It looks like another beautiful day in Kenya. Julie and I arrived in Nairobi the night of the 25th. After three seamless flights, we arrived to the crush of people that seems omnipresent in Kenya. First there is the line of travelers lining up to purchase their visas for entry. Next is the crush of cab drivers looking for a fare. Then the true spirit of crowd came through as our driver, Philomon, edged and prodded his way out of the airport parking lot. From there we have been spared the typical traffic as we have been traveling at off times of the day and week.
Julie and I have traveled to Kenya with the mission of preparing for Global Gifts’ involvement with Imani Workshops. Our bigger goal is clear: we want to help them sell more of their goods in the U.S. But how specifically we will use our time is still unfolding. We have a few general goals. Julie and, to a much lesser extent, I, will be focused on helping the women of Imani Workshops think through new products so that Global Gifts can introduce a new and expanded Imani product line in the coming months. We also want to understand pricing and what constitutes a fair wage. Then we can balance the necessary demands of ensuring the women who make the products are being paid fairly, which is critical to Global Gifts’ mission, along with having products for sale in our stores and in stores throughout the U.S. that will meet the market demands that fair trade products must contend with. By this I mean their products must stand out in attractiveness, design, utility, and yes, price, when placed on our store shelves next to thousands of other items from organizations which also have powerful missions and stories of new hope for the artisans that create them. And that brings me to how Global Gifts made the decision to become more directly involved with Imani Workshops.
(These items represent some of the original products made by Imani when they began in 2006. While their products have shown improvement more recently, one of Global Gifts' biggest priorities is to help them develop items that will be enthusiastically received in the US. Exciting things are coming - stay tuned!)
Imani Workshops provides much-needed employment opportunities, mostly for women but some men as well, who are HIV-positive and living in Eldoret, Kenya. It was started with financial resources from grant funding and with the administrative assistance of AMPATH. AMPATH is a program that was developed between a partnership between Indiana University Medical School and Moi University in Kenya; the partnership’s main focus has been to provide medical treatment for people who have AIDS in Kenya but the tremendous growth of their program has enabled them to branch out to other forms of medical care and smaller scale projects such as Imani Workshops. Imani Workshops began in 2006 and Global Gifts was one of their initial customers. At that point they were just in the beginning stages of product development and they had the additional challenge of working with people who did not have training or experience as artisans. For that reason, their products had a hard time sticking out among those created by more experienced producer groups but Global Gifts made the conscious decision to carry them in part because of their strong ties in Indiana and we wanted to see them succeed.
But now we are moving into a whole new level of involvement with Imani and to some extent tying the fortunes of our two organizations together. We can all be assured that exciting things are to come.