Every Africa Bag Has A Story: Both Sides of the Sea

Becki’s Story

Becki with some of the women of St Martha’s Ministry, a GBP partner in Kibera, Nairobi, Kenya
Becki with some of the women of St Martha’s Ministry, a GBP partner in Kibera, Nairobi, Kenya

Have you ever met someone and immediately connected with them? It's like you'd been friends for years and yet you'd only just met. That's what it was like for Eunice and Becki.

Becki Eichner is Minister of Care at the Vancouver First United Methodist Church in Vancouver, Washington. In 2008, Lois Shaw, a faculty member at Africa International University (AIU) and now a board member of GBP Kenya, introduced her to Eunice and Caleb Otieno, Founders and Directors of St Martha's Ministry, a GBP partner.

It was through Becki's connection with Eunice, her story and her ministry that her life was changed forever. She says, "Outreach is my passion and I've always been involved in our community. Kenya, however, touched my soul in a way I cannot describe." So much so that Becki plans to move to Kenya in the next year or so to work more closely with Eunice and the women and children of St Martha's.

When Becki returned to Vancouver, she immediately mobilized her church to support the ministry of St Martha's and the AIU community. The church joined Becki in her mission by donating funds for land to build an orphan rescue center, by selling the beautiful jewelry Eunice designed and trained the women to make as an income-generating venture, and the youth built a hut at the AIU guest house to display and sell local artisan crafts, including the jewelry and, starting in 2010, the Global Bag Project bags. The church has embraced Eunice and the mission of St Martha's and of the Global Bag Project.

In 2010, Becki learned about the Global Bag Project from the women of St Martha's and bought her first bag while in Kenya. Upon her return, Becki contacted GBP and ordered a number of homemade African bags to sell to the members of her church in support of St Martha's. The response has been phenomenal! One man has taken it upon himself to raise funds for sewing machines for women through the Global Bag Project. At each event, the bags sell out and special orders are made. In fact, Becki's daughter has sold several bags at her university just by carrying her own. Becki says, “The Global Bag Project has been such an important part of our ministry and Global Outreach. We have been able to share our passion for Kenya and to help make a positive difference in the lives of the St. Martha's women.”

Eunice’s Story

Caleb and Eunice of St Martha's Ministry. Watch a video depicting Eunice and Caleb's story at Global Bag Project.

Caleb and Eunice of St Martha's Ministry. Watch a video depicting Eunice and Caleb's story at Global Bag Project. Click on "Mission" and then click on "A Love Story."

Eunice and Becki sharing a moment alone as they walk the streets of Kibera

Eunice and Becki sharing a moment alone as they walk the streets of Kibera

Eunice and Caleb began St. Martha's Ministry to help widows and orphans affected by HIV/AIDS in Kibera, the largest slum in Africa. You see, they know what it's like to be rejected and marginalized by friends, family and a community because they are HIV-positive as well. A missionary named "Martha" helped Eunice and Caleb obtain antiretroviral (ARV) medication and loved them through a time of separation and healing. Today, Eunice and Caleb are restored and devoted to serving God and the women and children He brings their way.

Eunice is an accomplished seamstress and has her own business. She does this in addition to ministering to the women of St Martha's. When we started GBP, she quickly learned the design and helped us find places to shop for the kanga fabric. She created many of the first GBP bags and trained two of the women in St Martha's who had sewing skills to make the bags. Sadly, one of the women, Linet, died last year from an AIDS-related illness, which was a very difficult time for Eunice and Caleb and St Martha's. But the other woman, Jennifer, has since trained three more women to sew the GBP bags.

Through Eunice's story, more stories are developing; more lives are changing; more women are being empowered to lift themselves out of poverty, to provide for their children, to earn a sustainable income and to help another woman do the same. Click on "Archives" to read about two of the women, Jennifer and Jecinter. GBP is privileged to partner with Eunice and Caleb by providing a means for some of the women to earn an income and to give back to their community.

So what motivates Becki to partner with GBP?

"I see what the Global Bag project has done for Eunice. She has a job and is able to not only help support her family but most importantly can share her gifts with those she ministers to. As we listened to Eunice talk and model being self-sufficient and independent, I could see how much respect the ladies have for her."

It's all about relationships; it's all about empowering women of worth to contribute to their family and their community...on each side of the sea. Read below about how you can make a difference just as Becki is doing in Vancouver and in Nairobi.

Would you like to meet Eunice and Caleb and the women in Nairobi? We're planning a trip to Nairobi and we'd love for you to be there to contribute your time, gifts, talents and life experience to the women we know and love there...just like Becki, you'll never be the same. The trip is October 1-11, 2011. See the information on the African Journey below.

Make a Difference

Does your church, company, civic organization, club, school, university, family or other group have a desire to reach out, make a difference and invest in the lives of vulnerable women determined to provide for their children while lifting themselves out of poverty?

Here are just a few ideas on how you can partner with the Global Bag Project and get involved with changing lives:

  1. Hold a home Party in a Box. Whether you're in the Chicago area or across the country in any direction, you can help us get the word out about the hard working, yet vulnerable women sewing Global Bag Project bags. We will mail you everything you need to have a bag party. We’ve learned that a setting of friends and family while watching the 5 minute DVD on Mary Nduta’s story is a very compelling experience.

  2. Figure out a way for us to do a presentation in corporate and church settings (school teacher’s lounges, presentation lunches for office staffs, women's retreats, etc).

  3. Corporate Orders. Last year, a company in Canada ordered 200 wine gift bags to give as gifts. Mary Ogalo, the Kenya Project Coordinator designed the bag and even had the company logo printed on the bag. It’s not too early to place an order like that for your company.

  4. Donate air-mileage points if you are not going to use them. The next few years will require overseas travel as well as travel in the States. Some airlines allow you to donate your unused mileage points to charitable organizations. We would greatly appreciate this if you can help us out. Let Carla Boelkens know if you have extra travel miles.

Great Shopping Ideas—BACK-TO-SCHOOL TOTES

Distinctive new computer African bags from Global Bag Project make great gifts for women of all ages.
Distinctive new computer bags from Global Bag Project make great gifts for women of all ages.

Are your kids more passionate about the suffering of the world than you are? Are they more committed to ecological schemes designed to salvage our planet? Sometimes college students are the Global Bag Project’s greatest advocates. And some high-schoolers seem ready to take on the world.

Kenyan bag-makers have designed a padded laptop tote bag (animal-skin fabric design) that would make a perfect back-to-school gift for your eco-conscious student. Sit down and watch the Every Bag Has a Story DVD together and let your kids carry their tote proudly, knowing that its purchase has helped feed a family in Africa (it takes about $9 a week to feed a family) and contribute to the sustainable income of a hard-working mother.

Africa Journey—October 1-11, 2011

The cost is $3500 (NOT including airfare). The package covers all land travel and meals in Nairobi, Kenya and while on safari. Travel to Nairobi is on your own. Tips are also included in the fee as well as funds for giving gifts toward the projects we serve. It does not include traveler’s insurance.

The package covers all land travel and meals in Nairobi, Kenya and while on safari. Travel to Nairobi is on your own. Tips are also included in the fee as well as funds for giving gifts toward the projects we serve. It does not include traveler’s insurance.

Take a look at this video to give you a vision for the trip filmed by Doug Timberlake of Growth Edge Group during their Kenyan Leadership Adventure. The dates at the end of the video have been changed to October 1-11, but it will give you a glimpse of the adventure we’re planning. http://video214.com/play/68tIbdXf2ueVEwLQaz3RDA/s/dark

Call Karen Mains at Mainstay Ministries at 630-293-4500 or e-mail her at karenm@hungrysouls.org. Or, e-mail Carla Boelkens at carla@globalbagproject.org.