Chattanooga — The roots of Amani ya Juu reach far and wide. What started as a small sewing project in Nairobi, Kenya now extends worldwide.
Amani ya Juu, who's name means 'Peace from Above' in Swahili, is a fair trade organization with the mission. The self sustaining group helps African women that have experienced violence and poverty of war. The women gain stability and restore dignity through peace and reconcilitation.
Formed by Chattanooga native Becky Chinchen who still lives in Nairobi, Kenya. It's a place of peace and spiritual healing where women from diverse African cultures work together
The connection to Africa and the rest of world is now located in the inner city neighborhood of Ridgedale of Chattanooga.
The women of Amani ya Juu produce high quality handmade goods while being paid a livable wage to provide for a better life. Amani is a member of the fair trade federation which operates under strict rules. Fair trade regulations ensure that money from the items makes it back to the women who actually produced the item. The women are their own bosses within Amani ya Juu.
Amani's North American Distribution center relocated to Chattanooga in 2012 from Washington D.C. A leap of faith for Becky's daughter, Joanna Vaughn, who moved the center to South Willow Street.
Joanna's husband Paul is involved in the day to day operation and passionate about Amani.
He said,"We specifically chose this spot because we don't want to be a cog in the sustainability wheel of Amani just providing income for the African centers."
Right now, the building houses the products bought from Africa and ships them around the world. It also includes a retail shop that's open to the public. One day, they hope make goods locally, as well.
Paul said, "We want to manifest peace here and we want to manifest good culture here and we want to do that where it's most needed."
Employing neighborhood residents like Teresia to manage the inventory from Rwanda, Uganda, Kenya and Liberia is important to the Vaughn's and one reason they chose to move to the Ridgedale location
Amani ya Juu is committed to ethical practice and harmonious relationships.
Paul said the logo has meaning, as well. "The logo is an African symbol that means from many we become one with the many fingers coming up but joining into one path."
Each item signed by the woman in Africa who made it creating a personal connection from miles away.
To read more about Amani ya Juu or how you can help - CLICK HERE.