After a good night’s rest at the Hartfield Gardens, we ate a full breakfast including samosas and sausages and various hot beverages. We loaded the buses and headed to our first shopping experience of the day: Amani Ya Juu. Amani Ya Juu is a non-profit organization that employs primarily refugee women – they provide them with fabric skills and techniques to empower themselves. As a result, these women learn how to make items such as placemats, various apparel, accessories, bedding, and even paper bound journals.
When we arrived at Amani Ya Juu, we were greeted with a big smile by one of the head workers, Maggie. Maggie informed us that Amani Ya Juu allows women to, “touch and spread (empowerment) because they don’t want to keep it for themselves.” As our team followed Maggie and ascended three flights of stairs to the fabric workroom, we were greeted by the sound of beautiful voices. There were about 30 women in the workshop who greeted our team through swaying, clapping, and singing a song that resounded celebration and hope. There wasn’t a single person on the team who couldn’t help but smile and clap along to their joyous melodies.
Amani Ya Juu translates to “Peace from Above.” That phrase resonated into every aspect from its facilities to its people. We learned about where some ladies were from and their names: Beatrice (Kenya), Betty (Kenya), Janet (Rwanda), Alice (Kenya), and so many more. What brings all these women together is the strength within their differences.
Amani Ya Juu impressed me with the impact that their imagery and words can have on their community. At the back of the fabric workroom there was a mural that was captioned, “pamoja tunabadilishwa.” This translates to “together we are transformed.” It included four colors that each corresponded to different meanings: red (blood of jesus), yellow (materials), blue (socialize) and green (environment). The blood of Jesus is evident in the each of the women at Amani Ya Juu. Their faith is the top priority before all other things. It is through the blood of Jesus that they put their heart and soul into the materials use so that we can partake in their community. In engaging with their community, we are cultivating an environment that not only is sustainable but is also impactful to rest of the world.
Throughout the remainder of the Amani Ya Juu tour and shopping, our team was so moved by all the women who make the organization what it is today. Each product takes so much more time than you would think. Most of the items our team purchased from the store took anywhere from a couple of days to a couple of weeks to create. Each item is created by one woman, whom then tags the item with both her name and country she comes from. Our time at Amani Ya Juu was filled with music making and sharing to both the women from the shop and visitors from all over the world. It’s amazing what a song can do to bring people together. The women encouraged us to continue singing our songs up until it was time for us to leave for Kazuri Beads.
Kazuri Beads was our last, but not least, shopping experience for our mission team. When we arrived there, we were given time to shop before heading on the tour of their facilities. One production room lead to another as we saw the raw materials to the final product: beautifully handcrafted glass-finished beads. Like Amani Ya Juu, we shared our music to the women of Kazuri Beads. The women danced and sang along to our songs like, “Injili,” “Baraka Za Mungu” and “Hakuna Mungu.” Almost every stop along the tour we sang and shared music with the women at Kazuri Beads.
Throughout most of today I wondered what we could possibly give these women in exchange to their tangible items they’ve spent innumerable hours creating. The answer is what happened at the end of the Kazuri Beads tour. Our team was finishing up singing, “Baraka Za Mungu” on the last stop of the tour. The ladies in the room next door happened to hear us and we could hear an uproar of cheering and praising. Before we knew it we ended up next door singing more songs with the women in the next room. In no time, our whole team ended up dancing and experiencing music that the women chose to share with us. I may never know how to sow a quilt or create a beautiful work of handcrafted clay jewelry. However, I know that God works in mysterious ways and today he was revealed in the music we shared with women we met at Amani Ya Juu and Kazuri Beads. Today I learned that it is not about what you can give but what you can take away. I took away a glimpse of the everlasting joy and peace that prayerfully one day all of us will experience together in heaven with our heavenly father.