Bead by bead, Campus Y organization raises funds for Kenyan children's home
Members of Carolina for Amani gather at the general body meeting to make bracelets at the Campus Y, Jan. 29, 2020. Carolina for Amani - a social justice orgnaization based out of the Campus Y - is the Chapel Hill branch of The Amani Children's Foundation. The bracelets are sold once a month in the Pit to raise money for the foundation which funds New Life Home Orphanages in Kenya.
Laughter and quiet conversation fill the meeting room on the second floor of the Campus Y. In the middle of the white tabletop are splashes of color. Hands sift through the rainbow piles of beads.
After plucking the clay pellets from the heaps, members of Carolina for Amani string them onto segments of black cord and cut the perfect length to fit necks and wrists. Committee Co-Chair, Natalie Gauger, said chokers, simple bracelets and Carolina Blue are most popular in the bead shows.
“You’re welcome to do whatever,” Gauger said. “But my personal rule of thumb is more like, what will sell.”
When Carolina for Amani sells its handmade jewelry — usually in the Pit each month — profit is a high priority. The more money the club makes, the more money it can send to its parent organization, the Amani Children’s Foundation.
Amani Children’s Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit in Winston-Salem that helps fund New Life Home orphanages, located in four Kenyan cities. New Life Home Trust is a registered Kenyan charity — an important designation, said Jane Stephens, the founder and director for Amani Children’s Foundation.
“It doesn’t mean anything to you and me, but it’s a hard standard to hit," Stephens said. "I don’t believe that you will ever encounter a fundraiser for Kenyan children that is a registered charity. And part of that reason is, New Life Home raised the bar so high for what is important for a children’s home.”
In recent years, orphanages around the world have been investigated for exploitation, abuse and abysmal living conditions. Stephens said that New Life Home is distinct in its quality of care, as well as its emphasis on domestic adoption.
“There's no international adoption in Kenya,” Stephens said. “Only Kenyans can adopt Kenyans. And think how remarkable that is, that instead of using their orphans as a way of making money from international adoptive parents, they insist on keeping their kids in their country. And that's because of New Life Home. They introduced that to Kenya 25 years ago.”
The connection between Amani Children’s Foundation and UNC launched in the spring of 2009, during UNC graduate Morgan Abbott’s first year. Abbott said she volunteered in Kenya with Amani Children’s Foundation for the first time in 2007, while she was still in high school. After arriving at UNC, Abbott started Carolina for Amani, which now doubles as a fundraising operation and a summer internship program.
While volunteering at New Life Home again over the summer, Abbott realized college students had a special ability to offer at the site: technological proficiency.
“Kenyans can do just about every job far better than I could in the day-to-day at New Life,” Abbott said. “And we found that this technology piece, this archive piece, was kind of a niche that college students were uniquely capable to be able to fill.”
The Carolina for Amani internship entails tasks like digitizing records, updating adoption profiles, helping care for the children and assisting social workers, internship co-coordinators, Chinonye Eze and Megan Sullivan, said. Amani connects interns with grants and resources to fund the trip.
“We're coming into a place that's a well-oiled machine,” Abbott said. “They've invited us in, they've allowed us to be included in their work, and we're making an impact in a very niche and specific way to empower Kenyans to do what they're doing on a day-to-day basis anyways. You know, there's no kind of going in with a mentality that we are going to make any kind of heroic difference. Our Kenyan colleagues and the administration and staff at New Life Homes are the ones that are making the heroic difference on a day-to-day basis.”
Interns pick up the beads from Kazuri, a World Fair Trade Organization-registered factory that employs Kenyan women in need. Abbott said the beads are formed with clay from Mount Kenya.
“All the beads that we receive are ones that are not up to their standards,” Sullivan said. “They’re chipped or cracked or something, and they would be thrown away, but they donate them to us because we can still sell them because it’s for a charitable purpose.”
Carolina for Amani beads from 7 to 8 p.m. on Wednesday nights. Committee Co-Chair Emily Rodgers said she enjoys the relaxed and inviting environment these meetings provide. She said the group’s diversity has increased, and this makes the experience more inclusive and enjoyable.
“We want to be more representative of the people that we’re helping and more representative of the Y itself and the diversity that comes through that,” Rodgers said.
Rodgers said other goals for the group include more training for the interns and, of course, more sales. She said bead shows generally bring in $600 to $700 each. Stephens says Carolina for Amani contributes $5,000 to $7,000 to the Amani Children’s Foundation annually.
Carolina for Amani’s next bead show will take place on Feb. 14 in the Pit. As always, the group will sell its handmade jewelry with Kazuri beads, as well as items from the Kenyan marketplace.