This is a great perspective more of us need to understand. Whenever you go to developing countries you see signs of people trying to help without listening. Whether you are in this line of work or not create some space today and shut up and listen.
Buy a pair of shoes, give a pair of shoes to someone in need. It’s a shortsighted and increasingly common model rooted in generosity. Shortsighted in the sense if the people that are getting the shoes are not involved in the process, then it’s one more example of a process that is not creating sustainable change or impact. But what if someone’s shoe purchase could do even more? What if mothers who once accepted “free” shoes now have the dignity and self-worth to be able buy their own childrens’ shoes. That’s the question those involved in Life In Abundance’s new initiative asked themselves. It was what led to the creation of Konjo.
Konjo is an economic development initiative aiming to change the lives of people living in Kibera, in Nairobi, Kenya—one of Africa’s largest slums. The initial product is a pair of unique, handcrafted sandals made of local resources. Unlike anything made in a factory, each sandal helps provide not only food, shelter, and clothing, but a sense of dignity and self-worth for the local people working towards a brighter future for them and their families. The men and women involved are living in poverty and may have previously been unemployed or unskilled, but now have both the skills and knowledge to be empowered to make a difference in their lives.
Rule29 is excited to be a part of the development and creation of Konjo and proud to announce the launch of Konjo.is. Please visit the site to learn more about the process and buy a pair of shoes or two. Limited quantities are available, so purchase today and be one of the first to own a pair Konjo sandals!
Being able to partner with an organization on the ground floor, dreaming with them about what could be, and then helping it come to fruition is what we love most about the work we get to do. This type of partnership doesn’t come along every day, so we are honored that we have been able to do just that with Life In Abundance in the five years we have worked together. What began as a redesign of their strategy and identity, has turned into the connecting and creation of all of their communication materials, as well as the filming and producing of two documentaries. Our relationship has also prompted the team at Rule29 to take a new look at how we approach the work we do with our other clients. Working with the underprivileged of Africa and those who walk along side them, has made us realize the world is a very large place, full of incredibly unique people who each have their very own story to tell. We have come to realize that this is true of each person and each company we have the privilege to work along side. It has become our passion to help them find the best ways to articulate their story well.
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It’s been a little over two weeks…two weeks since I was in the most remote, undeveloped, recovering, and beautiful place I have been to date. I traveled to South Sudan with Wonderkind Studios for Life In Abundance to see and experience our world’s newest country.
And I need to be really honest here before I go on—I was pretty nervous. My time in Ethiopia and Kenya were life-changing and very different. But this trip to South Sudan was even more unique, on so many levels. It still had some of the elements I had been witness to: a lack of material goods, generations of struggle, and beautiful brothers and sisters who are in desperate need of empowerment. Read the rest of the entry >
This week I will be heading back to Africa with friend, photographer, and filmmaker Brian MacDonald from Wonderkind Studios. We will be traveling to Nariobi, Kenya, and South Sudan to record, document, and interview the people being served by Life In Abundance.
Our main push for going is to get acquainted with the reality and culture of our world’s newest country, South Sudan. LIA is planning to focus on that region in the coming years, and there are many things we want to help them with – including our next documentary collaboration slated for sometime in 2013. Like with most creative projects, understanding the reality of the situation is key. Whether it’s watching a product demo, listening to a mock sales pitch, or trying a new product, “seeing” is key.
An additional part of our time there will be spent collecting stories from the South Sudanese so we can put together a fund-raising book that will help tell the story, raise awareness, and help finance even further work being done there. Please consider supporting our Kickstarter for that project, and please help spread the word.
While in Kenya, we will be visiting the micro-finance shoe project we helped start with LIA called Konjo. This project helps train locals in the variety of skills needed to make shoes that they can then sell. The shoe sales help finance the program, empower learning, and create a sustainable occupation for the Kenyans. These shoes, BTW, should be available for purchase in the US by mid- to late summer.
And finally, Rule29 has been collaborating with the graduate design program at Kent State University to create info graphics to be used in the slums of Kenya and South Sudan. The goal was to create better tools for communicating major health symptoms and medicine dosages. We will be taking the prototypes developed by the students with us so we can do some field-testing.
Everyone involved is excited for these opportunities. I’m hopeful about the results of the desired outcomes and grateful to be working on design for good. But what I’m most preparing for is the reality – the reality of a world so different than my own. More importantly, I want to spend my time learning and “seeing” so we can tell their story in a way that honors them. It’s their perspective, not ours. That’s what truly matters.\
*The book shown above is a prototype/concept only.