Kipepeo blog

Kipepeo Designs in Kenya has a website April 21 2015

We are excited to announce that the website in Kenya is now up and running - if you would like to see what is happening there check it out. Also if you find yourself in Nairobi and would like to visit the project then find details on the website.

A very special offer for our trade customers February 12 2015

We value all our trade customers at Kipepeo Designs as they contribute to the wellbeing of our card makers. Each card they purchase to sell in their shops makes a difference. We are sending them a newsletter today offering them a discount on all the cards that they buy for a limited time only.

A New Year Approaches December 30 2014

As 2014 draws to a close we would like to say a huge thank you to all our customers who have bought cards over the last year. We have sold approaching 18,000 cards, each one made by the women working at Kipepeo Designs and each one helping to transform lives. The greetings card market is still huge in the UK - we still like sending cards. Can I encourage you to continue buying from Kipepeo Designs this year?

By the way, have you said thank you to all the people who have sent you Christmas gifts? Why not choose some cards from Kipepeo Designs to do this - people love receiving something in the post and its way more personal. Here are some ideas of cards you could use.

More cards have arrived November 13 2014

As Christmas approaches most of us get quite excited about what the postman is going to deliver. We have been waiting anxiously for deliveries for weeks as our Christmas cards fly of the shelves and there are requests for more. It has certainly been a busy time for our card makers in Nairobi.

We are glad to announce that some of our post popular cards are now back in stock including the following:

Wise Men Follow a Star

Masai Manger

Exclusive Good Book Company range of Christmas Cards

We recommend getting your orders in quickly if you want to buy cards for this Christmas!

It's that time of year again... card packing September 22 2014

We are packing cards here in the UK again and we'd love you to join us. 

When: Thursday 25th September

Time: 6.30pm - 9.00pm

Where: Kipepeo Designs office

Need more details? contact us on 07984 167717 or

Save the Date August 08 2014


It's that time of year again...Kipepeo Designs are having a packing party on the evening of Thursday August 14th. We're incredibly excited to catch up with all our lovely supporters. Do let us know if you're interested in helping out, and don't forget to save the date.

Please get in contact at:

New Customers, New Stories! August 08 2014


My name is Chloe and I'm very excited to start selling Kipepeo Design's greetings cards on the Isle of Wight. My husband and I came across the project whilst on holiday in Devon. My little boy was very keen on choosing a birthday card for his Granddad and was instantly sure that he would like the Fanta Helicopter card! He was equally sure that we needed to buy the Tuska Beer motorbike for his Uncle (which was very handy as I was about to forget his birthday!). We bought the cards and read about the wonderful work that Kipepeo Designs are doing on the back of the cards. 

We are initially hoping to sell the cards to our friends and family from our loving church and community. We are really looking forward to being a part of Kipepeo!


My summer internship at Kipepeo Designs June 11 2014

My first day as an intern for Kipepeo was thoroughly enjoyable, and I learnt a vast amount in a very short space of time! Despite feeling a little anxious about my role, I was soon put at ease by Rachel, and Kathi- the outgoing intern. They both helped to show me the ropes, and make sure I understood everything. I instantly felt part of the Kipepeo family. Not only was I learning about my day-to-day roles, I was also included in a meeting to discuss the finer business details of the organisation, and to share views of what works best for the internship scheme. In the evening we were joined by about ten others for our 'packing party'. It was lovely to meet some of the people who are so invested in Kipepeo and its success, and by the end we were a very well oiled card-packing machine! It was great fun. I'm so glad I was accepted to do an internship at Kipepeo, as I can really see how much of a difference selling the cards makes to the women in Kibera, and now I can play a small part in that. I'm very much looking forward to the next month, and hope to come up with some bright ideas to boost sales.
Bea Bennett

Contemporary African Fabric arrives at Kipepeo Designs May 29 2014

We know that if we are going to encourage you to keep buying cards we need to be producing new designs. We are very excited about the initial reaction to our latest range. On trend vibrant colours and careful design combine to produce these lovely cards, useful for any occasion. This is a truly  international effort with the design by Sybille Linehart, a Swiss architect in London, the fabric from West Africa bought by an American, the paper made in Nairobi by our card makers and the design put together by our artist at Kipeepo, Syprose. We are hoping that other similar designs will follow and will keep you posted. The fabric used to make these cards will vary according to availability so we cannot specify the colours on the website but can guarantee that they will be beautiful!


In March, during my last visit to Kipepeo Designs, I worked with Syprose to produce some samples. Her ability to cut stencils and put together something beautiful was a joy to see.


This weekend we are expecting several boxes of cards to arrive in London with a great friend of Kipepeo Designs, Anna Mosby. We look forward to receiving your orders and watching our elephants march out of the office!

Save the date! May 27 2014


It's that time of year again...Kipepeo Designs are having a packing party on the evening of June the 5th. We're incredibly excited to catch up with all our lovely supporters. Do let us know if you're interested in helping out, and don't forget to save the date.

Please get in contact at:

CRE International, Sandown 2014 May 16 2014

Our chairperson of the board of trustees, Lee Taylor and our intern Kathi have been at CRE all week, trying to make new connections and spread the word about Kipepeo Designs. So far it's been extremely rewarding, and we would like to thank everyone for their support. 

Interns! April 11 2014


We have been conducting several internship interviews over this past week. We've met some wonderful individuals who have all shown incredible enthusiasm in helping Kipepeo Designs continue their work. We're incredibly excited about the next couple of months! If you would like to find out about internship opportunities, please don't hesitate to contact us at


Kibera, Spring 2014. April 06 2014

Our Director took a trip to Kenya at the end of March to catch up with all the women that work for Kipepeo Designs. While making sure that the women were keeping well, and informing them of the progress being made back in London- she also introduced some of our new ideas and designs to them. Here are some photos from her trip:

Our new intern! April 02 2014

 Our new intern, Kathi, joined us in the office yesterday. We took the time to show her the ropes and make her familiar with the day to day activities of life as a member of the Kipepeo Designs team. We're very much looking forward to having her onboard. 

There is still time... March 24 2014

Mothers Day is next Sunday and the clocks go forward too (don't forget). If you order by Thursday we can still get Mothers Day cards to you in time for you to send it.We think there is something special about choosing a card that has been carefully made by a mother like Mary, who has just had her first baby, and helping to transform her life.


Fully stocked! March 24 2014

After a short trip to Nairobi to visit the women that work for us, the Director of Kipepeo Designs returned to the UK with several large, brown boxes that were packed with cards! We're all incredibly excited about being fully stocked again, so we can continue to send out our cards to you. We cannot wait to receive the cards with the new 'elephant' designs- which are due to go into production very soon.

Lee Taylor at Lingfield Park March 20 2014

This is Lee Taylor, newly appointed chairperson of the board of trustees that oversees the work of Kipepeo Designs in the UK. A couple of weeks ago we were invited to be part of a Fair Trade Village at Lingfield Park Race Course. Here you can see Lee selling cards and changing lives. We are so grateful for the time and energy she puts into Kipepeo Designs. A visit to Nairobi to visit the card makers has helped Lee to really appreciate what happens when you buy greetings cards from us.

New designs in progress March 20 2014

We are very aware that it is some time since we offered our customers some new designs. However we are excited as on our last trip to Nairobi we made some progress with some new designs. Syprose, one of our very able card designers in Kibera was able to produce some samples that we are keen to show you. There are just a few technical issues to be ironed out and then we will be ready to go into production. Once the new designs arrive we will be sure to tell you.

Reflections on Poverty from our intern, Jo Bundo March 19 2014

Whilst interning at Kipepeo, I have been taking an online course called  ‘Challenges of Global Poverty’ on that looks at the challenges of massive and persistent global poverty.  For me, it has been an excellent opportunity to engage with leading scholars in the field and learn about the issues that are still burdening the global south. It has also allowed me to better understand the objectives of Kipepeo designs, and the depths of poverty that the women in Kibera are exposed to. The course details the extreme poverty that cripples so many in the developing world, something which is all too familiar in Kibera, Nairobi.

One of the major themes that is addressed through the lectures is the idea of a poverty traps- it explores the ways in which individuals can succumb to them, and whether or not government policy and international aid can help to over come them.

An interesting point that surfaced during the lectures was the idea that income today can affect your income tomorrow.  For example, if an individual does not have the income to consume the sufficient amount of calories in order to undertake a full days work, they cannot work, thus facilitating the creation of poverty traps.  Eating the minimum amount of calories required only works to keep your body alive, and leaves little space to undertake work.

Another way in which income today can affect your income tomorrow is if an individual does not have the income to fund their child’s educational pursuits, and requires them to enter the labour market in order to survive. Their life chances are drastically reduced, and will potentially face the same levels of poverty that the parent is exposed to- and thus a poverty trap is created.

In the context of Kipepeo Designs, it is crucial to understand that the work that these women carry out, not only helps to alleviate them from their plights, but also allows for their children to have a better future. The money that they receive allows for them to ensure that their basic needs are met, aids their escape from the slums of Kibera, and directly impacts their children’s future. In addition, the psychological and emotional support that the women receive will help for them to not fall victim to the psychological problems that arise from extreme poverty, therefore allowing them to be more productive and carry out work.

For me, the most concerning issue that is discussed in the lectures, is the issue of healthcare.  For developing countries to prosper, grow and escape poverty, a healthy citizenry is key. However, in developing countries this is a difficult goal to achieve. Those individuals who are battling extreme poverty are less likely to invest in preventative care because the cost they will incur happens today, and the benefits are in the future. People are more likely to invest in health care if they can physically see and feel that they are unwell, but by then it are often too late.  In addition, if there is a chance that they may not get the said disease, then the desire to invest in preventative care becomes less attractive. Government initiatives to help drive individuals towards investing in health care are usually unsuccessful. They require a high level of trust between a government and it’s citizens, which is hard to gain in developing countries because they have proven disastrous in the past. An example of a failed government initiative is the MMR vaccine and autism in the USA, and the Polio vaccine and sterilization in India.

One of the reasons as to why the work Kipepeo undertakes is so important, is because the women that work for us are able to create a strong support system with each other, share their experiences, and educate one other on basic means of survival. In addition, the payment they receive can be used in order to get health care and prevent them from falling victim to curable diseases.

So far, the course has given me invaluable insight into the struggles that individuals living in extreme poverty face, as well as the problems that respective governments have in trying to create policy that works to reduce poverty.  It has increased my drive and determination for wanting to help Kipepeo Designs and the women in Kibera. However, although we sell a large number of cards, unfortunately the women that work for us in Kibera need more work in order to financially meet their most basic needs.  Please help us spread the message by recommending us to your friends and family. Buy cards... change lives.

Jo Bundo, March 2014

All our latest news. February 14 2014

All our latest news is now available in our Spring Newsletter. Enjoy reading what our interns and some of the people in Nairobi are saying about life with Kipepeo Designs.



Kipepeo Design's Production Manager tells us how Kipepeo changes lives! February 05 2014


How long did you live in Kibera and what was it like?
I lived in Kibera for twelve years, in a 12’x12’ one roomed house. Some of the most difficult things about living there were the very small sizes of the houses, the disgusting smells, and the unclean, as well as lack of, water. The congestion of people and the noise that they made was also very difficult to live with.
Where do you live now?
I managed to move out of Kibera into a fresh environment and I now live in a two-bedroom house in Satelite, Riruta. My new house is spacious, has a separate bathroom and toilet, and has clean water. The house is also far from illicit drinks, and my husband has managed to take control of his drinking habits.
Was there anything good about living in Kibera?
There were of course good things about living in Kibera - I had many friends, most of the food supplies are cheap, and there was no bus fare when going to work. I needed an independent life out of crowds. Life is different now because the kids have space to play around, and are around a fresh and clean environment.
Have any of the other card makers moved away from Kibera?
One friend was living in 12’x12' single roomed house. She lived in Kibera for 14 years and has moved to Kayole in Eastlands of Nairobi. She lives in a two bedroom, self-contained house with clean water. Another lived in Kibera for 11 yrs. She now lives in Satelite, Kabiria in a blocked two roomed house with clean water, bathroom and a toilet.

Kipepeo Designs - a Kenyan perspective January 28 2014

Seven years ago, Ki’pe’peo designs was a small project, hidden away in Kibera struggling to find its identity and scrambling for resources just like every other young organization in the sprawling Kibera slum.

Over the years we have had our varying seasons, but throughout, the hand of God has been evident. As we walked through the dark valleys, uncertain of tomorrow, He carried us through. From the beaten downcast women who first walked through the doors, to the now vibrant ladies who sigh in hope every time they talk of Ki’pe’peo and are amazed at what the Lord has done in their lives.

The fact that we now have a decent space to come to every morning, and work to fill the hours is a testament of what God can do. The past year has been especially phenomenal, as for the first time in a long time we felt like we were settled. There were very few anxious moments when we wondered where our next job would come from.

This past year has also brought us into contact with many amazing people eager to support our cause. They have visited us at our home, prayed with us, talked to us sharing their lives, played with us (for we do enjoy getting silly every now and then), and have endeavoured to spread the word to their family and friends further growing our networks.

Our latest home has been a Godsend, as it allowed us to become more accessible to our visitors, given us an atmosphere of security and wellbeing, ample space to facilitate our expansion, developed synergy among us, and has been a welcome change of environment for most of us still living in the slum. We now can visualize the possibility of coexisting with our neighbours outside Kibera.

The Lord, through all our clients, friends and partners , provided adequate work which for us is a direct translation to food, shelter, education, medical care, clothes. We do not take any of these people for granted, and we would like to extend our sincere gratitude to each and every one who has purchased our cards. You truly have saved lives. Another special category of individuals are those who have gone beyond their call of duty, and have used their skills to improve our product be it in marketing, sales, accounting, business development, packaging, public relations, all of which have contributed immensely to what Ki’pe’peo has become.

As we usher in the New Year, we want to renew our commitment to continually improving on the cards we produce, so it will never have to be a difficult choice for anyone contemplating what to get for a loved one. We continue to pray for you, as it is through your generosity that the women of Kipepeo and their families can continue to march on in hope.

Harriet Were

January 2014 

Guest post from Chris Haughton December 17 2013

Kipepeo Cards

17 DECEMBER, 2013 |  BY   |  NO COMMENTS

 Screen Shot 2013-02-18 at 15.51.01

I’m very proud to have helped set up a new screen printing facility and designs with Kipepeo cards in the Kibera slum in Nairobi, Kenya. 

I met Rachel the founder of Kipepeo at an event in the People’s Supermarket which we were both speaking at. Kipepeo was set up as a Christian project which, as an atheist, is something i would usually run a mile from, but i was so taken by Rachels generosity and enthusiasm that i felt it was something really worth working on. They have set up a project in the Kibera slum which has grown to 30 women, they make handmade paper cards from waste paper, Rachel works at this as a full time unpaid volunteer and from her stories I could see she had nothing but the womens’ interest at heart. They are working in very basic conditions without running water and have overcome huge obstacles, including being held hostage at gunpoint but still she stuck at it with a smile, I really respect what she is doing.




However, despite all the good intentions the project was not actually funding itself and was only running because of all the hours Rachel was putting in. The cards themselves are lovingly hand painted or collaged from materials like old cola cans and sweet wrappers. Some of them are very beautiful but as cute as they are, I think its fair to say they resemble more of an school art project than something that might compete on the shelves of stores, they were also very time consuming and so costly to produce. Mainly the cards were bought by church groups who are affiliated to the project or know the backstory rather than the general public looking for an eyecatching card. We discussed this over a coffee and I had the idea of using rubber stamps to cheaply produce colourful designs. I did some tests but the card was too rough to hold the ink. I suggested screen printing but it would require a lot of training and equipment and because the area doesnt even have running water it would be a very tricky undertaking without a hose. Rachel was keen to try anything to make the cards more saleable, so in the end I suggested we send Marcroy, a screenprinter who set up Marcroy had been helping me at the time to organise the NODE Design Museum show. I designed 6 two colour screenprint images as a test batch. With a £1000 donation to Kipepeo, Marcroy was then sent off to Nairobi armed with 12 screens and a squeegee. The results of which you can see see below.

Screen Shot 2013-12-10 at 00.43.11

If you would like to order these cards for personal or wholesale please contact Rachel or visit the Kipepeo shop here


Also, the intention with setting up this screen print facility is to be able to produce many other new designs, if you have some saleable designs which you would be willing to volunteer, I am sure they would be gratefully received.

It isn't long until Christmas September 10 2013

We have already had two orders for Christmas cards in the office - that is very scary but also very organised. 

I wonder whether you have started thinking about what you will do this Christmas? We thought we would offer you an incentive to be organised too and will take 25% off some of our Christmas cards while we wait for our new designs to arrive. Just enter the code 'Christmas Discount' when you check out if you are buying cards on line. Alternatively we will discount any order we receive directly by email or phone.

The cards that are on offer are as follows:

1. Dove of Peace and Dove of Peace on brown paper

2. Festive Fir

3. Glittering Angel and Glittering Angel on white paper

4. Jolly Robin

5. The King's Crown and The King's Crown on brown paper

A wedding to celebrate. September 10 2013

A very exciting box was delivered to the Kipepeo Designs office today - it had travelled over 4000 miles and contained the wedding stationery for a couple getting married in just a few weeks time. 

There are orders of service covers ready to have the inserts slipped in and thank you cards to match.

Mention the word wedding in the UK and anybody trying to sell you something will add a few 0s to the selling price. We work as a not for profit company and our aim is to provide work for women living in Kibera Slum. This couple have truly helped to transform lives by choosing to buy their stationery from Kipepeo Designs.

If you would like to do the same contact us by email at

2 Weeks at Kipepeo Designs by Mica Jones August 16 2013

For the past two weeks I have been working along side the saint herself Rachel Baughen, Founder of Kipepeo Designs. Having just completed my degree in Politics and Sociology I was keen to gain some insight into how a charity was run and what work was involved to empower women through trade. I am passionate about human rights and the work of Kipepeo in Kibera inspired me to get involved with a small charity. From the moment I started, I realised the parallels of running a small charity to running a small business. Our sales this year were unfortunately down so I explored the marketing side of things by conducting follow up calls to Fair Trade stores all over the country to see if they had received our sample cards and were keen to place an order. After my first call I managed to get over my nerves slightly, as Rachel reminded me of who this was for, with an encouraging, ‘just think of the women’. I had soon got through my list and felt immediately a valued part of Kipepeo.

             Within my first week I had met with our screen printer, and card designer, heard news from Kenya and packaged five orders. This was not going to be a dull internship of making tea and coffee and listening in on meetings. I instantly engaged with Rachel voicing my ideas to increase sales and gaining an online presence through social media, this was listened to with vibrant encouragement and a big grin, this enthusiasm must have been familiar.

            After my first week I was exhausted but keen to spread the word of Kipepeo to everyone and anyone who would listen. My family were overjoyed to hear of my passion for work and being a part of the team. The second week was filled with stock sheets, press packs and new opportunities to design cards. This was a brief but wonderful experience with such a fantastic charity. I’ve learnt plenty and gained confidence in my ability to support such a great cause. I would definitely recommend this to any student or graduate keen to learn the ins and outs of the third sector. 

Life as an intern with Kipepeo Designs August 07 2013

“As an International Development student, I was required to find an internship for my degree - little did I know when I started working with Rachel at Kipepeo that I would not only be immersed into the world of development, but also gain experience in marketing, sales, design, business and spirituality. One of my main interests and passions is working with women in the developing world, so my two-week trip to Kibera at the start of my internship was an incredible experience. I was able to see the real impact and change working with Kipepeo makes to the women’s lives, their families and their community. Back in London, I have worked along side Rachel with the day-to-day management of the NGO. Working so closely to the director of a charity is a rare and invaluable experience. I have been able to be actively involved in the exciting decision-making surrounding new card designs, new donor initiatives whilst being responsible for the retail side of the market. My hopes for the internship were to understand and experience what it is like to work for an NGO; I have come away with a deep appreciation of the hard work that is involved in running an NGO. Interning at Kipepeo has gone above and beyond my expectations, and I am more determined than ever to work in the field of development, and further the incredible work Kipepeo does empowering women.” by Nico Stevens


If you are interested in joining us for an internship you are welcome to get in touch.

Guest Blog - Microfinance and Savings within Kipepeo July 15 2013

Alissa Wachter, a friend of Kipepeo has written a fascinating post about the microfinance aspect of Kipepeo. Alissa has been living in Kenya working on a Masters in Transformational Urban Leadership with Azusa Pacific University, a program focused on holistic Christian development in urban slums around the world. Here she talks about her experience with working with Kipepeo:


One of the most interesting and rewarding experiences I have had in Kenya thus far has been participating in a microfinance internship. I volunteer with a Christian organization called Kipepeo, meaning “butterfly” in Swahili, which teaches women from the Kibera slum how to make handmade cards from recycled materials for an income that are sold around the world through fair trade distributors. The members stay with Kipepeo for five years while learning important personal finance principles and Christian discipleship.

In addition to card-making and training, the women participate in a savings group. Each woman contributes 1,000 Kenyan Shillings per month (about $12) that goes into their personal savings accounts. From the collective savings, the group then provides loans to members to start or expand their own small businesses.  The group is completely self-governed, establishing their own rules and regulations, and voting on who should be granted loans. Leadership roles of treasurer, secretary and chairwoman have been established which provide members with newfound empowerment.

Currently, Kibera’s unemployment rate hovers around 50% and those who have work primarily participate in the informal sector or have unstable jobs. Parents often find it challenging to provide for their families and when emergencies arise they fall into extreme debt or cannot covers costs to care for their loved ones. Kipepeo provides women from Kibera with a steady income and a means to save money for the future as well as start their own businesses. I spent many days making cards alongside the women and visiting their homes and churches, asking them about how Kipepeo had impacted their lives. Many of the women told me that as a result, they could afford to put food on their table every day and pay for their children’s school fees. One woman said the following about her experience:

“I have known the significance of love, thanks to Kipepeo. Some of us are orphans. Some are widows. Some are married. Some are separated. Some have been abused. But here we have each other and we can discuss freely and we support each other. We are a family. Kipepeo has changed my life – physically, spiritually, and economically.”


Kipepeo is just one of the many savings, microfinance and employment models changing the lives of people in poverty in Kenya and around the world. To order cards for yourself, donate to the cause, or read the stories of the women who are a part of Kipepeo, visit:  Kipepeo is currently looking for a fair trade card distributor in the United States – if you would like more information, contact Rachel at


Written by Alissa Wachter -

Kipepeo on Instagram July 11 2013

Great news for Instagram lovers - Kipepeo now has its own account! 

Follow 'kipepeodesigns' on Instagram to view beautiful photos of the women and their handmade cards. You can also post photos of your favourite cards and hashtag #kipepeodesigns.


Bargain Packs July 08 2013

Today we have added exciting bargain packs of Maasai cards to our special offers page. The packs of 5 cards include a variety of old stock featuring painted and fabric designs. These designs are typically Kenyan and feature beautiful illustrations of the Maasai tribe, who are a semi-nomadic group living in Kenya and Northern Tanzania. 

These cards capture the vibrant traditions and culture in Africa, and are a great way of sending your greetings on any occasion.

Buy your bargain pack now for just £2.50 before stocks run out!

Summer 2013 Latest Newsletter July 03 2013

Click here to read our latest Summer 2013 Newsletter written by our intern, Nico Stevens.

Exciting contacts in the US June 28 2013

We had a very exciting email today from a new friend that we met on our last visit to Nairobi. Linda Berg, originally from the US, moved to Rwanda a year ago with her family and happened to be staying at the same guest house as we were in June.

After an exhausting overnight flight including a 10 hour delay I was feeling somewhat jaded on our first evening. I sat down to check my emails after supper and wasn't overly thrilled when someone asked me how I liked my computer. However I answered and then started to wake up as the conversation developed. What was I doing in Nairobi? How did I get involved? How long had Kipepeo Designsbeen going? What difference did it make to the women who worked there? There is something about Kipepeo that means however tired I am feeling I can't resist spreading the word. 

By the following morning our new friend was raring to go - could she join us and visit the project now? 'Sure,' we replied and off she went with my daughter Charlotte. I turned up later to the news that Linda had thoroughly enjoyed her visit, had bought a bag full of cards and was thinking about how she could spread the word about Kipepeo Designs amongst her friends. By the evening she had blogged about her visit and asked her friends at home to think about whether they could be involved.

Today we had an email for Linda with a big order for cards - she is taking them back to friends in the US who I think will sell them on. Great job Linda - we are so grateful. 

If you would like to do the same do get in touch. We would love to hear from you. In the UK we spend £1.38bn on greetings cards each year. Why not make the decision to buy fairly traded ones and help to change lives?

 Pictures of Linda visiting the card makers at Kipepeo Designs




My First Visit to Kipepeo June 21 2013 1 Comment

As an International Development student I was required to find a summer internship with an NGO for my course; little did I know when I started working for Kipepeo that I would be immersed into a project that well and truly stole my heart. Both working with the UK director, Rachel, in London and meeting the women in Kibera has taught me immeasurable amounts. The beginning of my two months at Kipepeo started with two weeks in Nairobi; meeting the women and seeing their environment gave me true understanding of the passion that runs through the project.


I was originally drawn to Kipepeo because of its focus on women. Enabling the empowerment of women is something I feel very strongly about; endless amounts of reading and lectures have taught me that educating girls is the key to the reduction of worldwide poverty. Small microfinance projects are said to be essential for sustaining livelihoods and lifting people out of poverty. I was keen to see the theory put into practice with Kipepeo and their women. Working with women at the bottom of Kibera was something that really interested me - not only are the women the lowest in a patriarchal society but living at the bottom of the largest slum in East Africa, truly making them some of the worst off people in Kenya. The value of a project like Kipepeo is endless, allowing women to take control of their lives. The knock-on effect to their children, families and community is vital for reducing poverty.



My first couple of days at the project was spent getting to know the women and understanding the art of card making. The ice was quickly broken and I started to understand that these women are passionate, joyful and full of love – each with their own unbearable tragedies and situations.


Rachel has been very keen that the women should not sit back and become too comfortable within Kipepeo; to be empowered they must always be aiming higher and critically engaging with their situations. With this in mind, after a couple of days Charlotte (Rachel’s daughter) and I carried out an Empowerment Assessment with each of the women, aiming for them to connect with their own lives and think about their dreams for future, allowing them to make established plans. Based on a nursing model of empowerment, each woman is viewed as an individual and as a group we discussed their relationship with God, themselves, other people and creation (Kibera and Kipepeo). The aim of their empowerment set by Rachel was for individuals to be in a right relationship with God, self, others and creation – and what we found were not-so-right relationships that needed Kipepeo’s help and support. The emphasis that each woman is an individual really came across in our findings: Some women felt they had very healthy relationships with God and Christianity yet nothing good to say about themselves. Others told us stories of how they were looking after their own 5 children, plus their nieces and nephews of deceased siblings – yet they had no one to look after them. Despite the difficulties, a relationship that every woman described as ‘good’ was with Kipepeo. It was unanimous that each woman felt they had a union of ‘strong sisters’, and that the burden of life could be shared and supported amongst them. Susan, a paper maker, told us that Kipepeo had taught her ‘to love without boundaries’. This statement has stayed with me ever since, and is a true summary of how the women of Kipepeo, at the bottom of the pile, can still love and smile through their hardships. Each woman made a plan for the future and it was so interesting to see the variety of hopes and dreams - Mebo is determined to open her own salon and we left her practicing on the Kipepeo women in between making cards. On the other hand, Godliver wishes to move up-country to her home and set up a rental tent and chair business. All of their goals are achievable, and with ongoing assessment and planning I left Nairobi feeling optimistic about the empowerment of the women.


Women’s empowerment tends to be a useful phrase for NGOs; it can be used in policies and practices as a tool. I was wary about carrying out an assessment on ‘empowerment’ when it has such ambiguous connotations. However, from the discussions with the women about their lives, it really came across that they are starting to believe they have a voice and can make their own choices. This in itself is an enormous achievement for Kipepeo Designs. However you define empowerment, the fact that the women of society living in the bottom of Kibera no longer feel destitute and now have hope, is evidence of the nourishing environment that Kipepeo offers.


Written by Nico Stevens

Updates on the Kipepeo women June 18 2013

Following our recent trip to Nairobi we have updated the 'Meet the Makers' section of our website.

We arrived to lots of news about the women - new babies, sad passings and moves out of Kibera. After completing individual Empowerment Assessments with each of the women, we have uncovered their hopes and dreams for the future. Each woman now has an individualised plan of action to help them reach their goals.

Check out the updates on the card makers' lives and discover why each card you buy really does change lives.

Water is hard work June 08 2013

If you live in Kibera you do not just go to the bathroom or the kitchen and turn on the tap if you want water. Water is hard work and costs money. You queue with many others at a stand pipe waiting your turn. At the head of the queue you pay your money and fill your 20 litre container. Then begins the long journey home. 

From a young age children learn to carry heavy weights on their head. On Friday at Kipepeo Designs it was our turn to learn and it definitely wasn't as easy as it looks. We couldn't even manage a partly filled bucket let alone a 20l container. The card makers told us that we also needed to carry some vegetables and carry on a conversation at the same time - we couldn't imagine being able to do it.

When you next turn on a tap remember our card makers queuing to buy theirs.

UK volunteers visiting Kipepeo Designs in Nairobi June 06 2013

This week a group of five volunteers from the UK are spending time in Nairobi at Kipepeo Designs. We have brought with us a new industrial food blender and some replacement screens for printing cards. Watching the paper makers' faces when we presented them with the blender for pulping the waste paper was fantastic - they were thrilled. For the last few weeks they have had to resort to pulping the paper by hand using the equivalent of a pestle and mortar. Getting the pulp to the right consistency took hard physical work.

In February Marcroy Smith had taught the women to screen print. Now that they are settled in their new premises they have set up a printing station in the design room. An old table has been adapted to provide a print area and the  women are quickly becoming more skilled at producing beautiful cards.

Some of the UK visitors are visiting women in their homes today - experiencing living conditions in Kibera at first hand. Rachel, the UK Director is off to visit one of the card makers in hospital. Sadly she lost a baby last week and has had complications following surgery. Meanwhile her young children are being cared for by relatives. It is sobering to think that if this woman hadn't been part of Kipepeo she too would have died - thanks to Harriet, the project coordinator and Nillah, our production manager she has been rescued and supported through this sad and difficult time. We are seeing first hand how you buying beautiful cards really does change lives.                                                       

A guest post from Fair Deal World Shop June 05 2013

In a Fair Trade shop there is always a tension between what you’d like to sell on behalf of producers and what your customers will actually buy!

When choosing a card customers think of the tastes of the person who’ll receive it. My shop has always been known for its excellent range of fairly traded cards but customers have often felt a lack of cards which men, plus boys in their teens, would actually like to receive. Customers looking for an anniversary or wedding card  want  something  which appeals  to both partners.

As well as being beautiful and original many of your cards have helped satisfy this particular aspect of customer demand.

Suggestion -  for those who want a less conventional anniversary card we’ve had success in selling the ‘Two Masai under an umbrella’ which has appealed especially for couples who’ve weathered a lot of life’s storms together over the years.

Lynn – Fair Deal World Shop, Luton

The Missing Millions of Kibera - just how many people do live there? June 02 2013

How much of what we hear about Africa is true? I have just read this article written last year by Martin Robbins and printed in The Guardian. Heading off to Kibera tomorrow morning wondering how best to empower the women at Kipepeo Designs who live in this extraordinary place where it is so difficult to get things right and to help people to see life beyond it. Ambitious not to just be another of those NGOs but to be transformational.


Chime for Change June 01 2013

Loving all that happened at Twickenham today - a call to empower women with education. Great inspiration as we head out to Nairobi on Monday to visit our card makers and see how their lives are being changed as a result of being part of Kipepeo Designs. Loaded up with new screens for our screen printed cards and two industrial sized blenders for paper pulping. 



Empty Promises? a post by Andrew Baughen, trustee of Kipepeo Designs April 30 2013

It seems incongruous to be driving into Kibera and to see a huge sign advertising soap when most people don't have running water and the open sewers are more in evidence than toilets.

A Tale of Two Christmases December 09 2012

How are you planning to spend Christmas this year? Perhaps it will be with friends or family, taking time off work, preparing festive food and exchanging gifts. Last year the average UK family spent a rather scary total of £530-682 on gifts, decorations, food and drink during their celebrations, and many will have spent much more.

In Kibera, Nairobi, where our card makers live, Christmas will be rather different to the 14-day blow-out we know.

While Christmas in the West is increasingly secular, the central meaning of Christmas in Kibera is still religious - a time to celebrate the birth of Christ. On Christmas Day many residents will put on their best clothes – and maybe even have something new to wear from the second-hand clothes stalls around the settlement – and head to one of the churches within the settlement.

As with us, a special meal is a highlight of Christmas Day, but it won’t be a rich turkey dinner which requires the rest of the day to recover from. While the wealthy few might be able to afford an expensive meal, many residents of Kibera can’t afford a meal costing 50/- KES (36 pence). For them, putting food on the table means buying food using credit in the local food kiosks.

A typical menu on Christmas Day will be maize meal porridge (ugali), shredded vegetables, and maybe, for the better off, some chicken or fish. And cooking won’t be in a kitchen using a gas or electric oven – a simple outdoor stove powered by charcoal is the norm.

And while we may enjoy a glass of wine (or two) over the holidays, even simple access to water is not something people in Kibera can take for granted. As Kibera is not officially recognised as a settlement by the Kenyan Government, there is no piped water – residents, especially women and children, have to queue for hours to fill a container. For the privilege they pay two to ten times what is paid by a Nairobi resident outside the slums, and carry the water back to their houses in jerry cans.

Gifts are a highlight of Christmas for children in Europe and America, with many families spending huge amounts on toys and games. In Kibera few will be able to afford gifts, not even for children. Though this year Kipepeo Designs is using its funds to give every family an Advent calendar and a children’s book telling the story of the Nativity.

Like us, catching up with friends and family is a big part of Christmas celebration. Some residents will travel on matatu buses to go back 'up country' to visit their families in the villages they come from. For many of our card makers, this is Nyanza province in south-western Kenya. Spending time with far-away family is a precious opportunity.

So different in many ways, and yet at its heart Christmas in Kibera is familiar – a time for hope, rest and spending time with loved ones. Please spare a thought in your celebrations this year for our card makers, their families and neighbours – and wish them a happy, hopeful new year.

Feel the Power of Love this Christmas November 14 2012 1 Comment

Fairy lights are sparkling on the high streets, supermarket shelves are groaning with rich treats, and retailers are vying with each other to have the most elaborate television campaign. Christmas adverts have become a genre of their own, the clips shared and talked about on social networks with as much enthusiasm as the latest Bond film or X-Factor performance.

For a second year John Lewis has pulled out an epic television commercial, with a tale of a snowman who ventures to the big city to buy his snowwoman beloved a Christmas gift (he picks out a pair of red gloves and a beret – sound choice). 

The Power of Love, as the advert's music says, is thinking of others and their needs, and going the extra mile to do so - 'Make love your goal.'

While it’s a convenient message for retailers to make people feel better about spending lots of money in the next few weeks, it’s nevertheless potent, because it’s so close to what Christmas is about.

The message of Christmas is at the heart of Kipepeo cards too. Buying Christmas cards from us is a way to directly benefit families in one of the most impoverished urban environments on earth. Money from Kipepeo pays our 25 women card makers a regular salary, allowing them to buy food, clothes, water and fuel, pay their rent, and send their children to school.

With some charity Christmas cards, only a very small percentage of the card sales actually goes to the charity – as little as 10% in some cases. People buying Kipepeo cards can be assured that all the profit from the sale of the cards will directly benefit the women.

We are biased, of course, but we think this year’s Christmas card designs are pretty splendid, ranging from perky robins to manger scenes with a Maasai twist. All cards are produced from hand-made paper using traditional methods. The paper is made from recycled office waste and features a festive sprinkling of glitter for added twinkliness.

Each card is signed on the back by its maker. And we’ve added a QR code to the back of the card – scan it using your mobile phone and you’ll be taken to a mobile web page with the biography of the woman who made the card. It’s a nice way to bring the card buyer much closer to the card maker, 8,000 miles away.


For Kipepeo this time of year is critical to us. Most of the cards we sell in the year are in the three months leading up to Christmas, on our website, through our fabulous retailers around the UK and worldwide, through churches and by attending Christmas fairs and events in November and December.
We set ourselves the target of 9,000 Christmas cards to sell this year – that’s 3,000 more than last year. We have six weeks to do it. We need churches who will buy cards to sell, retailers who’d like to stock our cards, volunteers to help us pack and sell cards at Christmas markets, people to spread the word – oh, and, most importantly, people to buy the cards.

Will you help us by making love your goal? As we have said before, buy cards... change lives...

From Africa to Angel: steps to change lives April 21 2012

Can you imagine your daily commute to work being a privilege rather than an endurance test? I remember times when I’ve moaned because I’ve had to wait more than ten minutes for a bus. 

I know our card makers walk miles to get to work every day not because they want to keep fit but because they have no choice, even walking through mud and sewerage when it rains.

With these women in mind, I am putting my  feet on the line and walking from Brighton to London to raise money for Kipepeo Designs. 

David Norton, chairman of the Kipepeo Board of Trustees, his brother John and I, as the UK project director for Kipepeo, are walking the 53 miles in May to support the charity’s work in Nairobi, Kenya. David commutes to work from Brighton to London each day - but normally by train.

And why? To make a difference to the lives of more women in Kibera. It’s easy to forget about the horrors of that area of Nairobi. It’s estimated that 700,000 people live in a little over four square kilometres, and tragically 20% of children born there will die before reaching the age of five. 

Kipepeo Designs teaches poor women to make cards from recycled materials and then sells them on their behalf, giving them a regular income and the opportunity to support their families. The women are also given a healthy meal each day and are taught about money management, health and nutrition.

The card makers at Kipepeo Designs make about £5.00 per day enabling them to support their families by paying rent, buying food and sending their children to school. In Kenya this is well above the Fair Trade Foundation’s standard for a fair wage. Cards from Kipepeo Designs are fairly traded, recycled and handmade and enable people to break out of the relentless cycle of poverty.

We will leave Brighton on Friday, 18 May, and hope to arrive in London in time for work at 9.30am on Monday.

This will be a particular challenge for me, as I have been battling leukaemia since 2007, but nevertheless I am determined to go the distance.

Every time I visit Kibera and the women working at Kipepeo Designs I am reminded just how critical it is for these people to have jobs.

It is the difference between having dinner and not having dinner, being able to go to the doctor or not go to the doctor. I am hoping that more people will choose to buy cards from Kipepeo Designs so that more lives are changed.

You can give a donation at, and support the team on their Facebook page at Please support us!

Designing for a fairer future March 10 2012

Great design vs. ethical provenance: which sways you more when you buy?

Earlier this week a group of people met together at The People’s Supermarket in London to talk about fairtrade and design during Fairtrade Fortnight. 

Chris Haughton, an illustrator/designer from Ireland, talked about a group in Nepal who are making absolutely beautiful rugs using Chris’s digital designs. The result is fantastic, contemporary-design products made by people at Kumbeshwar, a founder member of Fair Trade Nepal. As part of that scheme employees are taught literacy and skills. In addition to providing fair wages, the project supports a school of 260 children and an orphanage with 19 children.

Meeting Chris and other designers from Central St Martins College here in London helped to confirm something I have been thinking for a while. Fair trade is fantastic and something that most of us would wholeheartedly support. However, just because something is fairly traded, it doesn’t mean we want to compromise on design, producing something that only sells because of its story rather than its own appeal and appearance.

At Kipepeo Designs we produce something that is unique – fairly traded, hand-made, recycled greetings cards. The greetings card world is huge and there is definitely room for us, but if we are going to make an impact we need to step up our game. 

Our cards need to be attractive to mainstream customers – not just those looking for fairly-traded products. Our designs have happened in the past by trial and error, along with collaboration in Nairobi, rather than through the kind of structured design process which happens in commercial environments.

What if we asked illustrators and designers in the UK to produce cards using the raw materials available in Kenya – handmade paper, fabric, off-cuts of bottle tops, beads, carved bone shapes, wood  and so on, that could then be replicated by the card makers in Nairobi? What if some of the elements of our cards (like the tin can designs or our bone animals) were presented in a more artful and exciting way?

Our card makers’ main concern is having a secure job and access to education leading to empowerment. In the slums the concept of greetings cards is far removed from everyday life but there is no doubt that making beautiful things is of benefit to the producers as well as the consumers. Making something of real beauty can increase their sense of achievement, as well as increase card sales.

At Kipepeo Designs we want to explore the possibilities of working with talented designers and illustrators in the UK, so that we can bring about social transformation in African slums. We’re looking for artists, art students or anyone with a creative flair to offer their ideas to help move our designs forward. If you think you fit the bill, or you have views on design and fair trade, we can’t wait to hear from you!

News from Nairobi February 18 2012 11 Comments

It's not just in the UK that things are moving fast. The Kipepeo team in Nairobi has been undergoing some exciting changes too.

After the shock of having our workshop raided by gun men last October, it's a great relief that the card makers moved into new premises at the end of last year. The new building is still very close to Kibera, so the card makers can walk to work, but it is much more secure. It is a bungalow on a plot of land which will allow for expansion.

At present the paper makers have a covered area at the back of the property, enabling them to keep out of the sun and the rain. 

The designers work inside in a light, spacious room. There is also room for an office and to display our cards so that visitors can buy cards after they have been shown how they are made. And Patricia, our cook, is enjoying a new kitchen.

Creating a new look for Kipepeo Designs February 18 2012 1 Comment

This month, as you may already have noticed, we're launching our new brand and visual identity for Kipepeo. 

I’m in an interesting position, as I am both the person responsible for designing the new brand and the chairman of Kipepeo's UK Board of Trustees - so in a weird way it feels like I’m both the designer and client. Thankfully, at Kipepeo we bounce ideas off each other all the time, so my objectivity was maintained!

When considering the new logo there were two things central in my mind and these set the foundation for the design.

Firstly the logo has to be clear, honest, and carry a powerful message. Secondly it had to be loved by all of us, but especially by the women in Kenya because, to them, the logo is a symbol for their transformed lives.

Because Kipepeo means 'Butterfly' in Swahili and because the project is all about transformation, it was clear that we’d keep this element from the previous logo. But we thought we’d take this opportunity to redraw it, just to make it feel a little more contemporary. The butterfly is a beautiful visual reference and one familiar to everyone connected with the project. 

In January this year I was at the project in Nairobi watching the paper dry. The garden at the new premises was thronged with butterflies, so that alone proved the case for keeping them as our symbol.

The other powerful message we wanted to convey is that unique, personal connection between the card makers and the person to whom the card is eventually given.