[By Dana Knowles, Karama Co-Executive Director, Board Member]
In June 2017, I was part of a group of 14 from the Young Life Kenya Regional Team who visited one of Karama's artisans, Kibera Arts, in the the sprawling slum of Kibera near Nairobi, Kenya. Young Life Africa and Karama partner in a vision to share the gospel with African teens at Young Life camp as well as provide dignified work to women and men in African countries.
As we toured the neat, orderly workshop in Kibera, I was struck by the contrast with the world outside this small shop's walls - inside was peaceful and organized; outside was chaotic, noisy and crowded. Yet this lively, industrious neighborhood is home to Wycliffe, Maureen and other brass artisans on hand to greet us and show us where they grind recycled brass then fashion it by hand into beautiful hammered jewelry.
As we browsed products for sale in their tiny showroom, I noticed the group’s motto tacked to the wall - Let the work of our hands speak for us. This was the dream of Stephen, Kibera Arts' founder and Maureen's husband, who passed away at 32 from illness last year. Maureen, humble and courageous, is carrying on the work of his hands, along with Wycliffe and many other skilled artisans.
This same pride in their workshop extended to their neighborhood. Maureen, Wycliffe, and a group of local Young Life leaders gave us a tour of the area, introducing us to students at a primary school and women at a local sewing cooperative. They showed us where they do Young Life in Kibera and pointed out a clean water project that is helping to improve living and working conditions as well as row after row of small shops selling everything from loud speakers to rocking chairs, clothing to hammered brass jewelry.
"Let the work of our hands speak for us.."
In the jumble of corrugated tin roofs and throngs of people, there are artisans like Maureen and Wycliffe at Kibera Arts who seek to rise above their circumstances and do the work of their hands to which God has called them.