How was everyone's weekend? I had a lovely time catching up with friends and relatives, and I felt that it was too short a time. Think they should make weekends last a little longer - maybe 3 days? This week's Green Crafters features Caroline of Sewing for Utange from the UK and she does what I call a "social enterprise". Some of you who have followed my blog for quite a while might remember a few posts (e.g. Social Innovation Park) on social enterprise. It's basically a business that has philanthropic goals and can run on a non-profit or profit model. For Caroline, she sells her bags from recycled jeans and fabric. The proceeds of her sales go to the charity she supports. So, this project benefits not only the environment, but the charity too! So, you can see why I had to feature her!
About the charity that Caroline supports
Caroline supports The Sure Foundation, which supports the Utange project started by Debbie Scott. She went on a family holiday to Kenya and decided to go to see a traditional African village while she was there. She met the pastor of the local Baptist Church and went back for a Sunday service, and heard about the needs of the village, meeting the children he and his wife were looking after. When she returned to England she felt that God wanted her to build an orphanage. That orphanage is Casuarina House and now houses 24 children aged 3-14. It opened in 2009 for the first 10 children and was fully opened in 2010.
The children with the staff, Debbie and Paul who helped to set it up as well.
On return trips, Debbie realised the scale of the problems in Utange. She found that there were 600 children in the village who were only eating every three-four days. She has now set up a feeding programme which provides a weekly meal for these children (Feed500) and gives them a bag of maize to take away with them. to eat for the week.
Caroline says "I have been selling the bags for two years now, and each year around £2000 has been raised from their sale. The feeding programme costs £1000 a month to run, so I have raised enough money to feed 600 children for two months." She also runs a Facebook page for the charity. In Jan 2011, Caroline had the most amazing opportunity to go out to Kenya and meet the children and the people of Utange. She hopes to go back, and would love to teach women and young people how to make bags by recycling, as she believes it could be a way for them to make money, perhaps selling bags to tourists. Debbie hopes to raise enough money to build a secondary school in Utange. At the moment there is nowhere local for young people to study once they finish primary school, and many do not have any skills which make it possible for them to find jobs.
A little bit about Caroline -
Caroline is a full-time teacher to 11-13 year old kids. She's a Christian and married with two daughters, one at university studying medicine and one still at home studying for A levels.
How she got into recrafting/refashioning/
"I got into reusing denim through my love of sewing, particularly patchwork and quilting. I went to courses at a local sewing shop, both to make quilts and later to make bags, but found it quite expensive in fabric. I was trying to sell some creations at school fairs etc to cover the costs, but without huge success. One day I saw a pattern in a magazine for a bag made from old jeans. I thought it was a brilliant idea and knew my then teenage daughters would love it. I found some old jeans, adapted the pattern and it was a success."
So, from then on Caroline has been on the hunt for old jeans at charity shops, particularly those that nobody would buy because the knees were ripped, etc. Caroline gave a friend of hers a bag that she'd made for her as a Christmas present. Not only was Jane thrilled but she introduced Caroline to a charity that another friend, Debbie Scott, had set up in Kenya. Two years later, Caroline now sells her refashioned bags at Debbie's fundraising events. She now spends most of her spare time sewing, and her bags have become much more complex and ambitious!
Let's have a look!
I love the owl bag design - it makes a cute gift for a girl. Caroline
has posted a great tute on this.
The design on the right is awesome - I love all those back pockets!
|Travel bag that Caroline took to Kenya!|
Caroline doesn't buy the jeans any more but rather various people collect them for her - at her her school, her Church, and many other places. She's also sourced from Freecycle. The vast majority of her materials are recycled - old sheets and curtains for linings, buttons, ribbon, even zips. Her problem is finding space to store both the materials and the finished bags (I'm having the same issue!). Caroline doesn't leave anything to waste. Check out this pocket purse!
So, if you happen to be at craft fairs, car boot sales, school fairs, village shows or even at The Green House Community Market in Letchworth, you might just be able to spot Caroline selling her wares!
Thanks so much for the interview, Caroline - you're awesome (as my little son would put it!). I really admire your cause and efforts!
Tune in next Monday for another round of Greeny Crafters!