Could a greeting card company really make a difference in the Kibera slums of Nairobi? Dr. Max Collision, an Anglican Church Missionary from Australia from the All Saints Cathedral, thought so when he funded Kibera Paper Card Project.
A church-based organization, the project was organized in May 2001. It is aimed at the women of the slum, offering them work through greeting cards and papers. Each year, the organization gets hundreds of requests for its holiday cards, all made from recycled paper, which also helps the environment.
Here's how it works: local offices donate waste-printed matter that is pulped down, dyed and dried. The women then create handmade paper, which is used to create greetings cards that are designed by three in-house artists. In all, the project employs some 24 craftspeople. When it first began, it only employed six people. The cards typically sell for about $2 each.
"Kiberapaper is a self-help project. It was started to help poor women who live in the Kibera slum to earn income," says the organization´s spokesperson Ciceiy Mukami. "It helps the women financially by the sale of cards. We also educate the women on how to save their money and invest."
With the money the women are earning, many are now able to send their children to school for the first time now being able to pay for class fees. The project also allows women with young children to bring their babies to work.
The organization´s mission is to ensure that the project is self-sustaining by not depending on donors; instead, the goal is to generate the income from the sale of the products while also "building and restoring self-esteem and saving as a way of wealth creation and poverty reduction within the community".
According to Mukami, the organization wants to go global. "We are looking forward to expanding our market to other countries and continents," she explains. "We sell our cards locally, we export to Australia and Chicago. International consumers can buy through our Web site www.kiberapaper.org <http://www.kiberapaper.org/>. They can also partner with us by becoming middlemen."