By Geoffrey Tamaro, Hands of Hope Artisan Carvers
Hands of Hope Artisans Carvers Self Help Group (HHAC)is a registered charity in Kenya. The project was established in response to the tremendous number of vulnerable artisans, particularly women and youth. Located in the rural town of Tabaka,400km North West of Nairobi, the project’s goals are to improve lives as well as raising community living standards, healthcare opportunities and to promote education through fostering the talents of these vulnerable groups in the production and marketing of soapstone carvings, jewelry, and cards. As an independent organization that works toward creating opportunities for disadvantaged artisans from the village of Tabaka and its environs, our goals are two-fold: to serve as training ground for artisans to build the skills and have tools needed to participate in the global market; and to empower individual artisans while rippling out to benefit families, communities, and future generations. HHAC currently runs production and marketing of the products as its main activity.
Since its inception, the project has been able to improve living conditions of its members directly and indirectly through the sales of the finished products both local and internationally.We provide our members with access to the following activities: product development assistance to help artisans adapt their traditional techniques and materials to products that align with current market trends and consumer tastes; assistance in attracting new buyers and developing new markets to help them increase sales via a broader, more diversified customer base; access to modest grants to help expand workshops, buy equipment, and recover from natural disasters; and the purchase of their handcrafted products, and the marketing and selling of those products to thousands of tourists and consumers.
Membership of Hands of Hope Artisans Carvers Project is open to vulnerable women, youths, widows, teenage mothers, out of schoolgirls and the aged. The local community gathered in small groups to identify and find solutions for their varied economic, social, health, and environmental, spiritual, and cultural challenges. The aim was to utilize local resources to be able to tackle their own problems and that of their neighborhood.
Fostering the talents and interests of these vulnerable individuals, we aim to empower women and youths with self-awareness as human beings. Specifically the HHAC seeks to provide psychological support to impoverished women artisans youths and foster behavioral change through their involvement in production of art and crafts. This is achieved through their involvement in a rights based approach to art and crafts production. Women and youths have the opportunity to learn their rights, voice their rights, and expose current rights violations that they are subjected to. In addition to craft production, we provide vocational training and exposure to income generating activities. We also encourage the women and youth to participate in public events and community competitions in order to empower them so that they can develop a sense of pride and achievement.
Our products are handcrafted, culturally representative, and of high quality. Our artisans are organized through a grassroots, community-based agency that employs democratic principles and fosters community participation in the management of programs. We employ fair wage practices and promote fair trade principles as set by WFTO. This includes the following: creating opportunities for economically disadvantaged producers; transparency and accountability; fair and just trading practices; payment of fair price; no use of child or forced labor; non discrimination, gender equity, and freedom of association; safe and healthy working conditions; capacity building; promotion of fair trade; and caring for the environment.
Our products lines are divided into the following categories:
Interior Decoration: We have an extensive collection of animal carvings, plates, bowls, vases, chess sets, jewelry boxes, statues, coasters, masks, mobiles, baskets, wall hangings, picture frames and key chains.
Jewelry: Our jewelry line includes earrings, pendants, bracelets, necklaces and waist belts all made from various materials such as recycled copper, paper ,cow bone, and Maasai beads.
Greeting Cards: We have a variety of designs from wire, to banana fiber, featuring African animals. We also have brightly painted recycled tin depicting African wildlife and village life. The recycled paper is handmade and produced by women and young people living with HIV/AIDs.
Office and Library: Our line includes a large selection of bookmarks, bookends, business cards holders, pen holders, pincushions, floppy disk holders, file holders and paper weights. These are made from water hyacinth paper, recycled tin, Kisii soapstone and fabric.
Seasonal/Holiday specific: We have a good selection of Christmas tree ornaments, beach bags, Valentine gifts, HIV/AIDs awareness symbol, and Christmas set.
HHAC depends on small grants to support environmental sustainability and working conditions, and provide training in business management, finance, craft production, import/export assistance, information on developing and improving small enterprises, marketing materials, networking with other artisans or small business, product and design improvement and specific business development initiatives (i.e. cost analysis, market analysis and strategic planning).
Through our sales, our purpose is to help and improve the lives of our community which is why we are dedicated to bringing you the best service possible. HHAC produces and sells various crafts to retail and wholesale customers. Every purchase goes towards supporting women, youth and children in need in the village of Tabaka and its environs in Western Kenya, an area which has amongst the highest HIV/AIDS and Malaria infected individuals in the world. We are proud to be able to work with and support this community.
For more information visit: www.artisanshandsofhope.wordpress.com