Linked for life
the women of Others
On August 12, 2016, a team of seven women from the USA Eastern Territory journeyed to the Kenya East Territory. Among their belongings were handcrafted key/prayer chains made from stunning beads.
Women in Kenya had made the attractive beads. Now, the beads were on their way back to Kenya, linked together as beautiful jewelry.
At the end of 10 days, the women who carried these gifts would ultimately return to the United States profoundly connected to the women of Kenya, both socially and spiritually.
“During our visit, we were privileged to meet Commissioner Henry Nyagah, territorial commander, who graciously welcomed us,” said April Foster, director of Others, the Salvation Army’s global social enterprise. Under the “Others Trade for Hope” brand, as many as 1,600 women in Kenya, Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Moldova make beautiful handcrafted items and export them for sale around the Army world.
Foster said the team also contributed a financial gift. “We presented $5,117, which was raised by friends and Salvationists from across the Eastern Territory.” The funds will be used to purchase sewing machines and related equipment for the producer groups in Kenya.
The purpose of their visit was to create an opportunity to know the women in Kenya who are involved in producing Others products and for them to know the women of the US team.
Even before the team embarked, they had received beautiful handcrafted beads from Africa to make chains. “The beads for the chains were made in Kenya,” said Major Gayle Senak, corps officer of the Dayton, Ohio, Kroc Corps and Community Center. “They were then sent to the US, where women in the Massachusetts Division used them to make prayer chains.” The team took the beaded chains back to Kenya, where they shared them with women in the Kithituni Corps. “It was a powerful connection,” Senak said.
On the first day in Nairobi, the team marched to an open–air meeting at a typical bus stop. Amid the hustle and bustle of the busy station, they boldly preached a gospel message. As they shared personal testimonies, people at the station were spiritually moved—and they prayed.
Marching to such meetings happens every Sunday in every corps in Kenya. Here in the USA, marching opportunities for Salvationists are limited. The Kenyan Salvationists repeatedly reminded the team to “check your legs!” as they endeavored to stay in step.
In the following days, the team visited four locations where women make Others products.
In Makadara, a suburb of Nairobi, the women make handbags from recycled plastic collected at local dumpsites.
In Kilome, a rural area two hours outside of Nairobi, women make beautiful reindeer–like ornaments from colorful beads (beaded reindeer) and Easter Chicken decorations. The visit to Dorcus Beads, a micro–enterprise initiative, was an eye–opening experience. The group saw beautiful baskets woven from strong, vibrantly dyed sisal plant fibers.
From the comfort of their humble homes, the Kenyan women told passionate stories of personal transformation and inspired the team.
“My biggest surprise was learning what a difference just a few purchases from Others makes in the life of the individual crafter, family, and community,” said Captain Kimberly Smith of the Boston, Mass., South End Corps. “I think I would have been skeptical of the lasting impact if I hadn’t had the honor and privilege to hear these women’s personal experiences.”
“Going to Kenya was an amazing opportunity, which far exceeded my imagination,” said Smith. “In full anticipation of God’s blessings, my heart and mind were still blown away. What touched and changed me the most was the joy and ease in which the women welcomed and accepted us.”
Major Martha Wheeler said, “Everywhere we went, I gave pieces of my heart away to wonderful women in exchange for pieces of theirs. In the small, two–room home of Ruth, she told her story. After joining a women’s group, she became a maker of Dorcus paper beads. Ruth now supports herself financially. The fellowship has also given her great joy. I left a piece of my heart with Ruth.”
Major Heather Garrett of the College for Officer Training said, “I was surprised how similar the group dynamics were to what we experience at home. The connection was instantaneous as we shared concerns about our families, health, and passions. We prayed and worshiped as sisters in Christ.”
Some men are also involved in helping Others. For instance, Foster said Noah Kinuthia was actually the first Others producer in Kenya. “As we watched him make beautiful nativity sets and angels from banana leaf and sisal, we truly saw what handcrafted means,” she said. “Today, Noah has seven fulltime employees who assist him in making Others products.”
“The visit to Kenya has been the fulfillment of a dream,” said Smith. “I’ve been profoundly blessed by the Kenyan people’s hospitality. I’m different now because of this visit. I’m challenged to be as determined and as joyous as the people we’ve met. Others has a local and global impact and is perfectly named.”
Garrett said, “God’s design for us is to be in relationship with people and journey through life not as individuals, but as part of a whole. This idea is exemplified in the way the people I met in Kenya experience life.”
Captain Amy Merchant of the Southern New England Division said, “Today, when doing Others in our division and at corps, it has so much more meaning. I’m able to share true experiences from the ladies of Kenya, which has sparked more questions and excitement for the products.”
|Make Others part of your Ministry!
Contact April Foster, Others Director
by Warren L. Maye