What kind of traveler are you? One that wants to experience a city’s most popular and busy attractions or someone who wants to immerse themselves in a city’s culture, meet with local people and make a social impact? If you fall in the latter, then this one’s for you.
We recently made friends with the people from I Like Local, a platform founded by Sanne Meijboom. I Like Local connects tourists looking for authentic travel options directly to the local people. Tourism generates a lot of wealth for a country, however, how much of that gets to the local man/woman on the ground? Not much.
I Like Local currently has over 600 experiences across Asia and Africa that can be booked online, they don’t charge the locals anything to be on the platform and give 100% of the activity price they ask for to them. This way the locals are able to earn money directly from tourism in their countries.
Kenya is one of the countries on the platform and we decided to try out one of the many experiences available, a jewelry workshop with local Kenyan women.
The workshop is part of an organization called Weza4Life that supports HIV+ women from the Kibera slum. Sanne put us in touch with Beth (sales representative at Weza4Life) who helped us find our way to the workshop which was off Ngong Road on Kibera Station Road. See map below:
We got there at 10AM, Beth welcomed us to the workshop and gave us a quick tour of the space which included the workshop area, kitchen space, offices and a jewelry shop. Usually, there are 11 permanent women who make jewelry there, however, the team had a HUGE order from the Netherlands (25,000 bracelets!) and they had to call in extra women to help with it. There were about 30 women on the day we went.
We were introduced to a few of the ladies before Millie, who is in charge of quality control, guided us on how to make beaded bracelets. We started off with a needle and thread that was attached to a stretchy piece of plastic thread. The design we worked on had white and gold beads. You had to poke through 5 white beads from a plate of beads with the needle, push them through to the stretchy thread, poke through one gold bead and repeat that process until the bracelet was the right size for our wrists. Then tie a knot three times and VOILA! You have a pretty little bracelet.
It sounds easy and it is but speed is of the essence when you have 25,000 to make. The women were working on the Netherlands order which had a leather thread, royal blue beads, shiny blue beads, gold beads and brass beads. And boy were they quick at their job. I probably took a good 15mins to finish my simple bracelet while the ladies had already made 10 in that time. Weza4Life tend to get international orders but they also supply locally within Nairobi. The beads are sourced from Kenya, West Africa & China.
I made 3 bracelets and then went on to have a chat with a couple of the ladies. The ladies below permanently work there, have a scroll over to learn their names (including Millie from quality control mentioned earlier). Beth, Fiona, Millie and Angela are part of the management team at Weza4Life.
Weza4Life was originally started in 2008 by a Dutch group but is now run by Abdul Kassim. Abdul has dedicated most of his life to providing the children in Kibera, especially girls, with an education and joined Weza4Life in 2011. The jewelry workshop not only supports HIV+ women but also 5 different schools within Kibera. Having a Dutch affiliation has also been beneficial to the organisation, fueling their international business which helps generate funds for the schools and women.
We made a video of what was happening at the workshop during our time there and had a chat with a couple of the ladies and Abdul. Watch it to better understand what goes on at the workshop, how it came to life and how it’s a support system for the ladies and thousands of children in Kibera.
We were there for about 2hrs 30mins, learnt a new skill and met some lovely people. The ladies were very welcoming and we had a great time with them. It is a short experience but one with the possibility of having a large social impact. It was quite obvious that the women loved working there and were very grateful to Weza4Life for playing a big role in helping them make ends meet.
The cost for the workshop is Kshs.1200 per person which goes directly to Weza4Life and payment is made to Beth. Each bracelet you make there can be bought for an additional Kshs.100 and you have the opportunity to buy some more jewelry from the shop there. I got myself a beaded choker and bracelet.
If you would like to support Weza4Life then reach out to them on their Facebook page.
I Like Local supports many many more such organisations and independent local people across Asia and Africa. They work directly with NGO’s whose primary focus is community based tourism. Sometimes people even reach out to them to become hosts. And other times they cherry pick the experiences themselves as they have an idea of what they want to have on the platform.
Check out their website to learn more about I Like Local and all the different experiences they have: https://www.i-likelocal.com/ Especially if you are a tourist looking for unique travel activities that also help the local communities. It’s a double win!
You can also find I Like Local on Facebook here.
We’d love to know what you thought of this experience, so leave a comment below. Thanks!