Grace Wanjala: Sewing her own future
Grace Wanjala began school as a young girl, but was forced to abandon her studies at age 14, due to a lack of funding.
Grace, now 22 years old, remembered putting away her school uniform at Class Eight, knowing in the back of her mind that she would never put it on again. This was a real blow for the young girl, but Grace had no one to pay her school fees expect for her father who had lost his job.
Grace accepted her situation and tried to make the best of it. Regardless of the setbacks, Grace had hope that there would still be a great future for her and her sister, who was also forced to abandon her schooling at Form Three. Since she had been blessed with a beautiful voice, Grace joined the choir near her home in Wundanyi and began to participate in ongoing singing practices.
Grace said her time with the choir reminded her of going to school, saying, “We use to behave like school children. We would wake up early in the morning, do house chores and prepare lunch for our siblings who were in school at lower levels. After lunch we would walk with them and leave each other at a juncture where they would go to school as we would go for choir practice. The choir to us seemed like a school and through this we were able to wash away the unspeakable thoughts of being out of school, but at night tears watered my bed. I could not comprehend a life or a future without education.”
Although she never returned to school, Grace was able to attend a three-day training program at Shin Ace Garments Kenya, an apparel enterprise in Mombasa, to learn how to sew. Grace found that she had a knack for sewing, and could finish a garment without much difficulty. When she heard about the eco-factory at Wildlife Works, she applied for employment. She passed her interview, showing off her abilities to make t-shirts from 100% organic cotton fabric, and got the job.
Today she is working at the Wildlife Works eco-factory Kasigau Corridor REDD+ Project making T-shirts for our partnership with PUMA, and earns enough money to buy clothes for herself, do her hair and save up funds for future use. Her sister Presila, is also working at the eco-factory, but has taken some time off for maternity leave. Grace says she is very grateful for the opportunity Wildlife Works has given her. We are grateful to have such talented employees!