them from weather or theft. Also, extreme poverty has created a prevailing daily survival mentality, in which "now" is all that matters; I must "eat" what is in my hand today, for tomorrow it may be gone. For them, planning and saving to reinvest does not come easy.