Two Worlds Within
With the help of the Baden-Württemberg-STIPENDIUM for Vocationally Qualified People, the professional tailor Sarah Müller taught young Kenyans how to sew. It's a prime example for sustainable developmental aid: In the town of Kikuyu, Kenya, Sarah, who's 25 years old, founded the NYUZI fashion label, with which she helped two of her pupils to get a stable job. Since her roughly six-month stay in East Africa, she's been feeling like living in two worlds.
Sarah, who is from Leinfelden-Echterdingen, draws her motivation from the desire to reconcile her work with her social consciousness. The Karai project for Kenyan children, which is supported by Keniahilfe Schwäbische Alb, offered a welcome opportunity to follow this desire. Beside a children's home, the project also has a vocational centre with an attached tailor shop. Sarah Müller introduced her pupils not only to sewing but also to quality control and marketing strategies – well-needed preparation for their professional lives.
However, the learning process was not one-sided. The material scarcity in the East African country raised Sarah's awareness for the relative abundance in Germany: Since then, she's been increasingly asking herself whether she actually needs this or that. She does see that the rather relaxed “living in the moment” in Kenya has its downsides, but for herself, she has drawn the positive conclusion to be more easy-going in many respects after her return to Germany. What stroke her as especially intense was the almost familial atmosphere at work, which follows the principle of giving and taking, resulting in much more solidarity than in Germany, where she feels there is more “parallel existence” instead of coexistence at the workplace. The interpersonal warmth is also a motor for long-term cooperation: Sarah Müller has a sense of responsibility for her former trainees.
Many of them return that feeling, among them Carolin Nyamburu, who's in her early twenties. Sarah Müller secured one of the very rare jobs in the Kenyan tailoring industry for her. She now works at the newly founded NYUZI label. It bears the Kiswahili name for 'threads', which also stands for interpersonal and intercultural cohesion. A key aspect of work at NYUZI is that the workers work on one product from the beginning to the end, which is psychologically important: When they're done, the junior tailors hold the result of their work in their own hands. Carolin's deep-felt gratitude is an emotional motivation for Sarah Müller to continue to distribute NYUZI
products, which she now sells especially on markets, following her very own path of self-employment.
The products are well-received. They may not be as flawless as other products on the market; they may have rough edges, but conscientious customers like the authenticity of the products and the social contribution they can make with a purchase. The products are so well-received that the product range, which comprises e.g. a multi-functional backpack, is now expanded to include two new models. For this occasion, Sarah Müller will soon go back to Kenya: back into one of the two worlds she bears in her heart.
Click here for the website of the fashion label Sarah Müller has founded in Kenya.
Written by Alexander Wimmer