As nations around the world battle crisis, one small group of laid-back southern Californian guys found a creative way to reach out. They took a craft they knew well, crocheting with needle and yarn, and turned it into a mission to empower the women of Northern Uganda.
“Buy a hat, change a life,” is the message being spread by Krochet Kids International, the group that started the operation with just a handful of women, some friends and a hut. Now this once small company is teaming up with the action sports industry giant Volcom. Together they have created a limited edition Fall 2011 collection, bringing awareness and education to a whole new demographic of people.
“We’re always looking for new and creative ways to engage people in caring and loving people around the globe,” explains Kohl Crecelius, CEO and co-founder of the organization. “Volcom helps provide a whole new audience to learn about the work we are doing and the ways in which people can get involved to do their part in sharing the stories of this region and the individuals there.”
The “stories of this region” are exactly what motivated Crecelius and his friends to help Uganda in the first place. As the rebel army left, there were long lasting effects on the Acholi people. The citizens were feeling empty, hopeless, and wondered if they’d ever get out of the “temporary” camps that had become their only home.
“They were living in complete dependency of the government and aid organizations for their every need. There existed a lack of dignity and of hope, and we wanted to do something about it,” explains Crecelius. According to him, some of the humanitarian aid had unintentionally create a cycle of dependency. Krochet Kids aims to break the cycle by focusing on the empowerment of women and teaching them skills, in turn creating a future for their entire families. “We seek to equip individuals and communities with the knowledge and resources to pull themselves out of poverty and into self-reliant futures,” he adds.
As of now, over one hundred people go to the compounds in Africa to crochet and earn a wage, be trained on financial management and personal health and more. “They are sending their kids, as well as their brothers and sisters, through school. They are starting their own businesses. They are serving as proof that the people of this region are capable of achieving great things,” Crecelius states. Now Krochet Kids has plans to go into Peru, modeling their next efforts after their work in Northern Uganda.
He also reiterates the company aims to remain authentic, even through times of change and growth. Every hat made is still signed by the woman who crocheted it. “You can look up every woman’s profile and even write her a thank you note! You can encourage her in her dreams and future aspirations. That’s powerful,” he says.
Photo credit: David Garvin