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PAWENA, Nairobi, Kenya, Feb 2010

Feb 20

Written by:
2/20/2010 1:22 PM  RssIcon

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I first began working with PAWENA in October 2007. Pangani Weaving Nairobi is a weaving workshop under the umbrella of Pangani Lutheran Children Center (PLCC). PAWENA’s purpose is to help raise money for the housing and education of orphan and underprivileged, vulnerable girls from the slums in Nairobi. Currently, there are 105 girls who are being educated through the center. Thirty-one girls are orphans and only 15 of the girls in the program are living with both parents. The Pangani House, 2 km from the center, is the safe house up to 21 girls at a time. It is in a lower room within this house that the weaving facilities are. The Center has bought land and is on its way to creating a larger facility to house 100 girls, give vocational training to 80 students, etc. Pangani Lutheran Children Center is directed by Mary Mshana, who balances the financial, emotional and logistic needs of the center. To learn more about this center, or how to help, go to www.kelc.or.ke/women/plcc.htm.

In April 2008, I held a design session in my studio for the weavers, director (left of photo) and supervisor of the weavers, Claudia Heiss. Claudia had designed a rainbow stole in the photo. This stole was popular in Germany over the past year. During our session, we discussed future products and designs and concluded that scarves might be something that could sell locally as well as internationally. I designed several scarves for the group that Mary and Monica wove. Claudia and Mary are holding some of the scarves in the next picture. The sales of the stoles and scarves earned enough profit for PLCC to educate and house two girls for a year. At their request, I designed a logo for their pieces. The symbol incorporates a child opening a book as well as woven cloth since the profits from the woven pieces go to educating children.

2009 was a year of change for PAWENA. Both weavers who had worked so well before, left for other jobs. In early 2010, the process of finding weavers began in earnest. This time, I designed several stoles that had a feel of Africa. Because of the limited funds currently available at PLCC, these stoles had to be adapted to the colors still available in the stocks at PAWENA. Damianus Oloo(yellow shirt), who has taken on the role of supervisor of the weaving workshop. Francis Gichuri, in the blue jacket, remains currently as their main weaver. We are discussing the complex thread color combination necessary for the new stole design. The space for weaving is limited as is the space in many weaving centers in Kenya. Warping is done outdoors in the central courtyard. The desire to effect change in the lives remains, however. Through the creation of quality handwoven items PAWENA is making a difference in the future of young girls who would otherwise be victims of abuse and who would be without hope for their future.

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