How it all began…

In 2012 the donor agency that was supporting our program for orphans pulled out of Mwanza. The students had school fees to pay. That was the inspiration to teach them a to make something that we could hopefully sell to raise funds for them. Without start-up funds our options were limited. The director decided to teach the secondary students to make paper beads.

This was a huge hit. Soon the boys were making beads and the girls turning them into jewelry. Our new product needed a name. We decided on “Bongo Beads” since a popular music was called “Bongo Flava,” and that name has stuck.

Bongo Beads …. and beyond!

We started out with necklaces. Then we decided why not offer short and long necklaces? This was soon followed by bracelets and earrings. Soon we realized that we needed to expand our product line. So, we began sewing patchwork pillows.

Then we got the idea “We need an African style cross.” Why not use African fabric? Soon crosses were part of our collection. These new products needed a name so “Uzima Creations” was born.

Where we’ve arrived today…our own shop!

The challenge for Uzima Centre teens making handicrafts has always been to find a market. By networking with other charities in Mwanza we learned that three other projects were in a similar situation. In 2018 we joined hands to start a charity craft shop through which we all sell our products.

This cooperative venture is called Vipaji Vyetu which is Swahili for “Our Talents.” Together we are able to make available a wide variety of handicrafts all at one location. Through the crafts, the community learns about the various local charities. It requires a lot of hard work to keep the shop going, especially during the COVID19 pandemic, which has put a stop to tourism and travel.

However, to this day, Vipaji Vyetu proudly offers a wide selection of authentic, African handicrafts including: purses, children’s toys, placemats, hand-painted cards, quilts, pillows, tie-dyed fabric and more!

Information on Vipaji Vyetu can be found here, or by using the “Contact” feature on this site.