AFRICAN BANANA ART
At African Banana Bark Art, Elisha, Founder, and his young artisans are keeping their eyes to serve and their hands to learn. Everyday they meet to create products such as picture frames, wall hangings, Christmas nativity cards, greeting cards with animals and people, art designs on cloth and canvas and gift card tags. All products are made uniquely using banana bark. They are even expanding their business to learn to carve wooden utensils.
Elisha’s long term business goal is to “reduce unemployment by empowering most youth in the community.” He hires youth because it gives them a job that is not involved in crime, drug or prostitution activities.
Maintaining the equipment supply of materials used with banana bark sometimes runs out very quickly so another business goal is to see more sales and business expansion happen in order to meet this need.
THE HISTORY OF AFRICAN BANANA BARK ART...
After almost 10 years of working with Elisha, Heavenly Treasures has seen Elisha's life change and grow. Elisha is from the coastal region of Kenya. He and his wife have two daughters and a son. He has been creating Banana Bark art for sixteen years.Before working as a banana bark artisan, Elisha was attending school and supporting his large family of twelve siblings. While attending secondary school, Elisha learned the craft of banana bark making. He received a degree in technical drawing and design. His dream is to expand and see more workers hired in banana bark art making. “I want them to better their life to be self sufficient. I want them to know their job and everything comes from God, not from me.” For Elisha, the market is sometimes a challenge as many factors affect sales. He believes in reaching out to locals by providing the things they need most, such as picture frames and mirrors. Elisha says, “If we live in the faith, we should work in the faith.” He believes the work he is doing is for God and therefore it matters that every detail reflects God. Elisha’s belief in God has become so strong in his journey from working from his home, a 12x12 dwelling with everything in one room, to moving his work to a workshop.
Through a God given idea, Abel made a frame with aluminum wire. He has trained over 40 people how to do this handicraft and has provided a better life for his family is working to improve his community.
These extremely talented people have come together with one purpose: to improve their lives through their God- given talents. Through the creativity and leadership of Abel in Kenya, these men and women are having changed lives! They hand craft beautiful frames, utensil sets and more using mostly recycled products.
Currently, Abel has three workers with him. When you walk through the markets of Kenya, you will see Abel's frames all over - evidence that his vision and leadership has helped change hundreds of lives. He has been able to train artisans so they can have their own businesses and provide for their families. They have now expanded into making keychains, trays, spoon sets, salt and pepper shakers and more!
Abel has a heart for his community and wants to see change happen. He chooses to live on a certain means in order to help change the future of those he meets.
The Heavenly Treasures team has been able to visit with Gonga Waya annually. We have shared times of prayer and fellowship with them. We have talked with them, sharing stories of life, love, struggle, triumph and God's redeeming love. Please pray for this amazing family and amazing business so that they would be change agents in their community and families!
Abel Green - Gonga Waya Designs Founder & Project Manager
Abel lives with his wife Liz and his three children. Since beginning Gonga Waya Designs and partnering with HTK, Abel and his family have seen their lives change drastically. Before they had maybe one meal a day and no furniture in their house and they have moved to a better area where their children can go to a good school. Abel became interested in making wire picture frames and wire work
after working for a gift shop that sold frames locally. He observed artisans selling their leather and wooden frames in the gift shop and said, “If these guys can do this, so can I.” From there he created an aluminum wire frame to see if it would sell. And it did! This began the journey for Abel and he was encouraged to keep up his design process by the gift shop owner. His wife then helped Abel in his frame designs by cutting the glass for the frames. HTK bought a photo frame of Abel’s in the market, contacted him and the business partnership began. Abel became very successful and well known in the markets for his frame work and wiring. He was able to get a workshop and began to live his dream of teaching others talent and skills to improve their lives.
Abel learned a hard business lesson as his job of designing frames and selling them turned into a growing and successful business. His eyes were opened after having some business failures and even workers he trained left him to start their own businesses. Abel says, “I do not regret what I taught or did for the workers. When I search my heart, I realize it is a business ministry first. The workers who I worked with struggled with alcohol and other issues. Directing them to Jesus gave them a way out. And that’s what my dream is; To direct talented people to Jesus, through first recognizing the talent they have and then nurturing that talent through mentoring them.” Abel has a vision to have a talent nurturing center one day in his community to make it a better place. “All talents are here, just need a platform to nurture them,” says Abel. He sees this center as a place talented artisans can grow in their skills. Abel values education so much and nurturing the talent in an individual. As a child he learned to be an artist by doing art work in his class. Abel says, “Talent is in-born. You have to identify it, train it and equip it. No one did that for me so I want to mentor those.”On the inside of a Gonga Waya frame reads: “We would have died beggars but God gave us a talent.” It is with this quote from Abel that shows his idea that of talented men and women who have joined together with “one purpose” to improve their lives through God given talent.
This project began with a small business loan from World Vision. It was started by David when he was in his late 20's. A native to Nairobi, like the majority of people he was struggling to feed his family. Having always been artistic he began the art of carving gourds. He takes gourds, dries them out and with crude tools and creative talent he is able to create hope for his life. He started cutting the gourds and making bowls. These sold well, so he began filling the gourds with wax and creating candles. Throughout the years he has been able to teach this craft to other local artisans as well as some streetboys.
There is constant competition in the marketplaces in Kenya and David has faced some hardships. Heavenly Treasures' relationship with David has gone beyond investing in his business, but truly investing in him as a person and showing him love. Below are some reflections from Kigen Teimuge, HT Kenya Director of Operations, on his ministry with David.
David is a really good friend. He sells carved gourds to HT, but sales have been difficult. Each time I'd see him, he'd ask if there was an order. The answer was always no. Since I used to see David often, I chose to visit him at this home. We talked about soccer for half an hour every time I visited.
Other than soccer, we’d talk about family, business goals and the challenges in the slum. At one point his wife lost her job and could not find work for months. They had no money and no food. His kids were home because he could not afford school fees. I used to take them food, though this was not a long term solution. At times I didn't know what to tell him, but just encourage him and tell him everything was going to be ok. I bought some devotionals to go through with David, and as we continued with our devotions, I eventually got him a Bible.
Making no sales on his gourds, this did not let this impact his motivation to stay in business. We discussed venturing into new business ideas, but he didn't know where to start. Once when visiting David, he was carving a wooden drum (djembe). He learned how to carve it from scratch and taught himself the techniques and designs. The details were perfect and looked machine cut. In a few weeks he started selling the drums in the market. When I visited him again, he was smiling so big. He sold 5 drums that week and made a profit of $270. His family had food and his children were in school.
As I was leaving and saying goodbye, he held my hand. He looked me in the eye and told me, “Thank you! Thank you for visiting and not giving up.” He then handed me $5 for appreciation, but I kindly declined. It was incredible to see him back on his feet. This really showed me how David has been faithful to God during every part
The Jacaranda tree is a picture of faith. Before the rains begin to fall, which brings life and nourishment to a parched land, the Jacaranda tree blooms. The deep purple and pure white flowers give hope that the rains will indeed come. Faith that the rains will surely come; and with the rains new life.
Jacaranda Creations began “from a desperate need to help ladies in the slum who had no way to provide for their families.” The women were making homemade beer or were turning to prostitution for income. They have been taught how to sew and now make beautiful handbags, accessories, aprons and even dolls! All Jacaranda products are handmade using local materials by women in the local slum communities in Nairobi, Kenya. While being trained in sewing skills, the women also form relationships that feeds their spiritual and physical needs. Jacaranda "provides incoming producing products which lift impoverished women and families out of desperation. [They] build strong minds and recognize the beauty and dignity of women."
Heavenly Treasures has been working with Jacaranda since 2010. We have been able to visit the ministry on the ground in Kenya, working with them on business and product development. Over the past two years, one of Jacaranda's totes were sold to World Vision and featured in their Maximum Impact Gift with donation catalog.
MEET THE ARTISANS
Monica lives in one of the slums in Nairobi. She is raising two small children. She is a single mother, and the challenge of being both mother and bread winner is a heavy burden where jobs are scarce.
She started training at Jacaranda Creations in 2009. She has managed to feed her children and pay her rent. Monica is very trustworthy and she is now the branch leader. She is also the one that Jacaranda relies on to visit the sick. She distributes the work orders received among the ladies at her branch.
Monica has great potential. She has proven she can rise above her circumstances to see her two children have a better life.
Sarah loves working with and training the women of Jacaranda. She is the production manager and makes sure all the branches have work. Prior to working at Jacaranda, Sarah would have to beg on the street carrying her baby on her back. Through the years of sewing she has been able to see her life transform. Her daughter is now at the University and she is thankful to all those who have loved her throughout her life.
Sarah may have once been a beggar, but God has brought her on a beautiful journey. She now works alongside Brenda, founder of Jacaranda Creations. Sarah is a woman who loves Jesus passionately and serves Him with everything she has. She not only serves as the Production Manager for Jacaranda, but she also leads a Life Group in her home and serves faithfully at church, New Song Nairobi. She loves to help other women living in the slums who are facing impossible situations because she knows God works miracles!
Sarah is a woman filled with the joy of the Lord! She makes dolls at Jacaranda and does everything with excellence! She is currently teaching the other women how to make the dolls. Oftentimes Sarah gives away the money she makes through Jacaranda Creations to her neighbors who are suffering. She also sends as much money as she can to her daughter in Uganda who is studying medicine.
The Kenya FMC project was started to support the families of the Free Methodist pastors in Kenya, as well as widows within the local community. The project was started by Neddy, the wife of one of the leaders of the Kenyan Free Methodist Church. This livelihood project, named Chosen Beauty, makes accessories from handmade paper beads. The work not only supports the women who are in the project, but proceeds are also reinvested into a local Kenyan non-profit who is working with the local pastors, their families, and widows.
chosen beauty - Neddy
As a stay at home mom and wife of the Bishop of the Free Methodist Church in Kenya, Neddy wanted to help herhusband support the family. She decided to take up an interest in business opportunities. First Neddy sold peanuts however, she says, “It became very difficult to do and I had to be available everyday to sell. This was not possible for me being a mother and also serving at the church.”
On a trip to Uganda, Neddy met a woman named Rose. This meeting gave Neddy the opportunity to learn magazine bead making from Rose. “She instructed me how to make the beads in a few words. I learned through making the beads on my own.” Three years later, Neddy has been selling her magazine beaded jewelry to support her family and also widows. Her interest in supporting widows came from God calling her to mobilize widowsand empower them by teaching them life skills. There are five widows that Neddy works with. Neddy’s jewelry trade became a source to help these women. Neddy says, “You enter into people’s lives and become part of them. Their needs become your needs and you want to help them out.”
Neddy has partnered with Heavenly Treasures to sell her products for two years now. She says, “I like working with Heavenly Treasures because they put pressure on me when I receive an order to produce and meet the deadline.”
Neddy uses the name “Chosen Beauty” for her business because there is a lot of meaning behind the name. For Neddy she is a “chosen beauty” that God rescued despite life challenges or harsh criticisms she received while growing up. Neddy clung to knowing she is a child of God who has a destiny and purpose to fulfill.
tumani women kenya
Tumani Women Kenya is a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) that was created a year ago by a group of women in the Free Methodist church. This project supports Free Methodist pastors' wives, widows and their families. Neddy's handicrafts and Chosen Beauty support the Tumani NGO. There is also a women's sewing project and poultry project, which have both grown to include the communities outside the church and support more families.
In Swahili, the word "tumani" means "hope." This is the vision the group has for it's community--to be able to give hope to those they minister to.
Since 2000, we have built dear friendships with the ladies of the Kipkaren Krafters! These women are seamstresses and have a small workshop/store on the Kipkaren River. This group has gone from lives of drug and alcohol addiction, no jobs, and unable to feed their families to completely transforming their families and community. Through finding and using their gifts and abilities, they have gone from desperation and hopelessness to hope and women of leadership. They make drawstring bags that are given away with accessory and household item purchases at Heavenly Treasures. Recently, their bag sales have increased greatly through Heavenly Treasures' partnership with World Vision.
Their micro enterprise has been so impactful, they have not only changed the lives of their families but they have also been able to save money to purchase land for their new workshop!! This is so exciting!
Kybeleca Designs from Nairobi Kenya, is a group of refugee women from the great lakes, Rwanda, Burundi and the Congo.
Tausi and Irene are seamstresses who specialize in african designs, table mats, aprons, gloves, tissueholders, and bags. They sew out of Tausi's home. Tausi’ husband is a tentmaker - a pastor at their church but since he is not paid, he makes a living teaching french and tutoring. Tausi is able to helpprovide for her family by her small sewing business. Refugees in Kenya don't have many rights so it's vital for her to have this small business that she can earn a living and provide for her six children. Tausi is quite trendy and it shows in her designs. has several different new bags she has designed with the help of Christina encourage her through product development. Tausi and her family love God and have a desire to see people and their community come to Christ. Please pray for Tausi and Irene as they seek God and work hard to find a better life for themselves
Laboret Sewing Project
The Laboret Sewing Project is group of men and women in Laboret, a village located in Western Kenya. It was started by Pastor Japhet, a long-time friend of Heavenly Treasures. Pastor Japhet has an incredible heart to serve God and his people and carries the message of God's love wherever he goes. He started his church with just 7 people, and within four years they had grown to 60 adults (plus children). Seeing the needs of some of his congregation, Pastor Japhet started a sewing project as a way to help provide for their livelihood. He approached Christina Gaulton about partnering with Heavenly Treasures and we have been working with the group since 2011. The Laboret group makes drawstring gift bags out of traditional African fabrics, and have recently expanded their product line to making reusable shopping bags. They have been able to receive large orders through our wholesale divison. The group now has a small workshop on the property of their church. They have 12 men & women in their project. We pray that God will continue to bless the ministry of this church as well as the sewing project and that lives will continue to change and transform through this work!
Maasai Beaders & Wild Hope
Meeting with the Maasai women was a blessing as we could see the desire and the hope that an economic project could bring. Jeremiah, a Daystar graduate in community development joined us and will be working together with the women and Heavenly Treasures to bring hope to a very poor community of believers.
It was a blessing to be able to see the women select leaders, to go through the thinking process of simple development steps. Our HT team was able to love and acquaint themselves with this group of women.. our common language was that of Jesus Christ. It is amazing to see two worlds come together and have an instant bond of friendship based on our sisterhood in Jesus!
Kathy met Peter and Tammy while they were CMF missionaries in Kenya and Tanzania ministering to the Maasai. They had developed a bead project that included Maasai women living in Torosei, Kenya. The beginnings of a much needed income producing project was sadly left behind as the Russells needed to return to the USA. Now that Peter has been able to reconnect with the Maasai he has seen the poverty that has overtaken the villages. The need is great. These Maasai women make beautiful christmas ornaments, wire decor and other handicrafts but are not near any tourists routes to be able to sell their products.
Funding to seed this project came from a friend in America who heard the story of these women and wanted to invest in their lives. Praise the Lord for moving in hearts!! You can invest in these women by purchasing a gift or simply giving a donation!!
Wild Hope was born in 2004 when a group of close friends encouraged Peter and Tammy Russell to follow their hearts back to Africa. Coming alongside them to form a board, this cadre of like-minded partners cheered them on as they started a brand new organization that would facilitate the dream of seeing Africans empowered to face challenges that have kept their continent bound for centuries. 2005 saw the Russell family moving Wild Hope’s base of operations to Arusha, Tanzania. Through developing relationships they soon found themselves involved in multiple initiatives bringing hope in a myriad of ways to local people. Joined in 2007 by the Borden family, Wild Hope’s impact in East Africa has continued on a path of rapid growth. Drawing on many preceding years in Africa, the Wild Hope team brings together biblical spiritual nurture and physical/economic development to form a complete approach to transformation.
Visit Wild Hope International to learn more about their ministry.
The Sisal Sisters are a group of women in Kakuyuni, Kenya who make handbags out of sisal and wool. This handicraft is indigenous to their village, originally used for carrying vegetables, coffee and even as a muzzle for a donkey. Each bag is beautiful and unique to the individual weaving technique and expertise of the woman who makes it. They are quality made, made with sisal colored with USA quality dyes. You can use the bags for a handbag, a beach tote, grocery bag, plant holder or anything you can think of.
These women are dedicated to meeting each week for Bible Study. They encourage each other, pray and help those that are still learning! Many of the women are thankful they have an income on which they can tithe. They are currently planting trees in their community, as this is an ongoing critical need. Even in their poverty and struggles, they are able to support many of the orphans within their community. Some are helping up to 50 children! Many women care for 6-10 children. These women have great hearts that are open to helping others and honoring God!
The bags are made from the sisal plant. Leaves are taken from the plant where the fibers within the leaves are striped out and rolled it on a leg to make a rope. After allowing the rope to dry, it is dyed. Then the bag is woven; starting from the middle and weaving it around, over and under to make the pattern. It can take up to one month to make a large bag!
Please pray for these women as they are supporting over 200 children through their sisal weaving. They are an amazing group of women who want to see their families fed - physically and spiritually.
Zakale Creations is a small business situated in the Huruma Slums of Nairobi, Kenya. It's a tough place to live, riddled with gangs, drugs, crime, prostitution, and other evils. But sometimes people are able to break through these challenges and are able to see hope and a future rather than repeating the cycle of poverty. John began a workshop making handicrafts from recycled metals and glass. Through his own God given gifts and abilities he began his small business in the slums, but still continued his life of crime, drugs, and violence. As a very well known gang leader, John had a following of young men and women who looked up to him as a leader in the community, both fearing and respecting him at the same time.
A few years ago there was a noticeable difference in John. When asked, he'd say "it was the Lord." He came to know Christ as His personal Savior, not just the God his wife preached to him about. As John transformed, his business began to take form and met success.
John chose the name Zakale because it means "reuse" or "recycle." Those in the project have learned amazing skills, been able to break free from their past and break free into a future. Once discarded individuals now find self worth and value in the Lord. Each item made is created from recycled wire, hand twisted and manipulated into amazing pieces of art. Their lives are being reused for good and the business is flourishing. They're making a difference in their community and having a positive impact. Lives are changing through their work - day by day.
Zakale Creations products have been sold wholesale by HT to World Vision for their Maximum Impact Gift with donation catalog for the past 4 years! This is exciting as it is keeping the artisans of Zakale Creations working all year. As their business continues to flourish they are making a positive difference in their community. John has been able to start a community center where the youth can come can dance, play soccer and have a place to channel their energy and talents. Please pray for the entire Zakale Creations family as they continue to be an agent of change & transformation.