Crafts coming and going

Isabelle Posted by Isabelle Prondzynski on Fri, 01 Sep 2017 | 3 comments | Bookmark: digg this Post this to Post this to Facebook

Unexpected Gifts
A kind-hearted nun in Ireland, who remains anonymous, had been knitting baby clothes for many months, lovingly thinking of the children in Africa who would be wearing them. Little socks, tiny jumpers, infant hats, all in assorted shades of warm wool with little decorations.

And something too for their older siblings. Little leggings, woolly hats to keep up with the babies. And of course, the mothers, aunties and grandmothers must not be forgotten, so there were hats for them too, in adult colours and with little decorations to make each of them individual.

She filled a whole suitcase with these beautiful creations, packed tight, over 16kg of them.

She got in touch with the mission partner who was to receive and distribute the gifts. But to her shock, it turned out that her contact had just retired and returned to Ireland! What to do? She spoke to her friends in All Saints’ Mullingar and asked whether the Urban Development Programme (UDP), with which the parish is linked, would wish to receive the produce of her labours.

Of course, we said yes! We received the suitcase and got it flown to Nairobi, where even the Customs officer was impressed. Now, we have beautifully dressed babies, older sisters and cousins, and some rather elegant mothers and grandmothers! We are hugely thankful to the Sister who has given us this labour of love, with such joy and beauty, and to God, who directed her our way.

New Crafts for CMSI
At the same time, the Tujiinue Young Mothers of the UDP were busy preparing a large craft order for CMSI’s Marketplace, which we have just sent off by post, ready to arrive in Ireland in time for the Ignite Conference on 30th September.

There are keyrings and necklaces, bracelets and bangles, aprons and purses, baskets and cards…much to discover and buy.

The UDP Craft-Makers
By making and selling crafts, the Tujiinue Young Mothers can earn a boost to their income, which helps them to pay for school fees and give their children a good education.

The group started many years ago, when a friend from Ireland donated a pedal sewing machine. This has by now seen many years of service and has been used to sew the items sent to Ireland, as well as many school uniforms for the children in the community school. The group also hand knitted the pullovers for the same pupils. Other items are made to order and the group are always learning new skills.

Apart from sewing, they went on to produce various styles of necklaces, using glass beads, tree seeds, semi-precious stones, metal and horn or bone. They tried their hand at keyrings and now have an impressive range in various styles and techniques, including beaded animals which have already delighted many a heart.

When a large order, such as the one from CMSI, comes in, they get together and share out the work. Everyone does what they are best at, and some items are produced in teamwork. Purchasing the parts that go into an order is also a demanding job. Some of the necklaces in the CMSI order needed a lot of shopping around for the group, until all the metal parts had been found.

Limited Income
A couple of the young mothers specialise in sales, and sometimes travel quite far (eg to South Sudan) for their markets. I also take crafts to Europe with me and sell them in link churches and workplaces. But the young mothers cannot make a living from the crafts – the margins are far too tight.

Muthoni, one of the group leaders, has her own shop selling dry goods and pulses such as rice, maize, beans, peas, lentils, etc, from various parts of the country. Even though she is a highly skilled craft maker, it is the shop which brings her main income.

Others work on local construction sites, by bringing water and sand and helping with the building work as such. The group has a savings scheme to which they contribute small amounts every week, allowing them in turn to buy equipment for their homes, such as blankets, cooking utensils, etc.

If the market for the crafts were bigger, and the margins better, they could focus on craft making alone and continue to broaden their skills. Any encouragement which you can give them via CMSI’s Marketplace will therefore be very welcome.

Isabelle Prondzynski is a CMSI Mission Associate, who is based in Nairobi, where she supports the Uruban Development Programme. This is her first blog post.

Isabelle Prondzynski

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Njoroge said Mon, 04 Sep 2017 07:52AM
I can attest to the positive changes that continue to be achieved through the multiple efforts of a committed people.
Roger Thompson said Mon, 04 Sep 2017 08:00AM
Great to find out about the Tujiinue group - I should know but what does the name mean? Please send our greetings to Muthoni and all the team - looking forward to seeing their creations. Great to see the community being blessed by a knitting nun too! Very colourful!
Isabelle Prondzynski said Mon, 04 Sep 2017 10:13AM
Tujiinue means "Let us Lift Ourselves Up" -- which is exactly what this group of young mothers have been doing over a number of years now. Many of them have taken a Primary Health Care course, which enables them to help community members with minor health problems, and to advise the whole community on how to take care of their environment, so that it is as healthy as possible.

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