Meaning "smile/laughter," Kicheko is a socially conscious brand that designs, finds and makes distinctive pieces that invest in children's education in the Congo.
Kicheko, means "smile/laughter" in Swahili, and is a socially conscious brand that designs and makes beautiful pieces that also do good by investing in education for marginalized children in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Traveling to Congo each year to visit a community and locally-led organization that provides holistic care for orphaned children, founder, Sarah Bayot, desired a sustainable means of supporting the life-giving work in eastern Congo from D.C. beyond charitable avenues. Selling handmade button earrings at a university fair in 2012, Kicheko's aesthetic and product offerings have grown along with demand. In 2014, Kicheko became an official D.C.-based business whose goal is to inspire, engage and bridge fashion, local business, and grassroots community development. Kicheko's hope is that our products and the shared stories and people in progress bring a smile to you and those you gift.
Born out of a love for creativity and an educational background in international affairs and development, Kicheko started with the belief that there is a space in the realm of business and fashion to provide gorgeous and fun product while having a positive impact. Over the past three years, Kicheko has created exclusive product for musicians, provided as many as 500 pairs for local churches, and continues to participate in local craft and flea markets in the DC area. Kicheko's future hopes are to partner with brick and mortar stores, online shops, nonprofit organizations and other artists to bring unique goods and deepen impact.
What We Heard About Congo
When Congo comes up in the news, it most likely centers around the longstanding conflict, conflict minerals, corruption, lack of infrastructure, or all of the above. Local and international rebels find safe havens in the jungles and mountains of the East and continue to cause instability for local populations. Natural resources and competition for control of minerals in the East also fuel the conflict. Some cite the conflict in the Congo being one of the the deadliest since World War II, with an estimated 5 million dead as a result. Congo is one of the worst places in the world to be a woman - mass rape is used as a tactic of the conflict threatening the fabric of families and communities. These are some of the headlines that highlight the challenges faced by the Congolese as many hope for peace and stability after more than 15 years of conflict, poverty and neglect.
What We Experienced
These narratives and facts are overwhelming and can be paralyzing but they are not the whole story. For four years now, I have traveled with a group of friends and peers to the eastern region of the Congo to see for ourselves this place that we have read so much about. Some of us have had the privilege of seeing and experiencing more of the story firsthand as we have traveled to the Congo each year and continue to keep in touch with our friends there throughout the seasons. We've seen the ascending tall hills that surround Uvira, walked on the volcanic rock in Goma, heard about the rain forests to the north and marveled at the vast lakes in the region. The landscapes are breathtaking and it is easy to see how the land is endowed with so much and all the potential that exists. The beauty also extends to the people we have had the privilege of meeting and getting to know throughout the years. From the heartfelt greetings, genuine smiles and hospitality that is extended to us, we have so much to learn from them and the resilience and joy they genuinely carry with them. We know a local pastor with a father's heart who began a center for children who were orphaned by the conflict in order to provide them a safe space to grow up, go to school, and hope for a better future. We know a social worker who makes the journey from Burundi on a weekly basis to help care for these children. We know the gorgeous smiles and joy that the cooks and the mamas in the local community choose to share despite difficult circumstances. We have witnessed the close knit and communal spirit of these communities despite forces trying to tear them apart. It is a country of paradox and a distressed history but it is also very much a country of hope and beauty.
In my travels, it has been uplifting to see their joy and an honor that they share it with us so generously. Even in the midst of poverty, sickness, and the looming threat of instability that continues - they hold fast to community and to hope. Smiles and laughter can be healing medicine and it can perpetuate catharsis and joy. There is a sweetness in the laugh of a child and Kicheko is committed to protecting and preserving these precious years of childhood. Every sale of Kicheko goes towards supporting capacity building initiatives and education efforts in eastern Congo.
How It Works
Kicheko donates 30% of proceeds from sales towards programs and organizations that provide education for marginalized children in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Currently, Kicheko is working with Mango Tree School, a primary school based in Uvira that educates over 200 primary-level students in the area who cannot afford the school fees and other costs associated with attending school. In 2013, the proceeds from Kicheko were used to provide school fees and supplies for children who have been orphaned by the conflict. In Q1 of 2014, the proceeds are being used to help construct a 6-classroom brick school building for the Mango Tree School. This facility will provide better environments and a concentrated learning space for each of the primary school classes. In Q2, Kicheko committed to sponsor one of the older boys care and school fees for one year.
We are looking forward to doing more and developing more partnerships along the way! Thank you for your support and sharing your Kicheko!
30% of proceeds from each purchase invests in education for marginalized children in the DR Congo