Tabaka Coop – Venture Imports

The Tabaka cooperative was established to eradicate suffering and provide an opportunity for a better quality of life by providing fair wages and the ability to market products outside of Kenya. Extreme destitution spreads throughout the Kisii area of Kenya in eastern Africa. School drop outs, unplanned pregnancies (due to prostitution, frequently forced), child labor, unsafe shelters, high death rates, and unemployment are just some of the difficulties the people there face. Holistic support for the poor is needed to break the cycle of poverty and to provide hope for the future. Tabaka was established to eradicate suffering in this area and provide an opportunity for a better quality of life. Tabaka is a cooperative group of soapstone carvers from the Kisii tribe in Kenya. They believe in empowering their artisans by providing fair wages for their members and marketing opportunities for their products outside of Kenya. The Tabaka cooperative provides loans, product design and development assistance, and advanced payment for their orders. The artisans are also provided with safety equipment and the opportunity to have health insurance. In addition, they offer basic training for youth who are interested in learning skills for their future. Tabaka provides a model for the community by encouraging women as well as men to get involved. Tabaka saves 15% of their income to help orphans, widows, handicapped, elderly, and HIV/AIDS victims whether or not they are part of the Tabaka cooperative. In this way, the community also benefits as the group continues to look for new and innovative ways to make a positive impact. Venture Imports is privileged to partner with Tabaka through selling their uniquely beautiful soapstone craft items. Your purchases ultimately help strengthen the community and help the artisans and their families break the cycle of poverty in the Kisii region of Kenya. About Venture Imports: Venture Imports is a company dedicated to providing employment to people in developing countries by giving them access to North American markets. They have specifically chosen to work with producers in developing countries. They believe that markets work and they want to help them work for everyone. Venture Imports is owned and operated by Jennie Nichols, a graduate of Calvin College, where she earned an undergraduate degree in Economics with a minor in Third World Development. Her studies nurtured her belief that where one is born oftentimes unfairly dictates his or her opportunities in life. This, in turn, fostered a desire to help balance the scales of that inequity. During a college trip to South Africa, she came to believe that a good way to help people in developing countries is to provide them a market to sell their goods, so, in 2001, she started Venture Imports with that goal in mind. After graduating, Jennie returned to Africa to look for products and meet local artists. This time, in addition to returning to South Africa, she expanded her visit to include Kenya and Zimbabwe. It was in Zimbabwe that she was introduced to the carvings of the Shona people. Painstakingly chiseled from stone, Shona sculptures are gorgeous works of art, and immediately Jennie fell in love with them. In 2009, Venture Imports expanded to include sculptures from Kenya, acquiring the Kisii soapstone product line. With success came opportunities to make real differences in the lives of the artists abroad, who have benefited in various ways. Most of the artists use the money for basic necessities like food for their families and school fees for their children. While the money is usually a survival tool, some of them are able to use some of the money to provide for HIV orphans. Every dollar makes an impact: in the countries in which Venture works, where unemployment is so high, it typically takes only one person with a job to provide for an entire extended family.
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