© 2011 . All rights reserved. Bana Bags from Zambia

Loaves, Fishes, a Film and Fabric

At times I find myself thinking how much more I might get done if I just had the perfect work space. More room, better lighting, perfect storage; if I just had these things right I could really be productive. I’d get those projects done, sew those creations that are in my head, etc.

This lady is not the sort to use excuses like that.

With her treadle sewing machine she made this bag:

And these two as well:

And these:

As a matter of fact, she’s made over a thousand of these small “Bana” bags since June. Lack of a well appointed sewing room hasn’t held her back from completing the bags that will be given out at the Tree of Mercy Benefit event to be held on September 17 at the historic Paramount Theater in Abilene, Texas. Each person attending the film event will redceive one of these beautiful bags, along with popcorn and a drink to enjoy as they view the preview of the film NAWONA: Change the Way You See which is an uplifting story of a woman named Dora living in the bush of Africa who regained her sight after cataract surgery at Namwianga Zonal Healthcare Center.

It’s not just the beautiful bag and the promise of popcorn that will draw me to the theater on the 17th. The creator of the film happens to be my daughter, and this project has been the focus of her energies for the last several months. You can read a bit about the project on her blog, withCLAIRity by Jessalyn Claire . Armed with little more than a camera and a computer this small woman set out to tell a story, and like the boy with a few loaves and fishes, by using what she had she will touch the life of hundreds of people with her gift.

Here is more information about the the “Bana” Bag Project from a recent press release. It’s another story of women offering their gifts and changing the world.

Zambia Mission promotes orphan care through the sale of “Bana” Bags. The bags are made by Zambian women primarily using treadle sewing machines and are sold to create revenue that supports orphans in Zambia. The Bana Bag project was conceived by two Colorado Springs, Colorado women who saw that huge number of families in Zambia take in orphans and wanted to provide a way to help. The Bana bags are also available on an online auction for the event at http://www.BiddingForGood.com.
The country of Zambia, located in sub-Saharan Africa has one of the highest rates of orphans in the world and Zambia Mission in conjunction with a project called “Bana” Bags is attempting to provide women caring for orphans with an additional means of support. The project was conceived by Sheryl Ramsey of Colorado Springs, Colorado and she was quickly joined by her friend Benita Thomas. The women wanted a way to help women in Zambia who were supporting orphans to be able to earn additional income.
The bags are made by Zambian women who have been invited to join the program. Each woman is sent to school in Zambia to learn how to sew using both treadle sewing machines and more modern machines. Once the education is complete Bana Bags provides the women fabric and instructions on how to make the bags. “Many of the women who have been in the program for a few years are assigned to be mentors to the newer members of the team” according to Eleanor Hamby who is a co-director of the annual Zambia Medical Mission and helps promote the program. “We are interested in providing leadership training to the women in addition to helping them create an additional source of income.”
The women are encouraged to do enough work each year to create the equivalent of $500 U.S. Dollars. “Five Hundred Dollars can make a huge difference in the lives of Zambian Families” according to Zambia Medical Mission Co-Director Dr. KB Massingill and President of Franchise Thinking. “This is an amount of money that can definitely make a difference in whether a child can attend school for a year, and helps set food on tables for families that may be caring for multiple orphans.” Massingill says many families are faced with tough choices about which children get to attend school.
The bags are made from fabric obtained in Zambia that is often called “Chitenge” fabric, because women use two approximately two meters of the fabric as a wrapped-skirt that they call Chitenges. “We considered sending fabric to Zambia for the bags, but in the end we realized there was an elegance to using Zambian fabric, because it tends to appeal to women both within Zambia and outside of Zambia.” The bags are often brought back to the United States and sold at church meetings and other benefit events.
Bags are generally sold for as little as $10.00 and up to $30.00 for bags that are more sophisticated, and include zippers etc. The women also produce headbands, and makeup bags that tend to be very popular. “We sell the bags that are made on the treadle sewing machines sell for a little less because it is more difficult to produce a quality product with them” according to Benita Thomas, one of the project’s co-founders.
Sheryl Ramsey, the projects founder says she hopes that they will be able to add at least one new seamstress per year to the project. All revenue from the project goes directly to the participants, or is used to grow the program and add new participants.
Organizations or individuals interested in selling the Bana Bags or purchasing bags may find more information at http://www.ZambiaMission.com

I don’t really need a perfect workspace to accomplish the things I want to do. I don’t need to wait for the perfect time to take action. Women like Sheryl, Benita, Jessalyn and Zambian ladies with treadle sewing machines in dirt-floor rooms remind me that anytime is a good time to get started, and great things can happen in imperfect circumstances.  Loaves, fishes, a film and fabric; given into His hands and blessed by the Creator they can become a miracle.





  1. Posted 10 Sep ’11 at 11:13 am | Permalink

    my mom was a seamstress and so this touched me!! can’t wait til we get to come!! very excited about the film!!

  2. Tilly Pulido
    Posted 15 Apr ’20 at 2:42 am | Permalink

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