“My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humour and some style.” – Maya Angelou
We all have dreams. Each and every one of us. Some people chase their dreams, while others push them to the side. There are numerous factors which contribute to us not following through with our passions. Often, society makes us believe our dreams are out of reach. What I have come to learn over the last seven years is that no dream is too big – and with great passion for what you believe in, patience, and understanding anything is possible.
In September of 2016, I launched a social enterprise called Olive & Annie. My vision for Olive & Annie began when I became a single mother more than two years ago. During that time, I did a research study with single mothers in various slums throughout Nairobi and found a direct correlation between lack of sexual health education, lack of support for young mothers, and the orphan crisis in Kenya – the cause I have been passionate about since I was a 17-year-old with a dream to assist orphaned children in Kenya.
Many of the young women – who were the same age as I was or younger — were being forced into prostitution or seeking unhealthy relationships to help support their child or children. In most cases this was leading to children being abandoned, or sadly, their mothers passing away due to HIV/AIDS.
Often, I was overwhelmed with the ever-increasing number of orphaned children in the country. I left home each and every day of the research study thinking, “what can I do to help these women?” Being that I was expecting a child at the time, I had the idea of creating a social enterprise to employ Kenyan single mothers, and men who serve as positive male role models in their community, while creating quality products for women and children — products I would want to purchase for my child, or myself. The goal was simple – create products mothers and men and women would love, create jobs for Kenyans, and give back to Zawadi La Tumaini – my children’s home in Nairobi.
Since launching our brand, we have received incredible support from the Sudbury community. It all began with an ongoing partnership with Jump Baby in Sudbury, selling our adorable genuine leather baby moccasins, which are produced by single mothers in Kenya. Most recently, we have received incredible support from downtown businesses, as well. Our retail partnership with Salute Coffee Company downtown allows us to sell select variations of our moccasins and our entire jewelry collection. We partnered with Old Rock to create our signature coffee blend, Mzuri Kahawa, which directly supports Zawadi la Tumaini Children’s with $2 from every pound of coffee sold.
On June 1, we are launching our partnership with KuppaJoe Espresso Bar, also selling our baby moccasins and entire jewelry collection – which showcases necklace, cuffs, and ring designs inspired by women’s rights, humanity for others, and ending sexual violence. In addition to launching our products we will also be showcasing a photo exhibit created by Sudbury photographers and co-ordinated by myself and our designer/marketing director at Olive & Annie, April McCambridge.
On May 25, we are hosting our first “Zawadi” night at SRO nightclub from 7:30 p.m. where we will be having an Olive & Annie pop-up, cocktails for a cause with a portion of funds from every cocktail purchased supporting Zawadi la Tumaini, and a fantastic playlist of our favourite African music from across the continent.
On May 7, Olive & Annie, in partnership Sprout Handmade, hosted The Modern Marketplace at Red Fang Tavern. Red Fang has graciously partnered with our company to encourage Sudburians to shop fair-trade + Canadian made while accepting donations for Zawadi la Tumaini and NEO Kids Foundation. We were joined by fantastic local vendors like The Positive Inception, Ari & Hugo Designs, Tree Top Bath & Body, and much more.
One in four women will be affected by sexual violence in their lifetime in Kenya. At Olive & Annie, we directly support Zawadi la Tumaini Children’s Home, and programs to end sexual violence, with 30 per cent of the proceeds from every sale. Why? Because we understand the need for all men and women to join together globally to end sexual violence. We understand the need to support the 2.6 million orphaned children in Kenya. We choose to raise our voices not only to end sexual violence in Kenya, but to create a dialogue around the world in order to support women and children and end sexual violence.
You can make a difference with something as simple as purchasing a pair of fair-trade moccasins for your little one, or purchasing one of our artisan-crafted jewelry pieces for men and women. Be the change.
For more information on Olive & Annie, visit OliveAnnie.com.
Hanmer native Jacqueline Villeneuve chronicles her efforts at Zawadi la Tumaini Children's Home, a refuge for HIV/AIDS orphans she founded in Kenya. Zawadi la Tumaini translates in English to "gift of hope." Visit the home’s website at ZLTHope.com.