Every Handmade African Bag Has A Story: Each Side of the Sea

Jennifer’s Story

Handmade African Bags
Jennifer, a resident of Kibera, Kenya has been helped significantly by the Global Bag Project. She’s seen here at her sewing machine.

Jennifer, an HIV widow and mother of two daughters, lives in Kibera, the largest slum in Africa, located in Nairobi, Kenya. After her husband died, she was rejected by her in-laws because she wouldn’t marry her husband’s brother. Homeless, she left the countryside with all her belongings, including her sewing machine, and traveled to the city to start a new life.

St. Martha’s, a Global Bag Project partner, helped Jennifer when she arrived in Kibera. Today, Jennifer, one of the first GBP sewers of African bags, is earning a sustainable income at a fair wage to provide for her daughters. Her story not only inspires us, but it inspires Elizabeth, a young teenager Jennifer is teaching to sew.

Your purchase of Global Bag Project African bags gives hope and help to women like Jennifer and Elizabeth. Jennifer is a leader with St. Martha’s and is shepherding two other women who now are sewers with the Global Bag Project. When African bag orders are slow, Jennifer embroiders napkins and tablecloths and has her own little shop in Makina Market. Her dream is to buy a small piece of land in her home countryside as a place to retreat to when the children are out of school. If you lived in Kibera slums, this would be your dream too.

Carol’s Story


Sandy Chantelau was an avid supporter of the Global Bag Project before she succumbed to cancer earlier this year.

Carol Chantelau ordered 25 small Global Bag Project bags as gifts in memory of her sister-in-law, Sandy Chantelau, who died of cancer earlier this year. Here is part of an e-mail message:

“Sandy was a wonderful sister-in-law and loved the Lord with all her heart. Her husband, George—my husband’s brother—is the President of Mission Projects Fellowship, which is an organization that raises money to provide for special needs for missionaries around the world. The business men cover all the cost of the organization and 100% of the money raised goes toward the projects they sponsor. At last year’s banquet, Sandy brought a bunch of the GBP African bags and gave them away to anyone who wanted them. She felt it was a way to promote your work.

“She is greatly missed by her husband, four daughters and five grandchildren as well as the rest of us who loved her. Sandy was always more interested in helping others than in helping herself.”

Carol also writes: “It’s a real privilege for me to be able to do this small thing. I’m hoping that when my coworkers get the bag and read the material inside it will make them want to help too. Years ago when my husband, Dave, was in church ministry … one of the anthems he picked for a missions conference was called ‘Each One Reach One.’ During the song he had people in the congregation get up and tap someone else on the shoulder and bring them to the platform to illustrate the song. It was very moving. This is how I feel about doing this project.”

About the Bags

The news media have been full of stories about the toxicity of African bags! It appears that tests have revealed bacteria at the bottom of African bags and traces of lead content showing up in some laboratory examinations.

We are proud of the fact that our bags are washable, sturdy enough to go your washing machine. Take out the removable bottom, wipe both sides with a brush and soap and water, wash on a gentle cycle, then hang to dry. You can press these bags if you want, but Carla Boelkens, GBP Director, who has tested the washability of the bags, refuses to take the time. The kanga-cloth fabrics do just fine!



African Bags
Make GBP bags the gift that keeps on giving when you fill them with gift cards and goodies. After those are gone, the bag continues to be used and loved for years!

African Bags
This colorful display graced the GBP table at the Bella Viaggio Fair at Christ Community Church in St. Charles, Illinois

What You Can Do

We are humbled at the GBP office by the people who stand forth to help us sell the bags:

  1. So many volunteers have hosted home parties, giving us good holiday sales.

    We need to schedule home parties for January and February. After Christmas sales, there is a shopping lull. However, women still need work—children still need to be fed and clothed, rent still needs to be paid, school fees still come due. If you want to sign up for a St. Patrick’s Day party, for instance, there is time to have green patterned African bags made. Let us know at info@globalbagproject.com.


  2. Remember: the e-commerce is up on the Global Bag Project Web site, www.globalobagproject.com. You can order bags online. However, if you are ordering more than eight bags, give us a call at the office (630-293-4500). We can save you money on shipping.


  3. Use bags as gift bags. Someone came up with the great idea of stuffing gifts into the GBP handmade African bags. The card in the bag in the photo reads: “Dinner Reservations at Charlie Trotter’s for Two.”


  4. Invite friends or family to make a group donation to give a commercial grade sewing machine ($300) to a trained Global Bag Project bag-maker. We have given away six machines and have money for one-and-a-half more! We need more machines as the GBP bag-makers are continually training other women.


  5. Become a donor: Five donors are giving $30 a month ($360) to increase the strategic Internet footprints to our Web site. We need another five to pledge or give this amount. This will match a loan of generously given to us for this purpose by the Alive and Well Foundation.


  6. Volunteer to set up a table or booth and sell bags at a local craft exhibit or a “green” convention, or a church fair trade event. We have displayed bags at four church events this fall with good revenues from each.



Africa Journey: Go to Africa With David and Karen Mains


Our son-in-law, Doug Timberlake, enjoyed a rousing soccer game
with boys from Kibera.

If 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.

Why is the Journey to Africa different from so many other trips?


Tent Camping at Kichwa Tembo Lodge on the Maasai Mara in Kenya.

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 African 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 people—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.

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. We must have registrations by January 31, 2011 with half the land fee as an earnest payment. The fee does not include airfare. If you are planning to go, please contact Karen Mains at Karen@hungrysouls.org or phone her with questions at the Mainstay Ministries offices, 630-293-4500.

Check out this video of the Africa Journey. The “Click Here for Details” button at the end of the video will take you to our Journeys for Hungry Souls Web site.

Great Shopping Ideas

At a recent church fair trade exhibit in McHenry County, outside of Chicago, someone commented, “Oh, I’ve seen lots of people carrying these bags in grocery stores!” After a quick count, we realized that seven home parties and one trade fair had been held in that area.

So our great shopping idea is: Go for multiplication!

Jeannie Bader (along with her husband, Bruce) has held four parties in Green Bay, Wisconsin. Two more parties are being planned—as long as Jeannie does the presentation.

Hold a home party and challenge your guests to hold two more parties, with the idea that two daughter parties will emerge out of the parent party. See if you can saturate your community with these beautiful African bags. Proudly know that when you buy one bag, you feed a family for a week!

Keeping Your Mind Informed

A must read for those involved in helping others: When Helping Hurts: Alleviating Poverty without Hurting the Poor … and Yourself by Brian Fikkert and Steve Corbett.

As many of us have discovered, helping others can be a tricky business. Fikkert and Corbett help the reader look closely at the hidden nuances that motivate giving and where the dangers lie. This is not just a book for the professional working in community organization or worldwide relief and development; it is a book that helps us all look deeply at the motivations that often drive our giving.

Scripturally-based, it emphasizes the need for relationship-building, on a local level as well as on a global level.

Chris Horst of HOPE International writes in an Amazon.com review, “Thank you, Brian and Steve, for this tremendous book. So often we miss the unintended consequences of our wonderful intentions. For anyone who has been on a mission trip, plans on going on a mission trip, or is thinking about supporting missions, please pick up a copy of this book. Its thorough analysis and helpful guide to thinking through long-term issues will dramatically refine your understanding of the world and of missions.”