Meet Joyce, the woman behind the products

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Before Amani, Joyce Kajuju was struggling to make it in bustling Nairobi, Kenya as a tailor, and was unable to support her children. But then she found Amani. “When I came, I fell in love with the place because my heart is here,” she said about the day she came to interview at Amani.

Her first Amani product was a coffee gift bag. “Then from there I went to on make different products.” Joyce learned quickly and was soon working on design and quality control.

Today, Joyce is the lead seamstress at Amani Kenya and does training on all new products. The ladies all call her “Teacher”!

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“When I am working, I ask myself how I can better the quality of the product, the way they’re designed. How can I help these ladies to move from one step to another to make a good product?”

Joyce’s role at Amani goes much deeper than beautiful products. Her favorite part of Amani isn’t necessarily the work. “Chatting with the ladies, listening to their problems, praying with them. I like that. And also, reading with them the word of God,” exclaimed Joyce.

Joyce doesn't mind having a little fun at work...here she is wearing a Christmas tree skirt as a poncho!

Joyce doesn’t mind having a little fun at work…here she is wearing a Christmas tree skirt as a poncho!

Joyce takes her leadership role very seriously. She feels a deep connection between her job and her faith.

“I pray to God…everyday, to give back wisdom; to extend the boundaries of Amani because it is really a good place where somebody can come to love peace. When you have problems you can be comforted…where you can get love.”

Joyce working with Ali, Amani ya Juu Creative Director

Joyce working with Ali, Amani ya Juu Creative Director

We are deeply thankful for your support. Through your purchases, donations, and prayers, women like Joyce are equipped and able to reach into the lives of others.

 

Want to check out some of the products produced by Joyce? Visit our website, amaniafrica.org, to shop!

10 Ways to Celebrate Fair Trade Month with Amani

It’s the time of year to pull the scarves and knit sweaters out of the closer and enjoy the crispness of the fall air outside. At Amani ya Juu, we are not only celebrating the change in season but celebrating October as Fair Trade Month. Here are some ideas to jump start your Fair Trade October.

  1. Amani Coffee and Tea

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Amani sells fair trade coffee made by a cooperative in Uganda. While you enjoy these cooler mornings, why not curl up with a cup of ethically-sourced joe or our favorite Fair Trade tea, Numi, which is available in most grocery stores. You could also create a classic drink made at the Amani Kenya cafe, Kenyan Chai. This is sure to become a fall favorite. If you’re feeling especially inspired, we recommend turning on The Lion King on Broadway and maybe even reading a book from our booklist .

Check out Numi tea here.

Buy our coffee here.

  1. Walk around the Farmer’s Market in Amani Style

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What better way to celebrate the coming season than walking around the farmer’s market with your Amani tote in hand, money in your coin purse, and enjoying the season’s produce. Make a pot of butternut squash soup and maybe even serve this winter salad in one of our Amani bowls.

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Safari Rugged African Tote Bag

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African Olivewood Bow

3.  Celebrate Fall with an Amani Volunteer Sale

All of your friends and family have Christmas on their minds, so why not celebrate Fair Trade Month by hosting an Amani volunteer sale. We will ship a big box of beautiful products and you can share them with your friends and family. When you are finished, just ship them back. Our beautiful, colorful, and handmade items are perfect gifts for the entire family. Whether it’s an event for your book club, church small group, or coworkers, this unique party will be a hit!

Want more information, email us at volunteer@amaniafrica.org

If you are looking for ideas for party activities, check out our Volunteer Resources.

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  1. Connect with Amani

Sign up for our online newsletter and connect with us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, & Pinterest.

We love connecting with you! Another simple way  to learn about Amani is to sign up for our email newsletter. We will never share your email address and it’s such a great way to learn about the work of Amani. If you love a product, advocate for Amani by helping us get the word out! If you have a blog or business, reach out to us. A great perk of being apart of our online community is you’ll be the first to know about our sales, coupons, and new products.

  1. Buy Mom an Amani thank you gift for cooking Thanksgiving   

Don’t let Mom’s hands burn in a rush this Thanksgiving. Let her know she is appreciated by giving her an Amani thank you gift. Our pot holders and wooden spoons are a gift she will hold onto for Thanksgiving meals for years to come!

Another simple way to celebrate the women of Amani this Thanksgiving is to set your Thanksgiving table with our placemats and cloth napkins. It’s eco-friendly as well so a win-win!

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Batik Oven Glove Spoon Set

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African Olivewood and Bone Spoon

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Handmade Napkin Set

 

  1. Kickstart your Christmas shopping with Amani

 Now is the time to start planning for christmas gifts. We have a variety of items that make us a great stop for your holiday shopping. Whether it’s earrings for your sister who is a college freshman or a quilt for your grandmother, Amani is a great place to purchase ethically and beautifully hand crafted products. We also have christmas stockings, a gorgeous advent calendar, garland, and so much more!

Check out our Christmas products here.

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Advent Calender

  1. Fair Trade your Halloween

Support other Fair Trade organizations and businesses! This Halloween, why not skip the regular Halloween candy aisle and purchase Equal Exchange’s Fair Trade Your Halloween kit.  It’s a great way to support ethically sourced products and raise awareness.

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Fair Trade Your Halloween Kit

  1. An Amani Gratefulness Journal

This season is all about love, family, and gratitude. Why not start the daily habit of writing 3 things you are grateful for every day throughout this season in this beautiful journal? Maybe even get cozy with one of our lovely handmade quilts.

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Mini Kanga Notebook

 

  1. Amani Have fun with Amani

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Wear your Amani products and tell your friends about us. If you are in Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Liberia, Chattanooga, D.C., come visit us! By loving your Amani products and telling your friends about Amani ya Juu, you are assisting in the mission of peace from above.

Love the scarves these lovely ladies are wearing? Find them here.

 10. Educate Yourself about Amani and share with your friends!

Read about Rahab, Gladys, Lydia, and Hannah!

Our blog has a collection of  stories of the men, women, and children that have been greatly assisted by Amani Ya Juu. You help make that happen by supporting us!

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If you feel inspired to Amani your October, like us on instagram and snap a photo of yourself or family enjoying Amani in one of these ways with the hashtag #amaniyouroctober and we will send you a 10% off coupon!

Amani Uganda: Through Lydia’s Eyes

This blog was written by Lydia, our intern at Amani Uganda.

Lydia with the women of Amani Uganda.

Lydia with the women of Amani Uganda.

Since coming to Gulu, Uganda in July, 2014 as a student from Wheaton College, I have had many friendly hellos. Several people have told me I should stay here through Christmas (I’m leaving mid-December). It’s hard to believe there was a horrific war here just a few short years ago. It seems life has mostly returned to normal. People plant gardens, take care of children, and visit each other in their homes. Considering the recent history of Gulu, it’s sobering that almost every person I meet has been personally affected by Joseph Kony’s 12-year rebel war with the Government.

Incredibly, people do not readily display the suffering they have experienced – at least not on the surface. If someone came to Gulu knowing nothing of the history and war here, they would learn of it only if someone told them or because of the many NGOs (non-governmental organizations) stationed here.

When they were abducted during the war, each woman at Amani was either conscripted to fight for the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) or forced into becoming someone’s wife. Even being chosen as a wife put the women in danger because if more than one man wanted the same girl (I say ‘girl’ because they were generally between the ages of 9 to 16), they might end up killing her instead of choosing her because of the conflict she was causing. Their lives were also in danger when the government soldiers attacked their rebel group.

Lydia at a home visit.

Lydia at a home visit.

Often they became injured through exposure to the elements or by being shot. If they decided to stay behind to rest because of the pain or mend their wounds, they would be killed because they were keeping the group from moving. They were forced to continue walking with the group and had to cover their wounds with their soiled clothing or whatever leaves were available.

Each woman working at Amani Uganda has something in common—they all became pregnant by their “husbands” while living in the bush as captives . Of all the stories I heard, one stands out. Sarah*, one of the young ladies at Amani, became pregnant after her abduction and was forced to continue walking with her rebel group even though she was close to giving birth to her first child—a son. Suddenly, a group of government soldiers attacked the rebel group of which she was now an unwilling part, and she went into labor. As war was happening all around her, she was compelled to sit down next to a tree and deliver the baby herself. Shortly after she gave birth, the government soldiers were defeated and the rebel group continued moving. If she wanted to live, she had to immediately walk with her group, even though she had just given birth.

Little ones are welcome in the Amani Uganda workshop each day. Women often breastfeed while stitching!

Little ones are welcome in the Amani Uganda workshop each day. Women often breastfeed while stitching!

As a result of this lifestyle of abuse, beatings, and torture, many women became bitter. They became resentful toward their children that came from the bush because the children reminded them of what happened; and they were angry at the women they traveled with (some of them co-wives) because there was additional cruelty simply due to jealously and the need to survive.

Their return home after the war wasn’t any better. There was a loss of hope among many people because families often rejected these victims upon their return. Parents were fearful of their now-grown children, wondering what this lifestyle of war had done to them. Some had been gone for as many as 12 years.

What Amani Uganda does for these women has been very different from other NGOs in Gulu. Unlike other organizations, Amani provides not only physical support, but also empowers and inspires women to be proud of their work and their children. They are encouraged each day through the community of women, the sharing of devotions, and the hard work they do in making high-quality products.

At Amani, they are expected to do their best work and learn how to be professionals. The goal is not to have the women work for Amani permanently, but to recover their dignity and identity in a school-like environment. The dream is that, by the time they graduate from Amani, they are able to support their family, feel pride for all their children and have hope that their struggles here on earth are temporary.

The women are told about the hope we can have in the Lord. Through daily devotions, prayer and singing, they are taught that God will provide everything we need and that our hope is restored through Him. Because of what Amani is doing, there has been a dramatic change in the lives of these precious women. They are able to let go of their anger and forgive those who have hurt them. They accept all of their children and even proudly show them off. They become patient with each other and demonstrate kindness to their coworkers and neighbors.

Slowly, they are learning the motto of Amani Uganda and incorporating it into their life: “Spreading peace to the world – one stitch at a time”. I highly encourage you to support these women (and Amani’s mission) by buying their crafts. It really, really makes a difference. I see it in Sarah’s face every time she smiles.

*name has been changed

Everyone enjoys spending time one one another's children at work each day.

Everyone enjoys spending time one one another’s children at work each day.

To support the women of Amani Uganda directly, visit the donations section amaniafrica.org

To purchase products created by the women of Amani Uganda, visit amaniafrica.org

Home Visit to Auma Grace’s Home

This post was written by our intern serving at Amani Uganda, Lydia.
 

We went and visited Auma Grace on September 11th, 2014 at 3:30PM. It took about five minutes to walk over to her hut. As we arrived, Grace welcomed us into her hut where we then started singing praise and worship songs led by Apio Alice after which Kevin led the devotion. She read from the book of Matthew 22:1-14 where Jesus spoke in parables. This particular parable was of the wedding banquet. In the reading it says the Kingdom of Heaven is like a King who prepared a wedding banquet for his son. As the son when out looking for guests, people turned down the invitation. This in summary implies that God has invited us all to attend to his only beloved son but because of our sinful nature as human beings, people in the times of Jesus, and up to date, failed and still fail to listen to him which ended up in Jesus being crucified on the cross. This part we found in Matthew 22:5-6.

 

Auma Grace prepared a delicious meal for the group.

Auma Grace prepared a delicious meal for the group.

 

From Matthew 22:11-14, man who had not worn the wedding cloth refers to those without the Holy Spirit in them and on the last day, they will be rejected by God then pushed to hell where there is a lot of suffering. Therefore since many are called but few are chosen, we should all strive to be with wedding cloth then be amongst the few chosen by God.

After the message from Kevin, Alice asked for prayer requests. Grace said we should pray for her son’s complaints of headaches. Nighty asked that we pray for her hand because it’s swelling and painful. Stella asked that we pray for customers, and Grace asked that we pray for her brother after having been in an accident where two other people were injured and are in critical condition in the hospital.

After prayer requests, we all prayed and Alice closed in prayer. Food prepared by Grace was brought and served which was delicious. After eating and fellowship it was around 6pm so everyone walked home from there.

Praise and worship at Auma Grace's house!

Praise and worship at Auma Grace’s house!

Auma Grace and her family.

Auma Grace and her family.

 

Check out some of the products made by Auma Grace at amaniafrica.org!

 

7 Ways to have a Fair Trade Wedding

5 ways to make your wedding fair trade

…Amani-style!

Amani ya Juu is bringing peace, reconciliation, & dignity to the lives of African women. The jewelry, home goods, clothing, purses, accessories, and other items they produce don’t just look beautiful—they tell a beautiful story. Amani operates on a relatively small budget, & we rely upon passionate customers to spread the word about our work. Consider incorporating Amani products into your wedding in these clever ways!

1) Register at amaniafrica.org

Introduce your guests to Amani AND snag all of the lovely home and kitchen goodies you’ve been eyeing. Every home needs a touch of African flair!

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African Olivewood Bowl, $38. Original Patch Placemat Set, $46. Horn Salt & Pepper Shakers (available in-store only). Fish Bowl Set (available in Store only).

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The Beatrice Quilt, $162

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Register for gifts at amaniafrica.org

2) Wear Amani to your engagement shoot.

Your engagement photos tell a special story. Why not tell the Amani story, too! Bonus points for mentioning amaniafrica.org when you post them on social media!

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Circle Skirt Dress (available in-store only)

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Horn and Bone Earrings (available in-store only)

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Circle Skirt Dress (available in-store only)

3) Use Amani decor for the reception.

Display handmade African napkin rings at the tables. Deck the reception hall with hand-stitched flag garlands from Uganda.

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Kitenge Napkin Set, $24. Banana Leaf Animal Napkin Rings (available in-store only)

 

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Flag Garland, $18

 

4) Give Amani as thank you gifts for hostesses.

Did some wonderful ladies throw you a shower? Thank them with a gift that gives back. Be sure to tell the recipient to check the tag to find out who made it!

 

5) Send Amani thank you cards.

The wedding is over, you’ve returned from honeymooning, and a pile of gifts are in the living room. Send a thoughtful response to each giver with a recycled card from Africa!

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Kitenge Card, $3.75

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Lapa Card Set of 5, $8

6) Get crafty with Amani.

When you order jewelry at amaniafrica.org, jewelry comes in a cute little fabric gift bag. If you or a friend is feeling crafty, two jewelry bags can easily become a garter for your wedding day!

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Feeling crafty? Recycle Amani jewelry bags and make yourself a garter for the big day!

7) Decorate Bridesmaid gifts with Amani.

Our friend Laura gave her bridesmaids a gift of champaign …decorated with handmade tags from Africa!

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Decorate bottles of champagne with Amani tags! (available only in some stores)

A Visit to Lanam Stella’s Home

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As survivors of Joseph Kony’s terror reign (Lord’s Resistance Army), the young ladies of Amani Uganda are recovering from unspeakable horror. The past holds memories of abduction and rape. Many became child soldiers and were forced to kill. Some became mothers when they were still children themselves.

But Amani Uganda is a place of peace, reconciliation, and self-worth. In addition to learning sewing skills, they are forgiving their enemies and nurturing one another’s hearts.

The ladies often organize visits to one another's homes. Recently, the group visited Lanam Stella's home. Home visits include lunch, prayer, devotion, and worship songs.
The ladies often organize visits to one another’s homes. Recently, the group visited Lanam Stella’s home. Home visits include lunch, prayer, devotion, and worship songs.

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Stella, left, receiving a housewarming gift of fruit from Mary.

Simprosa, Amani Uganda
Amani Uganda Country Director, Simprosa, usually leads the daily devotion at the end of the workday.

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Grace and Joyce at a home visit.

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Children are welcome at Amani Uganda. These little ones are a constant source of joy. The women care for, play with, and even reprimand one another’s children!

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The group participates in various holistic wellness activities This includes stretching!

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Amani Uganda is up and running, but still needs capital to grow during this phase. Donations pay for everything from sewing machines to group therapy. To give a financial gift to the ladies of Amani Uganda, click here.

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Sustain the ladies financially by purchasing some of their beautiful handmade products Pleated Coin Purse ($10).

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Kitenge Napkin Set ($24 for 6), handmade at Amani Uganda.

Meet our Intern: Alison

This was originally posted on the (new!) Amahoro Burundi (Amahoro ava Mw’Ijuru) blog!

 Amani ya Juu often hosts interns at centers in both Africa and the US. Check out our Summer/Fall 2014 intern, who is currently living and working in Burundi at Amahoro ava Mw’Ijuru!

 

Alison, Amahoro Intern 2014

Alison, Amahoro Intern 2014

Name: Alison Chang

Hometown: Thousand Oaks, CA / Pohang, South Korea

School & Degree: Wheaton College; International Relations

 

 

Role at Amani: Management and Administration Intern. I started in Nairobi, Kenya and am now in Bujumbura, Burundi. Here, I am mainly working with Amani’s Burundi Country Director to build capacity through computerizing departments, and standardizing processes and systems. However, I am stretched far wider in opportunities to learn more about anything and everything including sharing the Amani story through social media, managing any of the other Amani departments (distribution, production, tie and dye, café, shop, etc.), starting Amani Watoto and “Worship through Dance” programs, going on home visits, and whatever else I can get me hands on!

 

How did you first learn about Amani?
I first learned about Amani after I was accepted into Wheaton’s Human Needs and Global Resources (HNGR) Program through the HNGR staff, friends, and mentors.

 

What made you want to intern with Amani?

My interest in learning more about refugee employment opportunities, women’s rights, and post-conflict development brought me to Amani. More broadly, I desire to see how the discourse of international relations and policies made from the top level really affect those on the bottom. Amani gave me the opportunity to see how women, my friends, are impacted by organizations like Amani Ya Juu and imagine how changes in policy can better empower those that can be most marginalized.

 

Random Facts:
My family currently lives in Korea, I am the middle child of three, I am the Events Coordinator for Wheaton’s World Christian Fellowship, I’ve always like elephants, and I was the News Editor of my high school newspaper.

 

 

Intern Alison with Amahoro Burundi

Intern Alison with the Amahoro Burundi group

Words of Encouragement: Burundi to Liberia

Last week, our Amahoro Burundi sisters shared words and prayers of encouragement to the  Amani Liberia family. They want to share with the Amani extended family as well.

 

Just a few faces of Amahoro Burundi!

Just a few faces of Amahoro Burundi!

Dear Amani Liberia,

Please know that people all over the world are praying with you. This week, Amahoro Burundi is filled with prayers for the situation in West Africa and specifically for the Amani community in Liberia. Here are some encouragements for the women (and men) of Amani Liberia from the women (and men) of Amahoro Burundi. First is the encouragement in Kirundi followed by a translation to English and their name.

1.
Indirimbo 91: Gitandara c’Imana reka nguhungireko
Kirundi song number 91: Rock of ages
-Lydia

2.
Songs 159; Nezerewe ko Yesu ankunda naho ntabikwiye
Kirundi Hymn 159 I am happy because Jesus loves me even if I am unworthy.
-Nyota

3.
Mwihangane ikora ibibtangaza bagatangara yoyo ntitangara yitwa
gitangaza kandi n’inyuma ya zero irakora.
Be persevering people. God of miracles is your God. His Name is
miracle. He works with minus (beyond human senses).
-Dorcella

4.
Kirundi Hymn book number 49 Ugusenga kuramfasha; 33 Ntundengane mukiza
we. Do not pass me by.
-Joyeuse

5.
Yobu 42: 1-3: Yobu yahuye n’ivyago vyinshi abiwe bamuherako. Namwe
mwihangane Imana izobatabara.
Job went through many plagues. He lost all his family and belongings.
Do not loose heart God is with you.
-Joselyne

6.
Yosuwa 1:1
Read Joshua 1:1

Be strong and very courageous.

-Cesarie & Renilde

7.
Bene Data mwihangane Imana niyo Nkuru. Bene Data Humura Imana niyo
mutabazi. Yesu niwe mukiza. Soma Mariko 3:7-12; Luka 6:17-19
Brethren, do not loose heart God is with you. He will rescue you. He is
the savior. Read Mark 3:7-12; Luc 6:17-19

-Abraham

8.
Mwihangane cane mugwize gusenga twatura icaha n’igisa naco. Mwihangane
nka Yobu. Yesu abagirire neza.
Keep your eyes upon God. Avoid sin and every thing similar like Job.
May Jesus helps you.
-Carine

9.
Yosuwa 1:5b, Nkuko nabanya na Mose niko nzobana namwe. Sinzobahemukira
sinzobata. Shikama musire amanga Uhoraho ari kumwe namwe. Ndabasengera
mbabaranye namwe, ndirana namwe kandi ndabakunda. Soma  kandi Zaburi
91:1-3.
Joshua 1:5b. As I was with Moses, I will be with you. I will not leave
you nor forsake you. Be strong and courageous God is with you. I pray
and feel the way you feel. I weep with you; I love you. Read again Ps
91:1-3
-Goreth

10.
Imana niyo muganga akiza icago. God is the doctor of doctors. He is in
control. Your help comes from the Lord. Ps. 121:1-8
-Evariste

May God bless you and keep you in His peace,

Amahoro Burundi

(Amahoro ava Mw’Ijuru)

*These encouragements were collected by Alison Chang (Amahoro Burundi Intern)

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Goreth (Burundi Country Director) and Evariste, her husband

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Stitching at Amahoro

Ebola Outbreak: A Message from our Founder

A message from our Executive Director and Founder, Becky Chinchen, regarding the Ebola outbreak:

Thank you to all Amani friends and supporters who have been praying for our members at the Amani Liberia center. We continue to thank the Lord that they have all been protected from the Ebola virus and live in an Ebola free town.

Please continue to pray for the Amani Liberia members as they take precautions, that they will be wise and disciplined in health and safety practices. Also pray that they will have a deep sense of God’s presence and love for them, that they will see His faithfulness and goodness even in a time of crisis. Pray for the country as a whole as they go through a grieving process. There is probably not one who has not been impacted by the loss of family member or friend.

There are food shortages now in the country because of enforced quarantine of communities by the government in order to bring the spread of the virus under control. This has brought travel and trade within the country to a halt. People are beginning to run out of food. Pray that food aid will reach these remote communities soon.

Thank you for standing in the gap with us as we lift up in prayer the people of Liberia.

Becky Chinchen
Executive Director

Happy Birthday to Us!

A letter from our Founder and Executive Director to you…

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Jambo from Amani Kenya!

Becky Chinchen, Amani ya Juu Founder/Executive Director

Becky Chinchen, Founder/Executive Director

 

I’d like to personally thank you for the gift of your friendship to Amani ya Juu! Your support—whether through financial gifts, product purchases, or visits to a center—has encouraged us and enabled us to come this far. That makes us want to celebrate!

This summer marks the 18th year since Amani ya Juu began in my living room with 3 refugee women.  After fleeing from Liberia, I landed in Nairobi, Kenya among refugees like myself. I saw a need to affirm the dignity of those around me through empowering work and a safe community. We started with a small personal loan, a pattern for placemats, and four hurting hearts seeking healing and peace.

Today, thousands of people (women, their children and spouses, and visitors) have been impacted by God’s peace through Amani centers in 6 different countries.

Over the years, wear and tear that occurs naturally when many people move through a space has begun to take its toll on the Amani Kenya center.Renovations are desperately needed in order to maintain the beautiful facility that contributes to women finding dignity and peace on a daily basis.

Celebrate with us by giving a gift to Amani on her 18th birthday. Pick a project and be a part of sowing peace.

In Peace from Above—Amani ya Juu,

Becky Chinchen
Founder/Executive Director
Amani ya Juu

 

 

 

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Some stories have come full circle when women are able to “graduate” from Amani and start their own small businesses, spreading peace in various communities. Rahab is one example. To read her story, click here.

 

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Renovations are needed in order to maintain the beautiful facility that contributes to women finding dignity and peace on a daily basis.

 

Click here to make your gift!