Same project. Different role.

After the weekend in Houston last week, I flew to Springfield, MO to attend a pastors conference and sell Project Biashara merchandise. It was fun being on the opposite side of the world but still working hard for our ladies in Kibera. Karen Baird and I set up tables at the conference and sold our products for 3 days. The days were long, but so fulfilling knowing that the sales will continue to help the women in Kibera earn a wage and support their families.

My favorite part of working in the States for NHI is talking about the people in Kenya. I love being able to tell their stories. Having spent almost a year and a half working with them in Nairobi, it’s personal to me. I know the money we make from Biashara sales goes directly to those women. I know what their lives look like. I know they live month-to-month depending on that paycheck from us to buy food, medicine and clothes for themselves and their children. I know that after we pay their paychecks, if there is money left, it goes to support a medical clinic in the community. I know that this medical clinic is crucial in caring for the children in our school. I know that these women are strong. They work hard. They give. They take care of people. They advocate for each other. They are not perfect, but they love the people around them.

I miss Nairobi a lot. Of course the first thing I missed with the weather – especially since it was 90 degrees with 100% humidity in Atlanta! But, I mostly miss the people. I want them to know that just because I’m not there doesn’t mean I’ve forgotten them. I’m still working hard on this side of the world to tell their stories and help them provide for their families. And, I’ll see them in October. I’m heading back for about three weeks to finish up some projects and help host some visitors. I’m looking forward to being there and updating the readers of this blog on some things close to my heart – little Steven and all our NHI Kenyan leaders. So stay tuned….

MO 3 (1)

MO 1

MO 2

Start checking our website soon for the new fall collection!

Check our website soon for the new fall collection!

Today I am thankful

I don’t have anything clever to say today or an amazing photo to post about my life in Nairobi. But, here are the most recent photos on my iphone.

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Biashara is working on some new designs this summer. The dark blue/gold necklace is a cascade that our Founder, Karen, designed. And the red/multicolored necklace is actually an old design we are bringing back. Check out our website in the coming months! We are working hard this summer to prepare for the busy fall season and holiday sales.

Steve

Also, I have three teams staying with me over the next month. In the photo above, I am walking behind my friend, Steve, carrying new mattresses and helping me purchase bunk beds (or double decker as they call them) for the guests. Steve is one of my favorite people here. He helps me with various tasks associated with living in Nairobi and he takes care of my car. He is one of the people that I depend on here.

Today, as I was walking behind him, it made me realize how many Kenyans I follow. I’ve started running again with my Kenyan running partner who is obviously faster than me. So, I mostly see his back. I follow him through the roads of Karen and follow his every step. There’s also my friend and colleague, Scola, who manages Biashara. She leads me spiritually, reminding me often of God’s grace and how sufficient it is for our daily tasks. There’s Festus, the Head Teacher of New Hope Academy, who teaches me about the culture and brings a lot of laughter into my life. And, then, there’s my pastor, Ken, who teaches me the Word of God and points me to the gospel each week. You know, I came to Kenya thinking I would serve the people here, but, actually, they are serving me. It’s a humbling realization.

My Favorite Seamstress

Scola

Continuing my series of leadership interviews, I decided to sit down with Scolastica Mbula to talk about her history with New Hope Initiative and get her thoughts on leadership. Scola (as we call her) is the Co-Director of our business co-op, Project Biashara. In her role as Co-Director, she oversees the business functions of the project i.e. payroll, daily operations. She also leads our seamstresses. I have enjoyed working with Scola. She is dependable, honest and hard-working. I can always count on Scola.

Q: How long have you been involved with New Hope and how were you first involved?

I have been involved with New Hope since 2009 when Project Biashara was started by Karen. At the time, I had my own business selling vegetables and other merchandize in Kibera. When Karen started the project she helped us by giving us all loans to start and invest in our businesses and training us in business practices to help us be successful. She also helped me purchase my first sewing machine. I was skilled in sewing and thought I could make a living doing that but did not have a machine. With the help of Project Biashara, I could turn my business into a tailoring business.

Q: Tell us about your family.

I am married and have 4 children, ages 16, 14, 12, & 6. We all live together in Kibera – the Sri Langa area. I’ve lived in Kibera since 1996.

Q: What do you like most about working for Project Biashara?

Interacting with the women; getting to know each other; doing our work together.

Q: How did you become a seamstress?

In early 1996, I went to Polytechnic College and took a tailoring class to learn to sew. I ran my own tailoring business for a while. Then, Project Biashara became a co-op, and we now make orders such as bags, scarves, table runners and napkins for women in the US.

Q: How do you define leadership?

A leader comes from the Lord. As a leader you have to be an example to others. A leader  is somebody who knows God and is willing to serve others.

Q: Who has been the most influential leader in your life and why?

Karen, because of her love and care for everyone around her. And, she’s good.

Lauren because of the way she leads us and does her work. Someone can learn from her.

Q: What are your hopes and dreams for Project Biashara?

My dream is seeing Project Biashara open many branches in other slum areas of Nairobi. Something like the project here. So, more women can be helped.

Q: Anything else you want to tell my blog readers?

Just want to thank the people who stand with Project Biashara. Your help and work is not in vain. God sees everything you do. When you stand with us, God will stand with you. Never cease giving to needy people. We are learning from Lauren and soon will be helping others as you have helped us.

Scola took a computer class last summer paid for by Project Biashara and learned Excel. Here she is working on April payroll.

Scola took a computer class last summer paid for by Project Biashara and learned Excel. Here she is working on April payroll.

Strength

She is clothed in strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future.
Proverbs 31:25
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Leadership Team for Project Biashara

Yesterday, at the request of these beautiful women in the above photo, I led a leadership development training on the topics of teamwork, unity and influence. They asked me to host this training, because they want to grow as leaders, so they can lead the other women in our project better and ultimately make the project more successful.
We started with a time of discussion about our values – what matters most to us personally and what matters most to Project Biashara. Then, we got into the tough part of discussing our challenges as a team – what are the barriers to unity and how can we work better as a team. Next we discussed what it means to be a leader. And, what it does not mean. To me, leadership is influence. By that definition, we are all leaders all the time, because we exert a certain amount of influence on the people around us. We must become people of character to lead people of character. We discussed characteristics of leaders and what the women should expect from them. Then, we had a sweet time of prayer and finished with some silly superlatives.
The women of Project Biashara just want to provide for their families. They are not perfect, but they are striving to make a living and care for others. That’s really all they ask. Please pray for them. And, pray for our project. That the leaders would serve the women well and strive to be influencers for good and that our products sell in the US, so we can continue to employ these women and provide for their families and communities.
Check out Project Biashara.