Peperuka

Peperuka – ‘to soar’ in Swahili.

I met the founder of this company a couple of years ago at a Christmas market in Nairobi. I had seen their tee shirts around town and was rapt to be able to get Liz a tee shirt that said ‘I love Nairobi’. The shirt has done her well but since Liz has lost weight, it’s time to downsize.

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Wherever I go, I’m always grabbing business cards of interesting people, because you never know when you’ll need them. I’m constantly on the lookout for guest speakers at a program I’m involved in called The Girl Project. While my team does the majority of work, my role is to make sure there is an interesting speaker to inspire the girls. To say they are from disadvantaged situations is an understatement.

These students live in a 3 by 3 metre tin shack in the Kibera Slum. Their parents (mostly single mums) struggle to earn $5 a day. The girls often leave home at 5.30 in the morning for school and don’t get home until 7pm. We created The Girl Project not only to make sure they get sanitary products, but leadership and mentoring by Kenyan businesswomen.

Hence – Peperuka.

Why I love their work, is that they are proudly Kenyan – Africa is their home and want to show the inspirational side of it through design and clothing. I also like how they don’t compromise on quality. Too many times here I’ve seen second class quality on goods and it frustrates me, because it doesn’t have to be this way. I heard someone run a quote that went something along the lines of ‘We won’t see change until we as Kenyans stop accepting that we are worthy of only being second class’.

wangari

I agree. I’m always telling our students ‘if you want to be treated first class, you have to be thinking first class, cause our actions come out of our thoughts’.

Just last weekend we have the founder of Peperuka, Wangari and one of her team, Mary come and speak to our girls. I think it was the most impacting message the students had heard for a long time. It wasn’t just about the design and clothing industry, it was about lessons they had learnt in their own personal lives. Making the right choices can have a HUGE impact on our lives.

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I wish people in the West could get a real picture of some of the amazing people we have here in Kenya. Unfortunately, good news doesn’t sell. I am privileged to be able to meet these people and I am proud to share about them.

When you see me this year, you’ll see me wearing some of the tee shirts made by Peperuka. I love their work and I think you should too!

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A Trip To Kazuri

Whenever we have visitors to Nairobi I try and take them to a great place called Kazuri Beads.

Where the painting takes place.

Where the painting takes place.

It’s situated in the suburb of Karen, which for all of the wealthy housing out there, has the narrowest roads. It should take about 20 minutes to get there from our place.

Painting the plates before they go into the kilns.

Rolling the beads before they get fired.

We’ve had Marilyn from the US boarding with us for the past month and one place I did want to take her was Kazuri. The story behind this business and the impact it’s making needs to be told and duplicated. While it’s great to have self help groups here, what Kenya really needs is for greater employment to raise the standard of living.

Machinery used to squish out the water.

Machinery used to squish out the water.

At Kazuri there are around 340 women and a few men employed. It was started in 1975 by Regina Newman specifically to help single mothers or those from disadvantaged backgrounds. What they have accomplished is quite amazing.

Pete & Marilyn chatting to the ladies.

Pete & Marilyn chatting to the ladies.

They now produce over five million beads a year that are exported to 20 countries around the world. On top of that they also produce pottery. All made from clay which comes from the Mount Kenya area.

This clay comes from the Mount Kenya region.

This clay comes from the Mount Kenya region.

What I did like is that they have embraced Kenyan flavour and are proud of the heritage here. It’s demonstrated in the brightly painted beads and the figurines on the pottery. Everything they do is done at a level of excellence, even through to the packaging.

Showing how the plates are shaped.

Showing how the plates are shaped.

I’ve never seen their free health clinic but it caters for the staff and their families. It’s a big thing here because healthcare is a huge expense. The owners of Kazuri know that if you look after your staff, your business will thrive.

The cups before they are fired.

The cups before they are fired.

When you visit Kazuri you get a free guided tour through the factory and then can freely shop onsite without being hassled. I think the prices are pretty good, better than if you bought overseas anyway. They do take credit cards as well as US Dollars and British Pounds.

The cups being prepared for their second firing to seal the paintwork.

The cups being prepared for their second firing to seal the paintwork.

There’s a whole lot of outlet stalls at the many malls around Nairobi. I like to go to the factory because it gives visitors a bigger picture of why and how the goods are produced. They get to talk to the ladies and see it being made. You feel the heat of the kilns and watch as artists paint the pottery.

One of the many kilns, with Joseph our guide.

One of the many kilns, with Joseph our guide.

Be assured, if you come to visit us in Nairobi, you’ll probably end up going there.

Plates drying, takes 2-3 weeks.

Plates drying, takes 2-3 weeks.

Check out this video on how a plate is shaped.

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