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Jewellery-inspired revolution in Kibera

Harriet James @PeopleDailyKE

Watching children drop out of school in Kibera due to lack of school fees got Fredrick Gor thinking for a long time. He was at a loss on what to do, all he had was just a skill of making bone beads taught by an uncle upon completing his Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE). At the tender age of seven, Gor lost his parents and so he couldn’t find funds to take him through high school.

“I found myself doing things to earn a living. At the age of eight, I’d burn charcoal, fetch firewood just to provide for my brothers and sisters. It is this hardship that inspired the need to do this to assist needy children from the slum,” he narrates.

Within a year, his dream came true through Sarah Hodin. In 2012, Sarah of theNational Council of NGOs bought into the idea to educate children in Kibera. Sarah, who currently works in the global maternal and child health field, was inspired by Gor’s compassion for others despite his daily struggles.

“I was inspired by his compassion and how he really wanted to help others, while he himself and his family were struggling. I began selling his handmade jewellery and crafts, made from cow bone,” Sarah says.

Nyora Beads founder Fredrick Gor teaching children how to make ornaments. Photo/HARRIET JAMES

Just like that, Nyora Beads, a registered non-profit organisation based in Massachusetts was born with the aim of serving the Kibera community.

The organisation offers full four-year scholarships to bright, determined, and compassionate children who live in Kibera and cannot afford to attend high school.

Nyora Beads hopes that the scholars will be the future leaders who make positive change in the Kibera community.

While Sarah runs the non-profit from Massachusetts in the US, Gor makes the products in Kenya, and Sabina, the programme director – who also grew up in the slum, manages the students as well as the scholarship aspect.

Together with a team of artists, Gor hand makes the products in a small workshop in Kibera where recycled materials are used to create unique designs. These recycled materials are bones from camel, goats and even cows sourced from the slaughterhouse or butcheries. Out of these, beautiful bangles, necklaces, salad spoons, finger rings and many other products are created for sale.

All of the profits from sales as well as donations, go directly into the scholarship fund to send children in Kibera to school. “All profits made from selling the products go into four-year secondary school scholarships. I sell the products at craft fairs in Massachusetts and online on our website,” Sarah adds.

Currently, due to limited funds, their focus is in ensuring that they take care of students’ school fees. They encourage their students to join youth programmes available in their respective areas as part of their community service.

“Kibera is huge with about eight villages that have now been subdivided to 14 villages. So far, we are only able to offer scholarship to two students every year, so only four villages have been covered, represented by the six students we are supporting,” says Sabina, the programmes director. The organisation desires to offer more scholarships to other needy students and also encourage Kenyans who are able to support in any way to do chip in.

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