Launching "Kushuka"

Seed of Hope Nairobi has been delighted to partner with international jewellery designer Sheila Dhariwal to create a stunning new jewellery collection. Sheila has twenty five years of experience in the jewellery business, both in designing and making pieces and was looking for a role in which she could use this experience. She feels that there are a lot of people with skills, but experience to energise a team can be very productive.

In many ways, we have Emmanuel Jal to thank for Sheila’s involvement in Seed of Hope. After meeting him at the Edinburgh Film Festival, Sheila decided to sponsor a child through Emmanuel’s charity, Gua Africa. After some time, she began to plan a trip to Nairobi to meet the boy she had sponsored and researched a number of contacts that could help her use her experience in the jewellery business to benefit jewellery makers in Kenya. We are delighted that someone introduced her to our work and she was able to visit our vocational training centre in Nairobi in 2011.

After her visit and discussions with our team, it was decided that Sheila would help to put together a jewellery collection to be produced and sold by Seed of Hope under the social enterprise “Crafted”. The first step was to carry out market research to determine what styles and materials would work best. Sheila has travelled extensively over the years and knew that fabrics and braiding hair are two things that are important to many African women. She set about designing a collection of jewellery that brought these two concepts together and so the “Kushuka Collection” was born.

When she came to Nairobi to start the process of teaching the Seed of Hope girls to make the collection, Sheila wasn’t sure what the skills level would be like. To manage her expectations she decided that even if just ten pieces were made and the girls involved got to see their finished work in a fashion show that would be a boost for them. The goal was set that after a week of workshops, a fashion show would be held to showcase the new range. Sheila brought a few Couture pieces for the show and then started to work with the girls to design the other pieces in the collection.

When we asked Sheila how the workshops were going, she said it had been an emotional rollercoaster and that she had been overwhelmed by the skills and initiative the girls had shown. Her students have taken on the concept she created and have already come up with ways to develop it. Part of their work has been to carry out market research locally. This has shown that there is definitely a gap in the market which the unique and well-designed Kushuka Collection can fill not just in Kenya but worldwide.

One or two people have been allowed a sneak preview of the collection and the response has been very positive. Sheila is very optimistic and hopes that it will take off. There are already plans to showcase the collection at the “Jewellery of the World Exhibition” as part of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in the UK later this year.

As for the girls involved in making the pieces, second year student Purity told us that she has enjoyed the week of workshops and the things she has been taught have really helped her. Each girl has created her own design and named it. Purity’s collection is called “Achiever” and she explains that is because “in life you have to be someone who achieves something every day. This jewellery is the thing I’ve achieved in my life.” She says that it feels so great to name a collection. “My name and what I’ve made is going to be shown outside and I’ll be famous!”

One of our graduates, Priscillah, has also been participating in the workshops this week. Her collection is called “Nurture” because “if you have a seed, for it to bear fruit you have to put it in the soil and nurture it. I made something that came from nothing to be something. I feel good, I feel like somebody.”

We look forward to unveiling the Kushuka Collection tomorrow, 31st March, at an event to celebrate Vision Africa’s tenth anniversary and showcase the wonderful work done by the staff, students and graduates at our Seed of Hope centre.

By Kirsty

Kirsty is our Fundraising and Communications Officer and she joined Vision Africa as Fundraiser in 2008 after volunteering with the organisation for over one year. She is based full time in Kenya. Click here for full bio