I Am L3Harris
This was a writeup done by L3Harris the company I work for. It was great that they shared the story of Baskets and Beads.
The homes located in the Kipsongo slum of Kitale, Kenya are small mud huts with tin roofs and dirt floors. The people who live there have no access to kitchens, bathrooms or running water. They gather their drinking water from the river using buckets and often don’t know where their next meal is going to come from – there is no government assistance for the purchase of food. Some of the women resort to prostitution for money to support their families. When I first visited on a group mission trip in 2018, we brought food, blankets, clothing and hope that we could make a difference. What I didn’t know is how this experience would change my life.
As we were preparing to return home, one of the women I met gifted me a handmade beaded necklace made from magazines, and explained that she was desperately looking for someone to sponsor her son’s education. I then learned that the women of Kipsongo had been selling their beaded jewelry at the local market. I knew there was something special about these women and that I had more work to do than what could be accomplished on a single mission trip. So, I formed my nonprofit organization, Dynamic Vision Foundation (Baskets & Beads Kenya), which sells the womens’ handcrafted items to provide them with income and help them out of poverty.
We started with five women artisans and a suitcase half full of beads. Today we have over 30 women involved and we ship products from Kenya regularly. We’ve also expanded to partner with a group in Kenya that makes soapstone. Once regarded as inferior in their community, the women of Kipsongo are now viewed as entrepreneurs and leaders. They have incredible work ethic, and because of their drive to succeed, their attitudes have changed. They believe in themselves and support each other.
Watching this transformation has been extremely rewarding, but running a nonprofit organization comes with many challenges. Baskets & Beads relies on donations to cover the cost of food packs, school fees and other expenses. Many times I have wanted to quit because working a job and this project is intense, but as a retired Air Force veteran, I remember this core value – ‘service before self.’ Until these women can earn enough to leave the slum, I won’t stop.
Baskets & Beads is now my passion and legacy. I believe anyone can make a difference, but you don’t have to go all the way to Kenya to do it. There are all kinds of organizations in your own backyard you can get involved with. Everyone has been through something in life that can spark their own passion for volunteering. By sharing my story, I hope to inspire other others to give back in some small way.