June 22, 2009
Boxes of Peace
Reflections from Rose Sore, Export Manager at Amani ya Juu in Nairobi, Kenya I get a lot of interesting responses when I tell people my title at Amani ya Juu. Quizzical looks are typically follow by questions like, “Export Manager? Hmm, what does that mean exactly?” I had the same reaction when I first heard about the position. Two and a half years into the job, I’ve learned that being Amani’s Export Manager has a lot less to do with paperwork and more with people. It is centered less on the superficial details of shipping out products and more so on making a difference in people’s lives. It’s impossible to talk about Export without telling the story of Amani’s ladies. I see them walk through the gate at Amani every morning bringing in the stitching they did at home, carrying babies, and chatting with fellow trainees who have long become friends. I look at them in amazement knowing their stories – tales of pain and victory over pain that they also carry with them. We congregate for prayer before working to make some of the most amazing products I have ever seen. These products pass through many eyes and hands to ensure excellence before finding their way to the Export Office. Our task in Export is two-fold: to spread Amani’s message of peace beyond the borders of Kenya and to support the ladies’ efforts by finding a market for their products. Each product is tagged with a message of Amani’s mission of peace-building. In this way, a simple bag can share the hope of transformational peace with the person who receives it. One of the hardest experiences for me at Amani has been hearing first-hand the material struggles of the ladies at Amani. Refugees rely on what is given to them, insufficient as it often is. Women from underprivileged backgrounds lack academic and professional opportunities to further themselves and now have great difficulty in sustaining themselves financially. Amani gives them a chance to make a living and acts as a bridge between the limitations forced upon them and the abundance God has for them. However, this chance depends wholly on finding a market for Amani products. Every month I ship out boxes going to volunteers who will sell the products packed inside. They don’t pay up front for the products; they just commit a few hours that mean a livelihood for the women here in Africa. As I watch the pick-up drive out of Amani loaded with boxes, I whisper a prayer of thanksgiving to God because I know what it means practically on the ground. When we ship our goal of 20 boxes, this means that the ladies will be able to continue creating products and become more financially equipped. When we ship only a handful of boxes, I know it means less work for the ladies who I care so much about. The number of boxes we ship depends directly on how many ordinary people like you and me choose to support Amani’s efforts. These people say to us, “Yes, I want to help. I want to give that lady in Africa – who I may never meet but whose struggle I feel – a fighting chance in life. I will hold an Amani Gathering and trust God for a successful sale.” To all of you who have supported us in the past, THANK YOU. Your efforts have gone a long way in transforming lives; I urge you not to grow weary in doing good. If ever there were people worthy of your partnership, it would be the Amani ladies. It has certainly been my great honor to serve them, if only in a small way, and I invite you to join me in this beautiful, life-changing work. You can extend the opportunity for a sustainable livelihood to the women of Amani by selling their products. For more information, visit our website or contact our Volunteer Coordinator here.
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