Mission to Kenya 2005

Wednesday, January 19, 2005


Wendy with Alfred at Samburu village

We met Wendy Ellsworth (click here for her biography) (and here for her resume), an American women staying at the lodge, who is a professional bead artist. Last year, she received a grant from (I think) the Pennsylvania Arts Commission and used the funds to travel to Kenya to study the beadwork of the Maasai and Samburu tribes. She was so impressed that she funded her own return trip here this year.

She told us that historically the Samburu used dyed seeds to make their regalia (face, collars, bracelets, anklets, etc.) but then (I think about 50 years ago) they switched to using glass beads. They have used exclusively beads from Czechoslovakia which are rough and have very small holes.

This trip, Wendy brought beads made in Japan that are in new colors and are laser made. They are a higher quality bead and have much larger holes. The Samburu have used exclusively wire and she is teaching them to use needle and thread, too.

She has been working with the women of this village 4 days - teaching them new beading techniques and new designs. She tells us they are thrilled.

When Wendy was here last year, she hooked they up with Beadsforeducation.org and with a friend of hers who markets beadwork and they have generated $30,000 in sales in the USA. Sales of the Samburu beadwork puts girls in school in Kenya.

Wendy has them making chokers and earrings -- both new products for them. You can look at Wendy’s work at her website. It is pretty awsome!

She is also working with the Africa Wildlife Foundation. Wendy is especially pleased that she has found enough friends to sponsor 140 Samburu girls so they can attend school which costs $360 a year for one child (see beads for Education on how you can support a girl).


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