Kenya Our Story
Amani began in 1996 with four women sewing placemats together in Nairobi. One of these women was an American named Becky Chinchen. After fleeing the civil war in Liberia with her husband and four daughters, she found herself in Kenya among other refugee women. She saw the need to affirm the dignity and worth of those around her. Along with Magdalene from Mozambique and Lucy and Veronica, both from Sudan, she gave birth to Amani ya Juu, “Peace from Above.” They brought together skills in stitching, a love of African textiles, an eye for beauty, and a passion for spreading God’s peace. The convergence of their talents, needs, and desires brought Amani ya Juu to life.
With a loan of $500, they began making placemats in Becky’s home in Nairobi and selling them wherever they could around town — in hotels, at events, in shops. Becky saw great potential in this creative practice of doing business in a way that was empowering and ethical, and in adhering closely to these principles, Amani began to come into its own as a self-sustaining organization. The Amani center in Nairobi has grown over the years into a thriving oasis in a bustling city. It now boasts a beautiful production building, a welcoming shop, and a spacious garden cafe. Many people who pass through the Nairobi center say that the Nairobi center offers a sensory experience of peace to many. It has welcomed hundreds of new friends, including hurting women looking for a place to heal and visitors eager to learn more about Amani.
Some stories have come full circle when women are able to “graduate” from Amani and go on to start their own small businesses, spreading peace in their own various communities. Rahab is one example.
Rahab came to the Amani Kenya center as a single mother who had lost everything when the slum she lived in was set on fire. After developing her skills for several years within the walls of Amani, it became clear that Rahab was skilled and creative. She was asked to try making beads. She began taking orders, and soon, with a loan from Amani ya Juu, she had enough to start her own business. Despite the challenges of being a small business owner, Rahab constantly feels empowered and strives to influence others around her. She confidently says, “My life is not just mine. I’m an example to my neighbors; I’m a challenge. I dream of helping other people who think they can never make it in life. They don’t have to dwell on the past.”
Shop Rahab’s jewelry here and listen to Rahab talk about her story below.