Pamba Toto – Adorning Orphans

In 2006, our hearts broken for the orphans of Kenya yet rejoicing in the opportunity for some of them to be welcomed home and loved by our dear friends Pastor and Mama Karau, my friend Debbie Lee and I started Pamba Toto. Our goal was to generate funding for Hope’s Promise’s Sanctuary of Hope orphan homes of Nairobi, Kenya.

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We are honored to be featured in Bought Beautifully’s blog. You can view the original blog entry here, or read below:

Pamba Toto — Adorning Orphans

After hear­ing about Pamba Toto’s work in Kenya through a per­sonal con­nec­tion in the small town of Sheri­dan, WY, we were anx­ious to intro­duce our­selves to Deb­bie and Colleen! We are now excited to call Pamba Toto a part of the BB fam­ily, and are even more excited to share their story!

Tell us about the his­tory of Pamba Toto.

Deb­bie and I (Colleen) have never been the same after a few short weeks in 2002. Deb­bie Lee and her hus­band Brian are long-time direc­tors of the Inter­Var­sity Global Project to Kenya; and in the sum­mer of 2002, I joined them and led a team of six col­lege and two high school stu­dents in serv­ing at the Mother Teresa Home for Aban­doned Chil­dren in Nairobi as part of the project. The year before, my hus­band Dave and I adopted our son from the same orphan­age. We wanted them to wit­ness both the hor­ror of poverty that scarred our hearts for­ever when we claimed our son, and also the mys­tery of the Mother Teresa sis­ters, serv­ing in des­ti­tu­tion with unri­valed joy.

Our friend­ship deep­ened along with our pas­sion for the orphaned chil­dren of Kenya. We were primed and ready to do any­thing we could to help when one of our clos­est mutual friends, Mama Karau, expressed a dream in 2005 to open a small home for orphans. Hope’s Promise, a Colorado-based non-profit, agreed to over­see the home and hired Pas­tor and Mama Karau as house-parents and Coun­try Coordinators.

Deb­bie and I and our fam­i­lies spread the vision far and wide amongst our net­work; and fund­ing accu­mu­lated. Still, we searched for ideas for how we could per­son­ally gen­er­ate money to open and sus­tain the home. As an artist, I most longed to invest my cre­ative skills. Unbe­knownst to Deb­bie, I began to dream of mak­ing jew­elry to raise money for SoH. Deb­bie called me soon after the idea came to me, in early 2006. Deb­bie explained that she had decided to sell jew­elry to raise money for SoH. “Do you think I’m crazy?” she asked me.On the other end of the line, in dis­be­lief, my heart rate accel­er­ated, “Well, do you think I’m crazy, because I’ve just decided to make jew­elry for the same reason?!”

Deb­bie and I are still in awe that simul­ta­ne­ously and inde­pen­dently of one another, we received a vision to make and sell jew­elry to raise aware­ness and funds for SoH. We started out just sell­ing what I could make, but soon real­ized we could also gen­er­ate eco­nomic devel­op­ment in Kenya by stock­ing items made by Kenyan artisans.

We feel like we are hang­ing on to God’s coat tails as He expands the mis­sion. Pamba Toto now encom­passes var­i­ous “lines” of jew­elry and home prod­ucts, includ­ing the pieces that I design and make, as well as crafts and jew­elry made by women in Nairobi slums, and projects cre­ated by the twenty-four* Sanc­tu­ary of Hope chil­dren them­selves. We’re on a steep learn­ing curve con­cern­ing mar­ket­ing, con­sumer pref­er­ences, how to empower Kenyan crafts-people, how to send mobile “stores” to vol­un­teer sell­ers, etc. But through it all, our goal remains the same: to raise aware­ness and max­i­mize prof­its so that we can donate as much as pos­si­ble for the ben­e­fit of some of our favorite kids in the world!

Pamba 1

What are some of the tri­als and tri­umphs you have faced in bring­ing your orga­ni­za­tion to where it is today?

One of our most fun projects was imple­mented for a women’s half-marathon in Col­orado. This par­tic­u­lar project illus­trates well our gen­eral tri­als and tri­umphs – we expe­ri­enced great joy in train­ing and pay­ing the women to do the work and in gen­er­at­ing funds for Sanc­tu­ary of Hope. We nav­i­gated issues of how to obtain sup­plies, cal­cu­lat­ing fair wages for the women; qual­ity con­trol pro­ce­dures; com­mu­ni­ca­tion from half-a-world away; and tim­ing from when an order is placed, to pro­duc­tion on another con­ti­nent, to deliv­ery in the US. While joy­ful and a won­der­ful learn­ing oppor­tu­nity for us and for the women, the project leaves us with a remain­ing trial – cre­at­ing demand and sus­tain­abil­ity so that the women always have pro­duc­tive projects in the pipe-line.

pamba necklace

A recent “tri­umph project” is the “SoH Heart Paint­ing.” Penny Tay­lor, a good friend of Pamba Toto, served with a Hope’s Promise Short Term Mis­sion team in Kenya last year. We sent her over with paint and can­vas, and she worked with each SoH child to paint a heart in a sec­tion of the paint­ing. She chris­tened the art­work “Many Hearts, One Fam­ily.” As Pamba Toto sells fine art giclee prints of the piece, prof­its return to directly ben­e­fit the young artists!

Pamba artOne of our BB work­ers came across this paint­ing in a church in Sheri­dan,WY last week, and imme­di­ately rec­og­nized it as Pamba’s.  What a joy it is to see the work of the Lord spread­ing world wide — from Kenya to Wyoming!

How have you seen God pro­vide for Pamba Toto?

Before Pamba Toto or SoH began, in 2005 I spent 7 ½ months in Kenya adopt­ing our daugh­ter from the Mother Teresa orphan­age. Near the end of my sojourn, a dear mutual friend of mine and Debbie’s, Mama Karau, told me about a very ill mem­ber of Math­are Wor­ship Cen­tre, the church she and her hus­band pio­neered in the sec­ond largest slum in Nairobi. The woman, HIV+, begged Mama Karau to take care of her twin babies when she died.

Mama Karau and I and Deb­bie began to dream together of a vision Mama had car­ried close toher heart for many years, a small home for orphans. I spoke with the Direc­tor of Hope’s Promise, the adop­tion agency which helped us adopt our
Kenyan chil­dren and also oper­ates small fam­ily homes for orphans around the world; and the orga­ni­za­tion agreed to open an orphan care min­istry in Kenya. Then, in 2008, in an unbe­liev­able mir­a­cle, a church con­tacted Hope’s Promise out-of-the-blue. They con­nected through friends of friends to a man who once trav­eled to Kenya with Brian and Deb­bie. Unbe­knownst to Brian and Deb­bie, the church formed rela­tion­ships in Kenya based on the man’s refer­ral; and, while serv­ing in Kenya in other capac­i­ties, a team hap­pened to visit Sanc­tu­ary of Hope. They were so moved by the love of the SoH fam­ily that they decided to track down Hope’s Promise and ask if they could fund the open­ing and one year of oper­a­tions for a sec­ond home!

Pamba Debbie

As an orga­ni­za­tion, what are you most excited about right now?

We are incred­i­bly grate­ful for a group of stu­dents at the Rocky Moun­tain Col­lege of Mon­tana who are involved with Enac­tus and chose Pamba Toto as the recip­i­ents of their efforts. Enac­tus is “an inter­na­tional orga­ni­za­tion that con­nects stu­dents, aca­d­e­mic and busi­ness lead­ers through entrepreneurial-based projects that empower peo­ple to trans­form oppor­tu­ni­ties into real, sus­tain­able progress for them­selves and their com­mu­ni­ties.” The stu­dents wrote a busi­ness plan for Pamba Toto and secured grants through The Coca Cola Foundation’s Uncap Oppor­tu­ni­ties for Women and Sam’s Club Step Up for Small Busi­ness. These funds pro­vided much needed Quick-books and train­ing as well as an I-Pad and Square Cube.

We can’t wait to see what the future holds for you! What are some of your hopes and goals for 2015?

Last year, we part­nered with the Texas PTA to pro­vide $7000 of pre-purchased inven­tory for a con­fer­ence. We would love to see these types of oppor­tu­ni­ties expand as more peo­ple hear about our prod­ucts and the min­istry we sup­port. A huge step for­ward toward this goal and also toward empow­er­ing more vol­un­teer sell­ers is work­ing with Enac­tus to set up Quick-books.

We are also excited about a cou­ple key Kenyan women who are rais­ing up arti­san co-ops for women in slums. We hope to increas­ingly bring prod­ucts from these co-ops to mar­ket through Pamba Toto, thereby gen­er­at­ing eco­nomic devel­op­ment and indi­rectly eas­ing the orphan prob­lem as women are able to remain healthy and ade­quately pro­vide for their children.

Ulti­mately, we want to increase our dona­tions steadily so that fund­ing for the two exist­ing homes sta­bi­lizes and a third (and more) homes can be opened.

Pamba boyPamba boy 3Pamba boy 2

Want to know how you can help?

Click here to shop Pamba Toto now on Bought Beau­ti­fully!

Fair trade earrings from Pamba TotoPamba Toto Tulipi Painting

Shortly after writ­ing this blog, we heard about the loss of 147 Chris­t­ian stu­dents in Kenya, who had been sin­gled out and killed because of their faith. In the midst of such tragedy, we were com­forted by the words of Colleen’s open let­ter to the ter­ror­ists who com­mit­ted the crime. Read her let­ter here, and join us in pray­ing for the Kenyan com­mu­ni­ties who have been so trag­i­cally affected by this event.


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