When Gwen and John Meyer take a yearly vacation, they don’t stay close to home. But “home” is what they found in rural areas of Kenya, Africa. Since 2007, they have been using their skills in fiber crafts and sheep farming, to provide training in spinning, knitting, weaving, and dyeing to the women of the Molo Wool Project.
As directors of Friends of Kenya Schools and Wildlife (FKSW), a non-profit corporation in Oregon, FKSW partners with Networking for EcoFarming in Africa, a Kenyan NGO, to support community development. Part of this development meant learning how to use the wool from the local sheep. Of course, Gwen, being a spinner, figured out the answer to that. She constructed a make-shift wheel and showed the women that they, too, could create something financially meaningful from the sheep’s bi-product. Soon followed a gift of Ashford spinning wheels, made by Thrums LLC; it meant the women could now spin efficiently.
Sixteen women of the Karunga Women’s Group form the Molo Wool Project. Of these, six of them are spinners, making yarns from the fleece of local sheep and using local plant materials as colorants. But it’s what they do with this yarn that demonstrates their pure artisan ingenuity. Inspired primarily from the natural world around them, they turn their surroundings into knitted animals. The group can make over sixty different stuffed animals— cats, giraffes, goats, horses, lions, zebras, etc. —even Peter Rabbit!
This Project has provided a supportive environment for the women. It’s helped them earn over 50 percent of their income from the sales of these critters. They’ve been able to provide for their families—buying plots of land, housing materials, feeding and dressing their children. And it’s brought dignity into their lives.
Since 2007 FKSW donors have given funds to provide advanced skills training in fiber arts, business and group leadership, dye for the wool, knitting needles, spinning wheels and looms, seedlings for a tree nursery, seedlings to plant an acre of mulberry trees for a silkworm project and an industrial Italian knitting machine.
Thanks to Gwen Meyer for providing this information, the photos, and all the support given to the Kenyan groups.