From July 25 through July 30, anti-poverty advocacy group ONE is joining 10 bloggers who are making their way through Kenya to see what life is really like for moms in the developing world. Follow along and check their progress at One.org/us/actnow/moms.
Oasis is one of the first words that comes to mind when visiting Amani Ya Juu, a sewing and training program for African women who are marginalized and often broken.
Fleeing from war-torn countries and desperate home and personal circumstances, Amani Ya Juu, started 25 years ago in a small room in Nairobi, today provides for women from virtually every corner and culture on the continent nothing short of transformation. Where women once found no options, Amani Ya Juu, by teaching women skills in sewing, quilting, design, beading, batik and bookkeeping, is a source of both income and a way to heal.
Petroniia, until a few years ago lived a dire life in Mombasa. Rejected by her family, she suffered at the hands of her relatives and the streets.
"I was saved by Amani Ya Juu, I was not saved before. I have learned how to forgive," Petroniia told us yesterday on a tour of the facility. She is responsible for fabric-dyeing and batik now, and showed us with great pride the beautiful patterns and colors she creates. Her fabric is used for products like clothing, place mats, quilts, toys, jewelry, handbags and many other beautiful things, which are sold in a store on the compound (as well as online and in a boutique in Washington, D.C.) Today Petroniia is the mother of two little girls and provides a steady and secure income for the family.
The Amani Ya Juu compound includes several quite beautiful buildings, many trees, flowers, plants and green space where children play, and production rooms that are neat, well kept and lovingly cared for. On the wall in the chapel hangs a unity quilt, made by the women there. Each square represents a different country and culture of Africa and different ways to solve problems and resolve conflict.
Delphi came to Amani Ya Juu from Burma to escape war, and as she told us, "to find peace."
"Life was not easy, everything we had was taken away from us, family, friendship, food," she said. She was unable to finish school because her family could not afford it, and as a young teen Delphi had a son who, at age 1, died of pneumonia. Soon thereafter she came to Amani Ya Juu and everything for her changed.
A quilter who creates colorful, floral designs, Delphi goes to school at night and because of her income from her quilts supports many of her siblings and other family members, including paying for their school fees.
"I look after my family. I have responsibility. Now I know I'm a strong woman," Delphi said with a broad smile.
In Swahili, "amani ya juu" means higher peace. Take one look into the eyes of Petroniia, Delphi and the other women there and it is clear that is true.
To find out more about Amani Ya Juu please visit www.amaniafrica.org.