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The site in Lindi, Kibera slum had long been empty, devoid of activity. Perhaps to compensate, a plethora of vegetation had emerged, with sprawling pumpkin, kale and tomato plants, and a huge, yet unidentified, tree. Fruitfulness was in the air, or more accurately, on the ground, preparing for the commencement of Maisha Trust’s activities.

The morning of 31st October brought a change to this scene, as women from the surrounding community emerged from their mud and iron-sheet houses and entered the site, anticipating a new beginning for their lives. They were greeted by a team of trainers from Maisha Trust, who proceeded to enlighten them about the business initiative;

‘Hadhi Crafts’ is a uniquely crafted project; it is not a ‘charity’ programme in the sense of giving welfare handouts, nor is it a standard business enterprise. It seeks to empower poor and oppressed women in spirit, soul and body, by means of a three-stranded approach:
1. To disciple women to know and walk with Jesus through daily sessions of bible teaching and prayer ministry
2. To train and counsel women to be strong pillars in society through regular life-skills workshops, covering topics like financial management, family planning and critical thinking
3. To empower women financially to be able to support their families through employment in craft-making business enterprises
The overall vision inspiring this strategy is to restore women’s dignity, which is the meaning of ‘hadhi’ in Kiswahili.

For six days, over the course of two weeks, the women arrived at the Maisha Trust site for a comprehensive training programme. They were willing to learn and enthusiastic to work, demonstrating the value they placed on having an opportunity to be developed – something that is all too easily taken for granted by the well-to-do. In fact, there was no need to advertise the project. Every day the number of women multiplied, from 6 to 14 in the first week and up to 21 by the end of the second week. The darkness produced by the spirit of poverty over Kibera envelopes much of the slum, trapping people in a life of destitution and despair, but when a ray of light shines, they readily run to that light, desperate for someone to show them a way out.

Correspondingly, there were no drop-outs during the training. All 21 successfully completed the stipulated 6 days and eagerly signed an employment agreement. They have now adopted a rhythm of worship and work. The day begins with a time of sharing spiritual truths and principles for life from the Word of God, after which the women lay their small children on a large rolled-out mat to sleep while they get to work. Recycled paper, cardboard, plastic bags, plastic bottles/containers etc. are put out on the tables, and with the aid of scissors, glue, paints and nail varnish, the workers skilfully roll beads, shape plastic, cut wire and crochet bags to craft exquisite pieces of jewellery and other accessories.

The dedication of the workers has surprised the trainers, as the women have consistently turned up to the project. They work diligently, are hungry to learn more about the Kingdom of God and gratefully embrace the life-skills topics taught. The challenge is now for Maisha Trust to sell the products, so we can keep paying the workers for their labour. Nevertheless, it will be exciting to see how the lives of each individual are transformed as the project grows over the coming year.

Maisha Trust © 2012