Kibera is not a hopeful place.
Heavy smog hangs low over its broken expanse of rusty metal roofs that litter several slumped hills just southwest of the city. The narrow streets between makeshift homes serve as open sewers and garbage heaps. Most of those who live here have fled even worse poverty in Kenya’s rural areas, yet less than half of these hopefuls have found the jobs they sought in the crowded city.
Yet there are slivers of beauty.
Smiles. Children. Families. Growing faith. Small enterprises. Art made from what we call refuse. Redemption.
Each day a group of about 20 women make their way to a small, bright workshop just outside the sprawling slum and spend the day fashioning delicate works of art from discarded paper, cardboard, soda cans and bits of wire. These women work for Ki’pe’peo Designs, a small non-profit that hires poor women at a good wage and teaches them how to make recycled greeting cards that are sold in the UK, North America, and Australia.
Empowering projects like this one are what ARDF is all about.
Our team visited their workshop on a recent trip to Kenya, and we were so impressed that we purchased some of the cards to use in our fundraising efforts. Empowering projects should offer opportunities for individuals and communities to pull themselves out of poverty without creating lasting dependent relationships. Even better, they include proclamation of the only message that can bring true hope.
Best of all, empowering projects work. They change lives in holistic and lasting ways. The women employed by Ki’pe’peo have found a place of beauty, redemption and freedom in this small shop. They have found hope, even in Kibera.
Appropriately, Ki’pe’peo means “butterfly” in Swahili—tenuous, delicate, beautiful.
Scroll through these images to see how the cards are made:
Cars, bikes and pedestrians vie for space on Nairobi’s busy streets.
Southwest of the city center lies Africa’s largest urban slum: Kibera.
Kibera is home to some of the country’s poorest people.
Hundreds of thousands live in small shacks packed closely together.
The narrow streets are used as open sewers and garbage dumps.
Less than half of Kibera’s residents have jobs, few have access to education for their children.
The Ki’pe’peo workshop is an oasis of calm and safety on Kibera’s edge.
Women from the slum come to work in the shop and earn a living wage.
They use recycled paper and cardboard to make greeting cards.
With the money they earn, these women can send their children to school and buy medicine and food.
First, the paper or cardboard must be softened with water.
Then the damp cardboard is pounded into a thick paste.
The paste must be smooth and free of large pieces of carboard.
Then it is soaked and spread over a mesh screen.
Sometimes gold or silver sparkles are added.
Afterwards the pulp is pressed out onto a cloth drying mat.
The cloth mats are set out in the sun to dry.
Now the cards are ready to be decorated.
Every process is done by hand and takes hours of work.
The edges of each card are trimmed and roughed by hand.
Decorations are fashioned from recycled cans, bottles, wire etc.
Then the cards are assembled.
The stunning results are delicate and beautiful.
These women are given an important outlet for artistry and creativity.
Many of the designs are inspired by everyday Kenyan life.
The cards are sold all over the world. Our ARDF team bought some when we visited!
This small workshop is a beautiful example of partnership and empowerment.
Help raise awareness: