By Jillian Zieske, World Vision’s Hunger Free Team
After months of designing patterns, picking materials, and learning about empowerment programs, I went to Kenya in July and met the with companies and artisans making items for Hunger Free Quarterly Volume I. Deadlines were tough and resources limited, but we decided early on that we would not skimp on choosing the absolute best socially empowering companies to collaborate with. We visited each workplace and it was like watching conductors compose a masterpiece. The attention to detail and the hope felt in each workspace, caused me to grin ear to ear, while also holding back tears of joy. Each company is unique, but they are unified by a desire to see artisans in their communities empowered to thrive and rise above poverty.
Hunger Free Quarterly is a different kind of subscription box. It’s an experience. It makes an impact in young entrepreneurs’ lives. Each product is hand picked, carefully curated and deliberately designed. These items exist at the intersection of quality and making a difference. What does that actually mean? It means these items have stories, that they were made by an actual human who also has a story, that no two items are the same. I had the honor of getting to be part of this process. Here’s a little glimpse into what that looked like:
Recipe Pouch | Ubuntu
Ubuntu is in the remote region of Maai Mahiu, Kenya. Pulling up to the offices we noticed something a bit different… a cafe! Being from Seattle, a major coffee hub, this was exciting and also confusing. Jeremiah, the cofounder and local resident from the neighboring town of Nakuru, explained to us that Ubuntu is a cafe, a farm, a mercantile, a school, and a community. Next to the cafe (which is a hot spot for people for passing through!) is a beautiful, new building where the textiles, including the HFQ canvas Recipe Pouch, are made.
When we walked in to Ubuntu workshop, we were greeted with warm smiles and confident handshakes. Many of the women have children who attend the Ubuntu special needs school nearby. These women are work on modern machines, bask in the natural light that engulfs the room, and often laugh as they work on their creations. This is what work should look like- joy and with community!
The canvas Recipe Pouch is unique to HFQ Box 1. We picked an Olive Green fabric to be a statement that also works well with any setting and designed it to hold recipe cards by Dennis The Prescott, but also be useful in your everyday life. It features the signature Ubuntu side stitch across the front as well as their beaded tag, a tribute to Maasai beading work also done there.
Pinch Dishes and Bone Spoons| Banana Box Co
Banana Box Co is just outside of Nairobi, in a beautiful cluster of buildings overgrown with delicate ivy. It felt like we had been transported to a peaceful countryside. The property is the family home of Adam, the founder, and multiple smaller buildings where Banana Box is run.
We helped them wrap the hand painted soapstone pinch dishes and we got to exchange pleasantries and express our gratitude for their artistry. However, we continuously received responses of, “Thank you”, from them in return. We learned the proceeds from these products are providing steady income and the opportunity to work in a safe and encouraging environment. Purchasing these products really does make a difference in their lives!
For over 20 years, Banana Box Co. has been selling their artisan goods to other Kenyans through retail stores in Nairobi. Different than many other socially good enterprises who target overseas markets. Banana Box prioritizes reusable and environmentally friendly materials. When they create metal products, they melt old scraps, and when they make bone items, just like the spoons in Box 1, the bone is from animals that were eaten.
Tea Towel | Mango Patch
Their workspace was decorated with delicate fabric flags and charming ribbons. While there, the women invited us to enjoy tea with them. They mingled with each other as they shared about their weeks. Many of them have children that play in the adjoining room, making it a safe place for these women to create community through family and each other. Mango Patch truly feels like a home and that’s seen in the attention to detail in their products for other homes.
This was a really fun project! It started with a design on scrap paper and turned into one of our favorite additions. Based near Molo, Kenya, Mango Patch is housed out of the basement of an Anglican church. Abigail and her husband Chris started this co-op to provide jobs for women in their community.Using her fashion background, Abigail designs fabric housewares and teaches women how to sew. Many products are made with Kenyan cotton that is traceable and the screen printing is done by hand on each piece in Nairobi. Great care and attention to detail is made in the creation of these tea towels. Using sustainable materials and companies is a priority to Abigail and Chris because of their deep love for the Molo community.
I left Kenya giddy with excitement and big amounts of hope! These companies are using business to create good in our world! They are recognizing that business is about individuals for individuals, and we get to be part of that. We need to be part of that. So as you use your box to create Kenyan Chapati, use the pinch dishes for dashing salt, and tea towel to clean up the flour that sprinkled on the counter, I hope you think about people who made these for you and gratitude fill your soul that we get to be connect to individuals around the world through handmade products.