Every Africa Bag Has A Story:
Each Side of the Sea

Hannah’s Story

Hannah is a 37-year-old widow who sews the Kenyan Bags distributed by GBP.

Hannah is a 37-year-old widow. She is also a single mother of six, ranging in age from 21 down to four, including two sets of twins!

She is a hard worker, and in September 2010, she showed just how dedicated she is when Global Bag Project Kenya Project Coordinator Mary Ogalo and I – along with seamstresses Salome and Sophie, who are in the GBP sewing cooperative with Hannah – visited her. Hannah rents a two-room home in the Dagoretti Corner of west Nairobi, one of the city’s many low-income neighborhoods. As you can see from her photo, she took great delight in serving us tea (Kenyan tea, or “chai,” is equal parts water and milk with sugar) and maize (yummy, large, crunchy corn kernels; not like ours in the U.S).

In hearing Hannah’s story, I discovered she brings great dedication and passion to her work as do most of the women I’ve met in Kenya. Prior to learning to sew and joining the GBP sewing group at NEGST (Nairobi Evangelical School of Theology) at African International University, Hannah sold salt blocks for cows and worked on a farm for less than $2 a day. Carrying the salt was very difficult and painful, but the farm work supplied food for her six children.

Today, Hannah no longer carries heavy salt blocks to sell, but instead rents space on that same farm to grow maize, which is the primary ingredient for ugali, the staple food in Kenya that provides daily food for her children. Mary Ogalo, the GBP Kenya Project Coordinator, tells us that Hannah is emerging as a leader in her sewing group while improving in her sewing skills.

Two sewing machines Hannah uses were purchased in Kenya for the NEGST sewing group from donations given at GBP parties and events in 2010. After much research in Nairobi, the GBP Kenya team has selected the best model of sewing machine for the conditions in their country. The machines cost approximately $300 and are able to be used with or without electricity. They’re mostly used without electricity due to the frequent power outages.

By Carla Boelkens

Maggie’s Story

Maggie Mohr is passionate to fight poverty by helping women via GBP Kenyan Bags.

Maggie Mohr and her husband, Mark, have seven children and live in the suburbs of Chicago. Together, Mark and Maggie have dedicated their lives, their family and their business, Studio North, a marketing communications company, to directly impact the lives of the underserved at home and around the world. They have established a 501(c)(3) organization, Inspire 180, to support the projects they’ve established in Haiti, Ethiopia and Kenya.

Maggie is an advocate for the invisible and forgotten in our society and for those in other countries as well. She’s also an enthusiastic supporter of the Global Bag Project and the women who sew the Kenyan Bags. Maggie hosted our first Global Bag Project Bag Party in 2009 before the DVD was produced. Back then, we just had the U.S.-made canvas bags to raise funds and promote the vision of GBP along with some Kenyan Bags that had been created to test the market.

In fact, Maggie hosted two parties in 2009 and 2010. Her passion for empowering and supporting the women making the GBP bags was contagious. Through her influence, others wanted to get involved as well. So, in addition to the four parties Maggie hosted over the last two years, there have been eight other home parties, two church events and one school event resulting directly from her parties. That means she has birthed children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren – in GBP parties! Her first great-great grandchild party is expected this spring. In all, almost 400 Kenyan Bags were purchased at these parties and events. That represents approximately $10,000 in sales, and 65% of that went directly to Kenya to support the women of the GBP. That’s staggering!

Look how one person can impact the world just by hosting a bag party. Give us a call; drop us an e-mail; let us know how you want to get involved to make a difference … just by hosting a Global Bag Project bag party! Your effort can be life-changing—at home and abroad!

630-293-4500 / info@globalbagproject.org

Make A Difference

The women of Kibera, Africa show off a beautiful, large GBP Kenyan Bags to Global Bag Project coordinator Carla Boelkens.

So, you wonder if your purchase of a Global Bag Project reusable Africa tote bag makes a difference? Just look at the smiles on Jecinter and Carol’s faces. When I met them in 2009, I didn’t see those smiles. Yes, they smiled when I greeted them; their mouths formed a grin, but the joy and excitement from within was not evident as it is in this photo taken on one of my trips to Kenya in 2010.

The reason they’re smiling? Many reasons, really, but on this particular day, I visited them in their homes, met their children, shared tea, listened to their stories and we prayed for one another. The despair of the past has been replaced with hope for the future – not just for themselves, but for their children. The work they’re doing with the GBP is helping them establish their own businesses while providing food for their children as well as paying their school fees.

Thank you for your purchases this past year that contributed to Jecinter and Carol’s smiles and to the lives of their children and the other women who provide the beautifully crafted Kenyan Bags for the Global Bag Project. You DO make a difference!

Global Bag Project has a new design, just in time for Mother's Day and graduation-a computer bag with a welcome African flair!

Carla Boelkens
Director, Global Bag Project

Great Shopping Ideas

Mary Ogalo, the GBP Kenya Project Coordinator has come up with a new bag design we’re really excited about: Computer Bags! The cost of the computer bag is $35. We’ll have some just in time for graduations in May, so give us a call and place your advanced order now! 630-293-4500 or email info@globalbagproject.org.

Kanga cloth-made locally in many parts of Africa-is used to make the GBP bags.

About the Bags

Kanga cloth is used for everything from baby slings to bright, colorful totes to traditional garments.


Originating on the coast of East Africa in the mid-19th century, Kanga is the cloth used to make GBP bags. The Kanga is a rectangle of pure cotton cloth with a border all around it, printed in bold designs and bright colors. It is as long as your outstretched arm and wide enough to cover you from neck to knee, or from chest to toe.

Kangas are typically bought in pairs and are most attractive and useful as a pair. Most traditional outfits require a matched or unmatched pair. Men, women and children all have uses for Kangas. Babies are virtually born in them and are usually carried in a soft sling of kanga cloth. We can make three large GBP bags from one Kanga. The unused scrap fabric is used to make gift bags, patches for aprons and other items sold locally in Nairobi.

Early this century, Swahili words were added to the kangas. The sayings or slogans are often African proverbs. When our GBP “buyer” shops for kanga in the textile district in downtown Nairobi, she reviews the proverbs and ensures they are compatible to our mission.

As an art form as well as a beautiful, convenient garment, the kanga has become an integral part of East African culture. We’d like to believe that the GBP Kanga reusable tote bags will become an integral part of American culture!

Click here to link to the Global Bag Project website and view a Kanga demonstration by Mary Ogalo, our Project Coordinator in Nairobi.

Source: Kangas: 101 Uses by Jeannette Hanby and David Bygott

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 July 31 – August 9, 2011.

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

Join the Mains' as they travel to Africa in support of the Global Bag Project.
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 bags. Doug and Melissa Timberlake from Growth Edge Group, 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 is $3,500 per person (excluding airfare). 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.