(May 2, 2014) There is a sense of excitement within the workshop about our visit to Imani. Julie has been working at a break neck pace with the staff and piece rate producers on new product designs. I have been truly impressed with the depth of Julie’s artistic and crafting abilities. She, in turn, has been very positive about the abilities and creativity of the people she is working with. As they work together on new methods and new ideas, excitement builds. Bringing high quality, creative, and unique products to the U.S. is the first step along a path to sustainability for Imani. From there we can focus on sales and marketing; but without a strong product line those efforts would be in vain.
(Women in the sewing department gather around Julie as she introduces some new purse and clutch pattern concepts. Handbags is one area that Imani has not been successful in breaking through with strong selling items.)
In addition to new products, I think the fact that Global Gifts has committed to work with Imani to grow their sales has given them some renewed hope. Imani Workshops has been a source of hope for so may over the years. Those employed there are all HIV-positive and, before AMPATH’s work began, that was a death sentence in Kenya. But the people we’ve met seem happy and healthy and are leading very productive lives. Many of them are the sole breadwinners for their families and all of their children are in school. AMPATH has given them a chance to go on living; Imani has helped them excel even beyond where they were before they received their diagnosis.
(One of the ladies models a new bracelet design of strung together clay beads made at Imani)
But there has also been struggle. Imani has not yet reached the point where it can operate without charitable contributions and outside funding though that was the initial goal when it began 8 years ago. At the same time, donations and funding are getting harder and harder to come by and Imani’s continuation has been in question; so a new partner in Global Gifts provides some hope that Imani will grow its sales to a sustainable level.