The Advocate Safehouse Project is proud to announce the exciting progress of the Sisterhood Exchange Program, a local and global sisterhood linking women of East Africa and Glenwood Springs, Colorado. The Sisterhood Exchange Program (SEP) connects HIV+ women and men from the Imani Workshops of Eldoret, Kenya with HIV+ men and women of Mfangano Island, Kenya. The goal of the exchange program is to model "positive living, increase social support, and train in entrepreneurial craft making.
The connection of the Sisterhood Exchange Program to Western Colorado blossomed from the unique relationship between the Advocate Safehouse Project in Glenwood Springs, Colorado and the Imani Workshop. For the past three years, the Advocate Safehouse Project has worked with Elsie Rotich, Imani Outreach worker, to purchase hundreds of Imani Workshop handcrafts to be given as race awards at the Mother's Day Mile. The Mother's Day Mile is the Safehouse's annual fundraiser to benefit the domestic and sexual violence programs of the Project. Last May, Rotich traveled to Glenwood Springs, as an "Imani Ambassador" to participate in the Mother's Day Mile and to share the Imani Workshop with the Colorado community.
In true "exchange" fashion, this past summer, Race Director of the Mother's Day Mile, Nancy Reinisch , traveled to East Africa to visit the Imani Workshop and the Ekialo Kiona Center and serve as the "Colorado Liaison" to the Sisterhood Exchange Program. After sharing in their friendship and crafts training, Reinisch placed an order with the new Mfangano artisans for 121 "Sisterhood Kitenge Aprons" to be given away as race awards at the 2011 Mother's Day Mile.
For the past two years, expert tailors, bead makers, and paper makers from the Imani Workshop have traveled six hours to the remote Mfangano Island to train members of the Organic Health Response, a non-profit community organization dedicated to the prevention and treatment of HIV in the Suba District of Lake Victoria. OHR's newly-constructed Ekialo Kiona Center (Suba language for "Worldwide") hosts not only the island's only solar-powered Internet lab, but also provides the workshop space for the evolving crafts cooperative. The cool shade of the Ekialo Kiona Center provided the foundation for the crafts groups from Imani and Mfangano to meet and develop their partnership. Together, they created the Sisterhood Exchange Program, aimed at helping Mfangano Island residents learn to create and market indigenous crafts.
In August 2010, the Sisterhood Exchange Program officially opened its doors at the Ekiola Kiona Center and sewing machines could be heard clicking through the halls! Thanks to the support and donations of individuals and organizations from Garfield County, the Program was able to provide travel expenses for Imani teachers, purchase four treadle sewing machines, local fabrics, sewing supplies, beads, and paper making tools, and provide seed money for the next order.
Reinisch is committed to continue the local and global sisterhood as she states, "We have been thrilled to use handmade crafts from the Imani artisans for our Mother's Day Mile race awards. The products are beautiful; our participants love the color, quality, and authentic African style of their prizes; and we feel good about knowing that we are supporting a life changing project for women." She continues, "We are particularly looking forward to our new partnership with the Mfangano Island artisans as we await delivery of the original 'Sisterhood Kitenge Aprons' for Mother's Day Mile 2011"
To become a sponsor for the Sisterhood Exchange Program Mother's Day Mile race awards contact Nancy Reinisch at http://www.advocatesafehouse.org or
. To learn more about the Imani Workshops contact http://www.imaniworkshops.org. For more information on the Organic Health Response initiative on Mfangano Island visit http://www.organichealthresponse.org.