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In support of local entrepreneurship, KLM works together with Return to Sender, offering fair trade products made in developing countries by local changemakers such as Sieraden4Life (‘Jewellery4Life’).
“If you’re in a good place, you can and really should do something for someone else.” This was Dutch-born John Schut’s mantra growing up, and that’s why he started Stichting4Life (translated as ‘Foundation4Life’) with his wife Linda 15 years ago. Together with a team in Kenya, they went on a mission to help people living in the slums, and have been running a number of projects in the largest slum of Nairobi, Kibera, since 2007. Their goal? To help provide education to local children, create more employment opportunities for mothers, and help orphans have a better life. One of the ways they do so is by exporting locally made jewellery to the Netherlands with their project Sieraden4Life (‘Jewellery4Life’). In this effort, they partner with Return to Sender, an organisation dedicated to helping local entrepreneurs in developing countries sell their products and thus improve their lives and those of the next generation. By purchasing the products handmade by some of the projects supported by Return to Sender for onboard our flights, KLM aims to make a contribution to this important cause.
The jewellery made by the Kenyan women helps them earn money to look after their family and offers them the chance to build a brighter future. Many of the 16 women taking part in the Sieraden4Life programme are HIV-positive. The opportunity to work and make beautiful products means the world to them. Sadly, Schut has passed away, but his dream lives on in this very special project. That the Schuts have changed lives becomes evident when speaking to the women. One of the mothers taking part in this project, Susan Adhiambo, explains: “Through this project, I have been able to take care of my children’s basic needs, get medical attention and even pay for my children’s education. Furthermore, I have been able to build a house back in my rural hometown.”
Doorway to a brighter future
The jewellery is made of an array of materials, such as wood, glass beads, Masai beads, ceramics, rope and brass. Most of these materials are made by the team of women, such as hand-painted wooden beads and brass components that are put together with recycled materials, like taps and screws. The jewellery is made in the Sieraden4Life atelier, just outside of Kibera. The team of women come here five days a week and when there is a large order, extra women are brought in to support them, There are 150 ‘flex ladies’ on standby that love to come in and work, as it offers them a doorway to a brighter future too. Mary Maloha explains: “Ever since I joined this project six years ago, my life has changed. I am able to take care of my grandchildren, pay our rent, put food on the table and pay my hospital bills. I even helped my son by paying the dowry for his wife.”
Stable home environment
Stichting4Life strongly believes in the importance of education, and that’s why they have set getting more children from the slums to school as one of their goals. Part of the solution is a stable home environment, which is reached when women can work and earn money. The unemployment rate is huge, though, in most slums, making it hard for them to find a job. Especially for women with no education. That’s why they’re so happy with this initiative.
Flourish and grow
Sieraden4Life has been making jewellery for Return to Sender since 2010; something the women are very proud of. When a large order from Return to Sender comes in, the 16 women operate as supervisors to the ‘flex ladies’. The responsibility for their products and managerial experience make the women flourish and grow. On top of the fun and teamwork they experience from making the jewellery, the women receive a fair income as well. This helps their children to get an education and lets them live in stone houses with water and electricity. As most of the women are HIVpositive, a healthy diet and hygienic living conditions are of great importance. That’s why workshops are provided to educate the women a few times a year. On top of that, the women are provided with health insurance. Agnes Opondo shares her touching experience: “Through Sieraden4Life, I have been able to provide support to the nine orphans under my care.
I have also been able to look after my family’s basic needs with my salary and get educational support for my children.” Projects like this help to empower women like Agnes, which is beneficial to an entire community. KLM is proud to be able to play a small part in it, by purchasing products.