Romantic imagery of safaris, Wildebeest Migrations and palm fringed beaches have long made Kenya a popular tourist destination. However, the cruel truth is that whilst millions of pounds find their way into Kenya not many of those pounds actually filter down to the local communities living in the shadow of the country's biggest wildlife parks - Tsavo East and West.
Situated off the hectically busy Mombassa highway down a typical urban African road dotted with roadside eateries, hairdressers and seamstresses, Bombolulu Workshop improves the lives of people with physical disabilities.
Opened in 1969, Bombolulu was taken over by the Association for the Physically Disabled of Kenya in 1987. A member of WFTO (World Fair Trade Organisation) this not for profit organisation works with around 150 skilled artisans in 4 workshops, producing a range of jewellery, textile and leather products.
It is a safe haven for its disabled members, offering sheltered housing to the craftspeople who choose to live on site as well as support to those who live outside. Here the artisans are provided with a regular income, medical benefits and access to child care and HIV prevention. The centre helps its residents overcome their physical limitations and empowers them socially and economically to become fully integrated members of their communities.
Photograph by Clare Lewington ©
The Jewellery workshop is the biggest of the departments. Strips of brass are coiled, cast, cut and hammered to produce never ending combinations of quality, hand made jewellery. Next door in the carving workshop large reclaimed tree trunks and boxes of treated bone (a by-product of the meat industry) are turned into the delicate daisies, hearts and stars for our AW 2012 collection. Sewing machines whirr in the textile department as colourful kitenge fabric is stitched into the fun ribbon-tie pouches that each of our products are sold in.
Photograph by Marissa Pina ©
We are fortunate to feel part of the making process, sanding, sewing and assembling our new samples whilst getting to know the individuals who bring them to life.