As part of Hopewell Valley Central High School’s service Global Connections program, led by Dr. David Angwenyi,, several students, HVCHS teachers and a PTO representative traveled to Kenya in mid-July to build upon programs initiated by students before them.
In a partnership with Hopewell-based non-profit organization Seeds to Sew International, five students served as emissaries in the launch of the non-profit’s third women’s sewing co-op. Hopewell Valley Central High School rising Junior Sierra Kochersperger, rising Seniors Avery Bell and Grace Tater, Lawrenceville High School graduate Trisha Mukherjee and rising Senior at Oyster River High School in New Hampshire, Sierra Carpenter, performed a ribbon cutting ceremony for the start of Hopewell-based non-profit Seeds to Sew International’s newest women’s co-op in Dr. Angwenyi’s childhood village.
Since January of this year, the girls raised $1,400 to purchase sewing and knitting machines and raw materials to launch the sewing and knitting program in Nyanchonori, a rural, subsistence farming village where individuals live on less than $2 a day. Like many corners of the world, women and girls are marginalized as education is seen as ‘wasted’ on a girl. The Nyanchonori Seeds to Sew program will allow women and girls in the community to learn a skill and earn income through sewing and knitting school uniforms for their local market. This, in turn, will enable them to feed their families, as well as pay for school fees for their children. Additionally, participants can learn how to sew the multi-purpose “Enkiteng bags” that are sold in the US market at the Seeds to Sew shop in Hopewell Borough, and through other retailers. All net proceeds are then provided back to the participants.
Avery Bell and Sierra Kochersberger were thrilled with their ability to participate, “The experience with the women’s group was so moving and it was meaningful because we had been involved with fundraising for Seeds to Sew and making the program a reality. The Nyanchanori women were so thankful and appreciative and it made me realize how with so little effort, we were able to help a group of women with an opportunity that will change their lives.” Ms. Bell’s mother owns Chance on Main, a boutique on Main Street in Pennington, selling sustainable, artisanal and irresistible products (including Seeds to Sew products) that are handmade, organic, recycled, charitable, fair trade, made in USA and local… and they all have a story.
Ellyn Ito, Founder and Executive Director of Seeds to Sew International said, “We are so proud that our young adults are getting involved and recognizing that they, too, can make a difference – and see that difference first hand. We, at Seeds to Sew International, wish for every person to have the opportunity to be their best selves, and the experience that these students are having is synergistic – the growth that they are experiencing in being a part of this project is helping to foster the growth that our Seeds to Sew participants will experience.”
The site where the program has been implemented is where Dr. David Angwenyi, Hopewell Valley Central High School science teacher, grew up. Dr. Angwenyi gifted the site in support of the Seeds to Sew initiative and broader Global Connections programs designed to foster educational and program collaboration between the West and this rural Kenyan community. “We are developing a center here in the village where I grew up to create a model for engaging people who want to make a difference in the world. The Global Connections Center is a model that will enable individuals and institutions in Kenya and the United States to participate in meaningful, educational, and cultural exchange programs, so as to build global bridges of understanding.”
Dr. Angwenyi has been active in the Hopewell community involving students and community members alike. Together with organizations such as the Hopewell-Keroka Alliance and HVCHS’ Model WHO, he has worked with students in raising funds to purchase mosquito nets, implement clean water initiatives, build tea-buying centers and construct roads that make life better for so many in this rural area.
The students returned from Kenya on Sunday, weary after nearly 24 hours of travel time, but energized and inspired from their service learning experience and the new friends that they made on the other side of the globe.