Bag of Hope Project Inspires South Africa Women

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Staff Report

Anne Jenkins, owner of Anne Jenkins Art Gallery in Milford, started The Bag of Hope project in December 2008 when still living in Georgia. A group of unskilled women in rural Kwa-Zulu Natal, in Jenkins’ native South Africa, formed a support group for those living with HIVand AIDS, especially the orphaned children.

But, with a lack of skills, their problem was how to make some money. There may be a lack skills but not determination. They believe in Vukuzakhe, Zulu for “Wake up and do it for yourself.“ Thus was formed the Amandwe Support Group (ASG) – Amandawe is the area they live in. They are learning to sew and embroider, tutored by Jenkins‘ sister. They produce little fabric landscapes or pictures made from donated handmade and dyed fabric and thread. Each picture is different and charmingly simple. Some depict African life, some are whimsical. They send the landscapes to Jenkins. Once here, Jenkins’ husband, Lee Nelson, irons them on to canvas tote bags. Jenkins set up a website and the bags sell at her gallery for $30.

Rhonda Bond of the LadyBug Shop, heard about the project and wanted to support the group. Bond requested ladybug themed landscapes. These were delivered last week and are now on sale at the LadyBug Shop for $30.

The ASG think big – they participated in constructing a community center to provide education, support and material help for the needy. They run a soup kitchen and feeding program for the little ones, a portion of the money from these bags goes directly to the soup kitchen. This is a safe zone for the children. It’s a dangerous world for them with no adults to help, support and to guide them.

The price per bag has been set to cover the cost of the bags, ironing transfers, postage with the balance of $25- which is equivalent to nearly R200 in local currency, think of getting the equivalent of $200 buying power – going to the group, Jenkins added. The first year, 2009, Jenkins sent $1200, 2010 was a lower $900 but already in 2011 they have sent $800 and have another transfer to go before the end of the year.

“In Georgia our bank, BB&T, sent 2-3 transfers a year for us for free,” Jenkins said. “Unfortunately I haven’t been able to persuade M&T to do the same since we moved to Delaware. I’m hoping they will change their mind. About $100-150 a year may not seem like a lot of money to folks here, but to have to take that out to pay for the transfers really impacts the support group.”

Whenever people talk about what a hard time we all are having, Jenkins added, she realizes we are absolutely fine – the courage these ladies show is amazing. Every $50 waived by the bank will mean the same as a few hundred bucks worth of help to the little ones.

Not only is buying The Bag of Hope an act of generosity which helps the group, it is also green, Jenkins noted. The bag can be used for a variety of things – shopping or carrying a laptop computer and myriad other things. And they make wonderful Christmas gifts – inexpensive, handy and it helps people trying to help themselves.

The website is www.thebagofhope.com and the totes are on sale at Jenkins’ gallery and at The LadyBug Shop on NW Front Street in Milford. For more information, call Jenkins (302) 323-6629.