Cindy Rodriguez first visited Malindi in 2013. She was greatly moved by the stories of the struggles of girls from rural Kenya to gain a voice and their dignity. The chance they were getting to be their own bosses and gain income generating skills motivated her to take action. Returning to her home in Los Angeles, she began reaching out to friends and family. Through her network, she was able to sponsor six girls for the full two years and a new sewing machine for each girl to be able to start her sewing business right after graduation.

In time, she registered Elimu-USA as a charity in the U.S. and a partner to Elimu in Canada. This year a new and larger vision was realized as Cindy launched Elimu Girls – focusing more keenly on her top priority: vulnerable girls in Kenya, especially through Elimu’s sewing project.

This year, Cindy was back in Malindi. She spent a week meeting the sewing students and some graduates. During one day, fourteen graduates shared their stories of life after Heri Sewing College. It was learning for Cindy and positive encouragement for the students. All spoke of challenges, but every one expressed massive gratitude at having gained sewing skills and been blessed with a sewing machine. Through their sewing business, some have built traditional mud sided houses for themselves. Many own livestock. Some own land. All are still running their businesses and helping their families with school fees and living expenses. Some graduates from as far back as 2007 were there.

“When they go low, we go high.“

Cindy’s happiest moments were during a day of teaching the girls handicrafts. They made jewelry together and decorated the tiny intricate paper dresses that the girls make for practice. Rather than waste expensive fabrics, they use recycled paper from flour bags. The little paper garments are precious to us, but nothing but waste to the girls. The girls outdid themselves in creativity. The results are stunning. Cindy plans to frame some of the wonderfully decorated samples she collected.

Cindy is back in Los Angeles now but her presence will long be felt at Elimu and at Heri Sewing College where the girls are now completing their school year and preparing for their final exams. There are four graduating students this year. They will sit for the national trade certification exams in a couple weeks and, thanks to Cindy and her L.A. network, each one of them will receive a brand sewing machine after graduation and start their new sewing business the very next day! Thank you Cindy and all the TriForHer team in L.A.


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Elimu empowers learners to increase academic and digital literacy, improve school retention and encourage self-sustainability through employment planning and entrepreneurship. 

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