MADE BY MAASAI MAMAS IN KENYA, COLLECTION ENABLES WOMEN TO SUPPORT THEIR FAMILIES, SEND HER CHILDREN TO SCHOOL, AND BELIEVE THAT HER SKILLS AND HER VOICE HAVE VALUE
Images provided by Me to We Artisans and Nordstrom
Nordstrom and Me to We Artisans, an organization that provides socially responsible products, today announced that Nordstrom will be the first U.S. retailer to offer the Me to We Artisans Collection of original jewelry hand-crafted by Maasai Mamas living in Kenya. Select styles will be available in 10 Nordstrom stores and at www.Nordstrom.com. Me to We empowers the women who create the sustainably-produced, locally-sourced accessories by paying a fair wage that allows them greater opportunities to support their families and communities. The items also support Free The Children, Me to We’s charity partner, that works locally to educate, engage and empower youth to make a difference in their own communities and internationally to remove the barriers to education and end the cycle of poverty.
The Me to We merchandise is online at www.Nordstrom.com and will also be available in the BP. department of 10 Nordstrom stores are Downtown Seattle (Seattle), San Francisco Centre (San Francisco), Downtown Portland (Portland, Ore.), Westfarms Mall (Farmington, Conn.), Mall of America (Bloomington, Minn.), The Mall at Short Hills (Short Hills, N.J.), Santa Monica Place (Santa Monica, Calif.), King of Prussia Mall (King of Prussia, Pa.), Irvine Spectrum Center (Irvine, Calif.) and Galleria Dallas (Dallas). Prices range from $5 to $100 and items include necklaces, rings, bracelets and earrings. Me to We Style organic cotton t-shirts, will also be available online at www.Nordstrom.com.
“We currently employ more than 600 Artisan Mamas who live in Free the Children communities across Kenya,” says Roxanne Joyal, founder of Me to We Artisans. “Together, we leverage the artistic ingenuity of their traditional Maasai beadwork and style pieces into collections that are on-trend with the current and evolving fashion markets. We are grateful to be partnering with Nordstrom, working together to provide young customers with purchasing options that truly make a difference.”
Me to We Artisans is a line of original accessories, handcrafted by artisans in Free The Children communities across the globe. Founder Roxanne Joyal was inspired to create Me to We Artisans in 2010 after witnessing talented Massai beaders who travelled daily to small tourist markets flooded with competing products and were forced to sell their intricate beadwork at a loss.
Me to We (www.metowe.com) is an innovative social enterprise that provides “better choices for a better world.” Through offering socially conscious and environmentally friendly products and life-changing experiences, Me to We measures the bottom line not by dollars earned, but by the number of lives changed and the social and environmental impacts that is made. Half of Me to We’s net profit is donated to Free The Children, while the other half is reinvested to grow the enterprise and its social mission.
Today, Me to We Artisans employs 612 Maasai mamas full-time, providing them with an alternative source of income so they can pursue their dreams and support their families and communities. By joining Me to We Artisans, each woman is empowered to build her savings and do things she never would have believed possible: improve her home, support her family, send her children to school, and believe that her skills and her voice have value. Infusing a centuries-old beading tradition with modern elements designed by Roxanne Joyal, our collections share the artistry of Maasai culture with the world.
One of the most popular items in the line is the $10 Rafiki Friend Chain, which comes in five vibrant colors, each representing a different cause (water, health, education, food security and alternative income). With every Rafiki (Swahili for ‘friend’) sold, a gift such as clean water, school supplies, wholesome meals, healthcare and sustainable financial tools is given to children and families in Free The Children communities overseas. This modern take on friendship bracelets is part of Me to We’s Track Your Impact initiative, and by using a special code on the back of the Rafiki’s packaging, customers can visit a website to learn about the community they supported through their purchase.
Founded in 1995 by international human rights activist Craig Kielburger, Free The Children (www.freethechildren.com) believes in a world where all young people are free to achieve their fullest potential as agents of change. They are an international charity and educational partner that empowers youth to remove barriers that prevent them from being active local and global citizens and work domestically through We Day events and the We Act program to educate, engage and empower 2.3 million youth across North America and the UK. Their international projects, implemented through their holistic and sustainable Adopt a Village model, have brought more than 650 schools and school rooms to youth and provided clean water, health care and sanitation to one million people around the world, freeing children and their families from the cycle of poverty.
The confidence and skills women gain through Me to We Artisans empowers them to play a greater role in community-wide initiatives such as education projects and kitchen gardens and Me to We Artisans works in Kenya, with projects
expanding to India and Ecuador. Me to We has also partnered with several companies to help spread the impact of Me to We Artisans, including Second Cup, Virgin Atlantic, Holt Renfrew, DHL, Aeroplan, Air Canada, Nordstrom and Chapters Indigo.
“We love the idea of offering our customers on-trend merchandise that also provides them with the opportunity to celebrate friendship through giving back and making a difference,” said Jennifer Jackson, corporate merchandise manager for BP./Kids at Nordstrom. “We hope that this Me to We Artisans collection will inspire and empower our customers to look for more ways to make a positive impact in their communities and our world.”
Born and raised in Schaumburg, Illinois, Robin Wiszowaty currently splits her time between Toronto, her adoptive home of Kenya and her work in Ghana. A motivational speaker, community development worker and author, Miss Wiszowaty has devoted her life to helping others. Her curiosity about the disconnect between international development theory and fieldwork brought her to various villages, tribes and non-governmental organizations throughout Kenya and neighbouring countries.
Suddenly she found herself spending her days hauling water, evading giraffes and living in a tiny hut made of cow dung with her adoptive family in a Maasai village in Kenya. Immersing herself in their culture and communicating solely in Swahili, she was forced to face issues she’d never considered: extreme poverty, drought and corruption—and discovering a love for a people in the most unexpected places.
Since then, Robin has made Kenya and Ghana her homes, serving as the Ghana and Kenya Program Director with Free The Children to implement long-term development projects in partnership with local communities. She also leads hundreds of people on international volunteer experiences each year. Drawing upon her fieldwork experience, Robin is able to share stories about the lives of rural community members.
At We Day events, Robin has captivated tens of thousands with her keynote address—sharing the stage with influential figures, from Martin Luther King III, Dr. Jane Goodall, Rick Hansen, former U.S. Vice-President Al Gore, Mia Farrow and Martin Sheen, and musicians such as Nelly Furtado, Demi Lovato and the Jonas Brothers.
To kick off the partnership, Nordstrom Mall of America in Bloomington, Minn., will host a live performance from the Kenyan Boys Choir and a book reading by Robin Wisztowaty, author of “My Maasai Life,” on Saturday, October 12 from 1 to 3 p.m.
Founded at the Aquinas high school Nairobi as the schools music club, The Kenyan Boys Choir was fully established in the year 2004 when it expanded its membership to include students from other schools as an after school program. Through its music, The Kenyan Boys Choir aims to preserve Kenyan musical culture by showcasing traditional songs, musical instruments, dance, language and costumes. They also hope to educate audiences about social ills that affect Africans on a daily basis, including AIDS, poverty and Environmental Conservation, Proceeds from the boys’ performances go towards their tuition fees and upkeep.
The Choir has earned acclaim in Kenya and abroad as a disciplined group with a work ethic that parallels the King’s College Cambridge Choir and the Harlem Boys Choir of New York. Being cultural ambassador of Kenya, the choir had a huge success as the first ever African choir to appear at the renowned Beijing International Music Festival in October 2009 with a sold out concert to 2000 people.
Currently the choir comprises of 35 members from different high Schools and colleges around Kenya with ages ranging from 14 – 26 years of age. The choir’s repertoire is of a wide range, from Maasai and Samburu chants to contemporary songs from around Africa, popular renditions of cover songs and not forgetting the regular corpus of European and American choral repertoire with other classics from around the world. From their home country Kenya, the choir performs renditions of songs and chants favourite among Kenya’s 42 main ethnic communities.
The choir has produced three albums; ‘Uvumbuzi’ being the first one, was produced in the year 2004 in USA when the choir was making a debut into the entertainment scene. Their second album; ‘AmerikaJambo’ also recorded and produced in the USA an obvious reference to the new era that was imminent with the election of America’s first African-American President, was well received by the large following of fans that the choir has in the U.S.
Following their performance at President Barrack Obama’s inauguration, the choir in June 2009 released their critically acclaimed album; ‘The Spirit of Africa’ under Universal Music which featured among the top ten albums of the year 2009 in the U.K. billboard charts for many months.