Students’ jewelry raises funds for Kenyan children

Morgan Abbott didn’t know the children at New Life Homes in Kenya would steal her heart. Then little Georgi, 5, took her hand.

Georgi (not his real name) gave her a tour on her 2007 trip to Kenya. His selflessness and kindness, and learning about the challenges he had overcome, helped move Abbott to social entrepreneurship.

After her first year at UNC, in 2009, the public policy and religious studies major visited the homes again. Upon returning, she founded Carolina for Amani, which sells Kenyan wares and beaded jewelry across campus to raise money for the homes. Amani means “peace” in Swahili.

The next sale will be on Tuesday (Dec. 7) from 1:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. in the Campus Y.

Abbott, from Raleigh, N.C., is a sparkling example of ideals of the kind of action envisioned in Innovate@Carolina: Important Ideas for a Better World, a roadmap for the campus announced in the fall. She’s an innovator who recognized a problem, saw an opportunity, found a creative way to address it and implemented it.

Every Wednesday at 9 p.m., 20 to 25 students gather in the Campus Y to string the beads, which are made from the clay of Mount Kenya. Kazuri Beads of Nairobi hires disadvantaged women to hand-paint the beads, then donates its imperfect and unused beads to Amani, says Abbott, who has added an entrepreneurship minor.

Abbott’s group also is funded by an entrepreneurial fellowship from the Carolina Center for Public Service and an entrepreneurship award from the College of Arts and Sciences, Carolina Entrepreneurial Initiative and minor in entrepreneurship.

Besides jewelry, Amani sales feature multicolored aprons, handbags, scarves and other items that Amani buys from Kenyan artisans.

Last year Abbott led a trip of 11 college interns – eight from Carolina, including herself – to Kenya to help at the homes. While there, they scanned paperwork for all 1,200 children who have been at the homes since they opened in 1994, creating permanent, password-protected digital records. They also completed personality descriptions of the 150 children living in New Life Homes for use in matching children with potential adoptive families.

The six New Life Homes in Nairobi seek to rescue and care for vulnerable, abandoned, orphaned and HIV-affected babies and children.

Carolina for Amani’s goal is to raise enough money to build a New Life Home for special needs children.

Abbott says her Christian faith motivates her to help the Kenyan kids but declares that she gets more than she gives: “Hope and joy overflows from these homes. You know when you’re there that you’re making a tremendous difference.”

To get involved or host an Amani sale, email morgan@amanichildren.org. Read about Carolina for Amani in the Arts and Sciences magazine or Abbott’s blog.