Spirit of Arkansas in Africa Update: Sewing school non-profit - KATV - Breaking News, Weather and Razorback Sports

Spirit of Arkansas in Africa Update: Sewing school non-profit expands to include jewelry program

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LITTLE ROCK (KATV) - The approach of a new year signals a new beginning for some women in Africa being helped by a young woman from Little Rock.

Last month, Channel 7 took you to Nairobi, Kenya in our "Spirit of Arkansas in Africa" series. There, Little Rock native Anna Taylor has started a free sewing school for widows, teaching them the skills they need to make a sustainable living.

The non-profit James 127 has sprouted a new branch teaching African women how to make jewelry and then selling the pieces in the U.S.

"It's been a blessing to work with the women, they're a joy to be around and to work with," explained the jewelry program's creator, Jennifer Bentley.

Bentley is a Little Rock native now living in Nairobi Kenya. She's a woman on a mission: to teach African women skills to make a sustainable living.

"The work is something they need to support their families," Bentley said. "They tell me that if they don't go home with money it's very difficult for them."

Housed in the same location as the free sewing school run by Taylor, the women use metal skills and fabric scraps to craft intricate necklaces and earrings.

All of the non-profit's earnings go back into the program, according to Bentley.

The line is called Imani, which is Swahili for "faith". Sales took off in December, selling almost 200 pieces and paving the way for an new line in 2014.

"Some of them are married but their husbands may not have consistent work so they're having trouble supporting their families," Bentley said.

The success creates work for more women in Nairobi struggling to provide for their families.

The jewelry is currently sold at the Clinton Museum Store and Good Earth in Little Rock. The organizers hope to expand to additional stores in 2014.

Part 1: Young Arkansan brings hope to widows in Africa
Part 2: The gift that saves lives
Part 3: Arkansans teach love to orphans