Amani ya Juu is an example of how the power of peace–Christ’s peace–can transform broken lives into ones of celebration and hope. The story of Amani itself reflects what can happen when God’s peace truly takes root in hearts. From small beginnings of a few women to a network of diverse centers and cultures, the story bears witness to the power of peace.
A Place to Heal
In 1996, after fleeing the civil war in Liberia with her husband and four daughters, American missionary, Becky Chinchen, found herself in Kenya among other refugee women. It was from her own experience as a refugee that her vision of working with marginalized women emerged. She saw the need to affirm the dignity and worth of those around her. Along with Magdalene from Mozambique and Lucy and Veronica, both from Sudan, Amani ya Juu, “Peace from Above” was established.
Each of the ladies began their journey with Amani having been broken and devastated by the horrors of civil conflict. They shared a common need of healing, a restored vision, and a renewed energy to live again. While they came with needs they also came with gifts. They brought together skills in stitching, a love of African textiles, an eye for beauty, and a passion for peace. The convergence of their talents, needs, and desires brought Amani ya Juu to life. With a personal loan of $500, they began making placemats in Becky’s home in Nairobi and selling them at hotels, events and local shops. Through the blend of ministry and business Amani ya Juu emerged as a holistic economic enterprise.
Passing the Peace
The women at Amani ya Juu experience God’s peace and the profound difference it makes in their lives. The seeds of peace that were first sown in the Nairobi center have continued to spread and multiply. As women returned to their home countries or repatriated to new homelands, they take Amani with them. A presence of peace has been established in numerous cities, countries and communities, wherever women with a vision of peace have gone –Kakuma Refugee Camp, Rwanda, Maasailand, Burundi, Somali Eastleigh, Mathare slums, Gulu Uganda, Liberia, Washington DC, Chattanooga and more.
In 2007, Becky returned to war torn Liberia with her husband to be a part of the rebuilding efforts. In 2010, as the pain and brokenness of communities became clear, Amani Liberia emerged as a place of healing and restoration.
Meanwhile, a Ugandan woman named Simprosa Okot trained and grew in leadership at Amani Kenya for eight years alongside her husband before returning to Uganda with their children in 2008. In 2011 it became clear to Simprosa that a holistic program was needed in her home town of Gulu in order to reach out to the former abducted women of the LRA (rebel group in the region). With seed money and operational support from Amani ya Juu, Simprosa established Amani Uganda and began stitching with a small group of women in Gulu.
Rachel Kistner, a former intern of Amani, saw the need for a distribution center in the US to support the growth of the Amani African centers. With passion and vision Rachel established AmaniDC in 2007 as the first distribution center in the US.
After 7 years of thriving operations in Washington DC it became apparent that Amani needed a new home, she had outgrown her space. Joanna Vaughn, daughter of Becky Chinchen, invited Amani to Chattanooga, TN where she could find a permanent home and begin to prepare and plan for the future. In 2012 Amani Chattanooga was established as the US distribution center.
Growing Together in Peace
Amani ya Juu has grown from one location to a network of interdependent centers. Each Amani center is locally registered and managed by local leadership who make themselves accountable to the Board of Directors of Amani.
All Amani centers share life and community with one another while serving a common goal and purpose of sharing God’s peace holistically.