Designer Tote Bags

Every Designer Beach Bag Has A Story

Designer Tote Bags  Jecinter in her newly opened sewing shop

When I met Jecinter in Nairobi in March 2010, she was very low. Abandoned by her husband, she was overwhelmed with the responsibility of caring for her newborn daughter, Patience. Jecinter didn't have a job, the unemployment rate in Kenya is 70%. Living now in Kibera, the largest slum in Africa (one million people in one square mile), she saw little hope for a future.

But Jecinter once had a dream: She had dreamed of having her own sewing shop after completing classes in dressmaking in 2000. This was interrupted by the illness of her parents. The oldest of eight children and the only girl, the responsibility of caring for her them fell to her. Then came her own illness - HIV/AIDS contracted from her husband, a pregnancy, and then abandonment. All this was the death of her dream; she had no way to make a living for herself and her tiny dependent infant.

A friend brought Jecinter to Eunice and Caleb Otieno, the Directors of St. Martha's Ministry, a work that assists HIV/AIDS widows with practical helps and the life-giving message of Jesus Christ. The Global Bag Project partners with St. Martha's in Nairobi's Kibera slum. The Otieno's came alongside Jecinter to offer her hope and love through their little community of faith.

Through a loan from St. Martha's Ministry and the donation of an industrial strength, dual-power sewing machine from GBP donations, Jecinter is now a maker of designer tote bags for GBP. The dream of being a dressmaker has come to life. On September 1, she opened her own shop in Kibera's Makina Market.

I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw her this last month. This is a very different woman from the one I met in March of last year. Anti-retrovirals administered by Doctors Without Borders are giving her physical health, the women of St. Martha's are giving her love and community, she has work that brings her sustainable income, and she can see a place in the future for herself and Patience.

Jecinter is now teaching another woman how to sew with the goal of eventually creating beautiful kanga-cloth Global Bag Project designer tote bags. In addition, Jecinter was recently elected by the women of St. Martha's as the Chairperson of their community's committee and also represents them at St. Martha's Board of Trustees meetings. We're not the only ones who've witnessed Jecinter's transformation.

We are thrilled to be part of Jecinter's story. When you buy a Global Bag Project reusable shopping bag, or hold a Home Party, when you give a donation toward the purchase of a sewing machine ($300), or give money for a micro-loan, you are making a difference in the worldâ€"one woman at a time, one child at a time, one family at a time.

Carla Boelkens, GBP Director

A Word from Karen Mains: The Designer Tote Bags

Designer Tote BagsDid you know that the design of the Global Bag Project reusable designer tote bags were determined through 14 focus group sessions? I kept asking: What kind of artisan shopping bag will Americans buy (for $35). And now we've found that buyers love the size, the sturdiness, the inner pockets, the little coin purse that make up the classic GBP bag. But these ideas came out of the focus groups: Your ideas are important to this vision.

Did you know that it was our Kenyan friends who decided to make the designer tote bags out of the beautiful East-African kanga-cloth? When we hang up 20-50 GBP bags, in all their glorious colors and designs, they sell themselves and practically walk out the doors! This kind of collaboration between two worlds is crucial to success. Dialog is bedrock to cooperative efforts.

We invite you to share any ideas with us that you think will prove successful. A Canadian executive and his wife, touring the Sewing Room on the campus of Nairobi Evangelical School of Theology, ordered 200 gift designer tote bags, custom-made with the logos of his corporation and the GBP, for Christmas gift-giving. If you would like to discuss a custom order of any kind, let's talk about it with Mary Ogalo, Project Manager of the Kenyan GBP office.

Have a GREEN Christmas

Many families are going green. We are becoming an ecologically-conscious nation, although admittedly, we have a long way to go. The GBP designer tote bags make a perfect Christmas gift. You may want to order in quantities! Go the Web site, and choose the color designer tote bags (or let us randomly pick bags for youâ€"all the designs are gorgeous). You can pay through the e-commerce on the Web site, or if you have questions or a special order, you can e-mail Carla Boelkens at or call us at the Mainstay Ministries offices, 630-293-4500.

We have time to mail and enough designer tote bags on hand to supply about 5 Home Parties in October and November. A simple explanation sheet walks the host through "How to Give a Bag Party" and our beautifully filmed GBP DVD, featuring the bag-makers and the mission of the Global Bag Project, clearly explains to you and your guests everything you need to know. Let us know if you want to gather friends and family. Parties with 20-24 people average about $900-$1200 in donationsâ€"a significant contribution.


Brenda Hogan with a Designer Tote Bags

Brenda Hogan with her eye-catching GBP bag.

Carla Boelkens' sister, Brenda Hogan, who lives in Dallas writes this: "I had something happen the other day that you would be interested in. I always walk through Neiman Marcus at the mall to go to the Apple store to have my lesson and I carry my computer in my GBP bag. When I was walking through the store to head back to my car, a sales clerk stopped me and said she really liked my bag.

I told her the story of GBP and she called two other employees over to hear about the women who make the designer tote bags. They said they wanted to buy at least one each. I invited them to stop by my house or call me. The one lady is off work tomorrow so she is going to come over and buy a bag for the other lady! Isn't this something? "an employee at the uber-expensive Neiman Marcus store stopped me because she liked my bag!"

Well, that saleswoman did go to Brenda's house the next day and bought 5 designer tote bags! She's also going to be hosting a GBP home bag party herself.

The Lesson: Carry a GBP bag whenever you can. You never know who will be watching!



Africa Journeys

David and Karen Mains, Directors of Global Bag Project, makers of Designer Tote BagsIf you would like an adventure that is unlike any mission trip, tourist event or vacation you've ever had, we invite you to join us on a Journey to Africa: 2011. David and Karen Mains will be returning to Kenya March 25- April 10, 2011.

We plunge you not only into tourist sight-seeing (although we do enough of that), but we introduce you to the women who are making the Global Bag Project designer tote bags.

Doug and Melissa Timberlake from Growth Edge, an executive team coaching enterprise, took executives into the slums of Nairobi and to the Sewing Center on the campus of the Nairobi Evangelical Graduate School of Theology this last August. Of course they went on safari in the Masai Mara and slept in tents at the Kichua Tembe Resort, but the heart of Africa is its peopleâ€"strong and joyful and determined and entrepreneurial. You get the chance to meet the people who are not looking for a handout but for a way to make a sustainable, secure future for themselves and for others.

Designer Tote Bags

Because this trip is so potentially life-changing, we give you time to do the work of self-reflection that naturally results from meeting people who are not from privileged environments. How many times have we heard the explanation, "I was never the same after having seen what I saw or heard what I heard!"? The trip is built around times of guided meditation, deep reflection and practices of listening.

The land cost of the trip will be about $3,500. Specifics and financial details will be determined by the end of October. A partial deposit must be made upon registration. If you are planning to go, please contact Karen Mains at or phone her with questions at the Mainstay Ministries offices, 630-293-4500.

Keeping Your Mind Informed

A Billion Bootstraps: Microcredit, Barefoot Baking, and the Business Solution for Ending Poverty
by Philip B. Smith and Eric Thurman.

Designer Tote BagsThis book is as good a place to begin as any for those who want to plunge into educating themselves about microcreditâ€"small loans to impoverished business entrepreneurs that gives them the leg-up (or bootstraps) they need to get started and eventually flourish.

The book jacket reads; "A bold manifesto by two business leaders, A Billion Bootstraps unearths the roots of the microcredit revolution, revealing how the pioneering work of people such as Dr. Muhammad Yunusâ€"winner of the 2006 Nobel Peace Prizeâ€"is giving hope to billions.

Philanthropist and self-made millionaire Phil Smith and microcredit expert and consultant Eric Thurman provide a riveting narrative that explores how these small loans, arranged by 'barefoot bankers,' enable impoverished people to start small businesses, support their families, and improve local economies. By paying back their loans, instead of simply accepting handouts, men and women around the world are continually giving others the same opportunity to change their futures.

"Smith and Thurman also examine why traditional charity programs, while providing short-term relief, often perpetuate the problems they are trying to alleviate, and how applying investment principles to philanthropy is the key to reversing poverty permanently.

"A Billion Bootstraps explains how ordinary people can accelerate the microcredit movement by investing charitable donations in specific programs and then leveraging those contributions so the net cost to lift one person out of poverty is remarkably low. You'll discover how to get more for your money by donating with the mind-set of an investor and calculating measurable returnsâ€"returns that will change lives and societies forever."


Designer Tote Bags