Elimu sewing students had a roller coaster year, especially our graduates who should have done their national trade examinations in December! With learning institutions closed during COVID-19 lockdowns, our students lost over 6 months of learning last year. Thanks to the entrepreneurial spirit which drives Elimu in many of its activities, we came up with a great solution to keeping our graduates in Malindi. It began with sewing face masks. The income from the masks helped these young women provide for their families when lockdowns made finding work more difficult than ever.

The introduction of the Pendo Artisan Ragdoll Project kept our graduates busy, trained them in new skills and opened the way for a whole new approach to fundraising for Elimu. Plus the adorable truly Kenyan ragdolls help us tell these girls stories to supporters miles away who buy the dolls in America and Canada.

“I could read hope all over their faces.”

Thankfully the lockdowns finally came to an end and vocational training courses resumed in October 2020. But the school year was totally disrupted so that January found them entering the third and final semester, instead of starting the new school year, as would have been the usual schedule. Our graduate students suffered another set back in April when their national trade exams were suddenly cancelled for yet another COVID-19 lockdown.

The six week lockdown allowed for another production of Pendo dolls with nearly 200 dolls being produced and shipped to the USA and Canada. Finally, in June our eight graduate students sat for their national Tailoring and Dressmaking exams – passing with flying colours. Each graduate will eventually receive an official certificate from the National Industrial Training Authority (NITA) confirming their skills as sewing artisans. In the meantime, our grads are ready for business! As part of their sponsorships, each graduate received their own brand new foot pedal sewing machine and table.

That was Elimu’s communications coordinator’s reaction as she watched our sewing graduates receive their sponsored sewing machines. The machines are their reward for their hard work and dedication. With the skills they’ve gained, they can start their new businesses immediately – and that means income. Some already have customers lined up with orders for garments! As these young women return to their villages they are taking a step up in status. They will now be welcomed as business women, income earners, providers and decision-makers. They will have a say in their own futures and become valuable members of their extended families and communities.


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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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Elimu is the official trade name of Elimu Development Projects, a registered Canadian charity. BN 828374314.

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