Every African Bag Has A Story:

Everything Happens for a Purpose. It just so happens…

David and Karen Mains inside the Sewing Room.

It just so happens that the lovely domestic arts room on the campus of African International University was unused and in January, 2010, Mary Ogalo, our GBP Kenya Coordinator was able to rent the room so that four to five women could use the room to make bags.

It just so happens that in January, 2012, Mary Ogalo received notice that a 3–hour a week cookery class was being offered for academic credit and the Global Bag Project seamstresses would have to go somewhere else.

Steve Bell with steam iron ladies.

It just so happens that Mary is a certified teacher in Domestic Arts and applied for the teaching position and it just so happens that Mary was given the job.

It just so happens that the GBP seamstresses are still able to use the sewing room and it just so happens that a voluntourism group donated money for eight new treadle powered sewing machines and we were able to make sewing classes available for other women on campus.

It just so happens that God is in all the designs of our lives–even when we can’t see it, even when we don’t know what is happening, even when we get a notice to vacate a sewing room. Yes He is!

It just so happens that my sister, Valerie Bell, and I had one of those conversations late in March, "We’re going to be in Kenya! When are you going to be in Kenya?"

Valerie Bell using steam iron. Valerie loves africa bags.

The Bells were guests of Compassion International and were arriving in April, the same dates that David and I were planning to be in Kenya. So they booked tickets to arrive a few days early and much to my delight, met Mary Ogalo, visited the sewing room and went on an expedition to the Nakumat (think big box store) in the nearby suburb of Kenya to buy two new ironing boards and two new steam irons. One of the delightful memories of my whole life, I’m sure, will be watching my sister teach my sisters the mystery of ironing with steam. It was a delightful moment.

Seeing is believing. Valerie and Steve got a feel for the Global Bag Project that went way beyond everything I have been talking about for years. A few days after they had left the Africa International University campus to continue their journey with Compassion, I received a message. Valerie and Steve were coming back and bringing the Compassion team along: my relatives wanted that team to meet the Global Bag Project ladies.

Hannah and Her Daughter

Hannah with daughter.

Because they were on spring break from school, some of the children belonging to the Global Bag Project seamstresses were in the sewing room last month while we were visiting Africa. This little girl is a daughter of Hannah, who is one of our hard–working seamstresses. Hannah has six children (two sets of twins) so we understand why she works so hard.

We had people coming and going in the sewing room so I didn’t even get a chance to catch this child’s name; but I keep seeing her standing in her school uniform beside her mother who was busily stitching away. When I received this photo, it suddenly struck me: The bags the women design and sew and which we sell in the States has helped to feed this child (and her siblings) and buy the uniform so she could go to school. I am overwhelmed with the emotion of that reality. Knowing we have helped that little girl, standing so earnest and bright beside her mother makes all the times I think, How on earth did I get into this? count for nothing.

Voluntourism Trip to Kenya in 2012

Your visit to Kenya will be a life-changing experience as you interface with this incredible country, its delightful animals and geography, and its most hospitable people. Never leave the same again!

Your visit to Kenya will be a life-changing experience as you interface with this incredible country, its delightful animals and geography, and its most hospitable people. Never leave the same again!

We are going back to Africa September 30 – October 7, 2012 and taking a voluntourism group with us. If you are interested, contact Carla Boelkens, the U.S. GBP Director. We will send you all the details.

Here are a few of the things we expect to do:

The cost of the trip will be $3,500 for the land fee, not including air flight (a group of us will travel from Chicago together but we have discovered that others have mileage points, want to stop in London, or vacation on the way back in Italy so experience has taught us not to try to arrange this). This fee includes land costs—housing, most meals, in-country travel, flights to Massa Mara, safari as well as a stipend to spend capitalizing new bag products, shopping for fabrics for the sewing room, building an emergency fund for our African colleagues, purchasing sewing machines, or buying decorating items and bedding for the Kijiji Guest House guest rooms. You will be receipted for this stipend as a donation.

Contact Karen Mains. Our Mainstay Ministries office phone is 630–293–4500. If I am not in, leave a message and I will return your call.

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

Getting Involved is Easy

Buy an africa bag, feed the children of Africa

There are numerous ways to join the Global Bag Project team. The most obvious is to buy and use our Kanga cloth Africa bags.