This year, please help us raise $30,000 and forever change the lives of 14 girls in Kenya. The work we do cannot be done without you, and every dollar counts.
My recent visit to Kenya was soul-filling. Traveling with women to help women is about as good as it gets. The energy of this trip was electrifying as we were joined by our new partners, Tea Collection, as well as our dedicated USA team.
One eve, under a bright full moon, we cooked a meal together and exchanged stories of how sewing has empowered lives. As our American and Kenyan stories began unfolding, I felt proud that our girls wanted to be seen and heard. The supportive nods, the tears, and our occasional burst of laughter inspired our campaign, “Sisterhood Feels Good.”
I asked our Creative Director, Sandra Nguyen Wu, to share some reflections on our incredible trip. We hope you will take some time to read about our growth, needs, and ways to forge new avenues of producing sustainable income for our organization.
Please support us as we prepare for this next phase of growth!
As we set our intentions for the trip, it was very important to us that we made sure to hold space for the Malindi community that we were walking into.
We wanted to foster an environment in which we listened with intent. A safe space for our Kenyan team on the ground, to tell us experiences they were having. A safe space for our organization, as we partner with new teams, create new relationships and continue to grow. A safe space for the girls to get to know us, the American strangers, who made them stay up late on a school night.
That night after dinner, we sat on stools outside and felt the sisterhood as we shared stories. Our prompt was, "how has sewing affected your life?" Our shared connection was through the artisan craft of sewing and it was amazing to hear how sewing had somehow brought every individual to that dinner that night.
If you sat with us, what story would you tell? How has sewing affected your life?
Mentorship and Skill Building
The second intention we had for this trip was to cultivate the student's inherent creativity and motivate the girls by bringing in mentors from their community to inspire them to dream bigger.
We had days filled with arts and crafts, and we can't wait to share with donors the artworks that the girls created. Our partners with the Tea Collection taught them block printing and even our team from the Elimu Resource Center got to partake in the fun.
We visited a local fashion designer's shop, Fanice Designs, to thank her for mentoring the girls. Carole Kinati, a successful fashion designer from Nairobi, flew in for the week to meet us and inspired the girls in creating their own brands and logos with the block printing skills they had just acquired.
We were even asked to tell the girls stories from within our own team. Shannon explained how she built a clothing company (TomFoolery.la) and spent a month working with students back in 2018 creating a line for Paris Fashion week. I explained how I was able to build my own creative studio (MaybeSandy.com) and run my own business after many years of self learning, dedication, and hard work. We wanted to let the girls know they are in control and can shape their own futures. We also wanted to reemphasize the importance of digital literacy and that the Elimu Resource Center and our team would continue to support them even after graduation.
Our last intention was to understand the needs of our students and faculty so we could help support them.
We were lucky enough to visit a few alumni and their businesses during a regular work day. We met Leah, an Elimu Girl graduate from 2019. She had been staying with her sister on the outskirts of town and she sat with her sewing machine on the side of a dirt road. Upon graduation, students generally go back to their communities to start their businesses. She told us business was slow. We commissioned her for a few articles of clothing and asked her to visit the Artisan Makers Space for resources on improving her small business. We are grateful the Artisan Makers Space had opened at the Elimu Resource Center for alumni and current students. It is a resource for the community to use commercial sewing machines and attend skill building workshops.
We spent time with the teachers at Heri Sewing College and asked about the future of the Pendo dolls, the dolls created as a response to COVID-19, in a post-COVID world.
We learned the cohort of students who knew how to make the dolls had all graduated and returned to their villages. We asked about pain points and learned there had been issues with standardizing the sewing pattern for the dolls.
We learned embroidering the face without the proper tools (hoops, needles, string) was very difficult on their hands and was the most time intensive aspect of the doll making process.
Lastly, the skin color of the Pendo dolls was a big focus of discourse. After many iterations, they settled on dying the fabric with tea. However, it still wasn't producing a fabric dark enough to reflect the skin color of the girls making them.
We began to ask questions for the future of our organization... How do we work with the teachers going forward to build continuity for the Pendo doll program? How do we source proper embroidery tools local to their area? How do we source local materials that are pre-dyed so they do not have to dye the fabric themselves?
Our Fundraising Ask
|$ 22,400 USD||$ 7,600 USD||$ 30,000 USD|
|Scholarships for 14 new girls for 2023.|
A full two-year tuition and boarding scholarship is $1,600 for 1 girl.
|Embroidery Machine for the Artisan Makers Space at the Elimu Resource Center.|
Workshops for Alumni at the Alumni Resource Center.
Materials for upcoming Pendo doll generation 4.
|Total Fundraising Goal for 2023|
Support us as we building sustainability with the future of Pendo dolls & Elimu Girls:
- Working with local vendors to source new fabrics for a more reflective skintone for the doll representative of the girls making them.
- Working together with the teachers and Alumni to standardize, digitize, and streamline Pendo doll process. We will work hard with the team on the ground to prepare Pendo's new generation of doll, Kadzo, which will debut in conjunction with the Tea Collection partnership in 2024.
We hope that you can support our efforts to improve children's lives and help them live their lives to the fullest.
Our Elimu Girls
Elimu’s 2-year vocational sewing program provides a safe space and scholarships for vulnerable girls in rural Kenya to live, learn, grow, and give back to their community. We build Her confidence, self-efficacy, and self-worth through these core program principals. From our instructors to our pedagogy, her ability to realize her full potential is our most valued asset.
Salome is the second child in a family of seven. She lives in Madunguni village with both of her parents. Her 58-year-old father who sometimes works as a mason is the sole breadwinner of the family. Salome’s mother is a housewife. During the rainy season, she tills their one acre land to plant maize and vegetables. In the dry seasons when nothing can barely grow in the soil, Salome’s parents struggle to feed their children. They also own two goats.
After completing her primary school education, Salome’s parents could not afford to take her to high school. Her elder sister had dropped out of school in class seven and already been married off. Salome’s path was most likely to be the same. As she waited to see what would happen next, she helped her mother take care of the homestead and tilling the land.
For Salome, this sewing scholarship is her chance to change her life and that of her elderly parents. She wants to be able to provide for the needs of her family when she completes her education and starts her own business with her sewing machine.
Pendo is the fifth child in a family of ten. She comes from Magarini village where she lives with both parents on their farm. Her parents rely on farming and burning charcoal to provide for the need of Pendo and her siblings. Since they rely on rains to grow food, many times during dry seasons it is hard for Pendo’s parents to put food on the table let alone keep all the children in school. Some of Pendo’s older siblings had to drop out of school due to this.
Upon completing primary school, Pendo had lost hope of joining high school since whatever little her elderly parents made was used to educate her younger siblings. Pendo heard about Heri Ministries College from a cousin and she enrolled to the school even without knowing how she would settle the tuition and boarding fees. All she wanted was to get herself an education, and she was determined.
Pendo was quick in class and within a few months of joining she could comfortably sew simple designs. She has also always been a leader and role model among the other girls at the college. Her father could not afford to keep her in the college but Pendo stayed on. She chose to hope that things would someday change.
Every holiday, Pendo sews shirts, shorts and dresses for her younger siblings as gifts. She is already making her parents proud. After receiving the scholarship that covers for all her tuition and boarding fees, Pendo’s hope has been reignited. She is now sure that her life will never be the same again.
Sunday is the first born in a family of three. She lives with both parents on their two-acre land in Jilore village. Sunday’s father used to be the sole breadwinner of the family until years ago when he badly injured his leg. Now both he and the mother depend on odd jobs whenever they can find to provide for their children.
After completing high school, her parents could not afford to take her to college, so she sought for jobs in shops at her home area. Sunday was determined and even supported her parents with the little she earned. After a few months, she lost her job and had to stay home. This was a big frustration for her. As she looked for other opportunities, Sunday helped around at the church. It was there that a church elder identified her and presented her case to Elimu for support.
Since starting school at Heri Ministries College, Sunday feels happy and hopeful that she can now become someone. She has become a source of joy to her parents and an inspiration to her siblings.
Mariam is the fourth child in a family of seven. She lives with her parents in Kasufini, Malindi. Her mother works casual jobs at construction sites where she earns around 300 Kenyan Shillings on a good day (equivalent to $3 USD). Her father is a fisherman in Kilifi. He has to stay away from home most of the time fishing. During the high season, he earns about 700 Kenyan Shillings daily (equivalent to $7 USD). This income what feeds the family and whatever little is left is used for the children’s schooling. They own a very small piece of land where they have built their home and only a bit of space left where they grow vegetables.
By the time Mariam completed her primary school education, her parents were struggling to pay for the high school education of her two elder siblings. Because of this, Mariam stayed home as she waited for her turn to join school. But with their scarce income, it became apparent that Mariam was going to stay home longer.
Mariam’s life changed the day she was accepted into the Elimu Sewing program. Which gives her a chance to start life a fresh and gain an education.
Damaris is the lastborn in a family of 7 children. (3 boys and 4 girls). She is 15 years old and one of the youngest girl at Heri as for now. She sat for her KCPE exam in 2021. Her father has passed away and her mother who is old has no stable income to educate her as she burns charcoal and works as casual laborer.
Her 3 brothers works as masons and they never went to a secondary school and her 3 sisters never went to school and are married hence making her the 1st girl to complete her primary school education and now will be gaining her skills as a tailor.
Her brothers are all married and have their families to take care of so taking her to a secondary school or paying her fees at Heri was not possible. She is extremely grateful to the Elimu Girls program for fully sponsoring her and she is excited for her graduation.
Damaris is very creative and enjoys sketching and designing.
Become a monthly supporter
Make a difference in her life
$1600 Donation —
Sponsor a Girl
$665 Donation —
Tuition Fees for First Year
$325 Donation —
Second Year Exam Fees
$250 Donation —
Sewing Machine & Table
$100 Donation —
Supplies sheets, mosquito nets, pillows, toiletries, and feminine products for the year.
$50 Donation —
Garment Fabric Supply
Enough sewing fabric to last the entire school year.
$25 Donation —
Sewing Machine Supply Kit
Includes a good pair of fabric scissors, bobbins, sewing machine needles, tape measure, and a stitch ripper.
Support us year-round!
You can also support us by purchasing items made by our girls from our shop. Every purchase is considered a tax-deductible donation and everything is handmade in Kenya by our alumni or students. The proceeds go directly back to the program.