Unique invites and cards: Rafiki Crafts

 Our wedding invitations, front and back.

Our wedding invitations, front and back.

Planning a wedding from across the world certainly brought its own challenges, but it also provided a few opportunities to bring in truly unique aspects to our wedding by finding materials in Uganda and designing things on our own.  So many of our friends and family specifically complimented us on our unique wedding invitations and lots of my soon-to-wed friends asked where they could order similar cards.  I think it's time I reveal my source.

Allow me to introduce to you one of my favorite local craft businesses in Uganda - Rafiki Crafts.  The women at Rafiki Crafts make beautiful greeting cards, invitations, and gift bags out of recycled, handmade paper for a truly distinct result and I'm so proud of my colleague, Sarah, who started it all simply by mentoring young women.  "In Swahili, Rafiki means friend," she said.  "So that's why we chose the name Rafiki Crafts, because it started within friendship."

 Sarah in the process of making paper.  Photo by Phillip Ojok.

Sarah in the process of making paper.  Photo by Phillip Ojok.

Sarah used to live as a mentor in a home for disadvantaged and orphaned girls.  When she left this home and began work as a secretary, she stayed in touch with many of the girls she had lived with, who had now completed some post-secondary courses, but could not find jobs.  Sarah and two of the girls had taken fine arts classes in secondary school, so they were familiar with how to do some crafts, and they started experimenting with making cards.  They first bought paper, but that quickly became expensive, so Sarah and her husband researched online how to make their own.  After a few failed attempts, she taught herself the craft - a process of soaking old paper, blending, dyeing, and drying.  She soon taught 4 other girls, who now have a stable source of income.

Now, 3 years later, the women at Rafiki crafts can make personalized invitations, paper bags, and unique greeting cards for any occasion.  All  their profits go directly the young women making the cards, or they go back into the business.  "They way I benefit is that the girls make the cards at my home and help care for my 2 boys while I work," Sarah said.  She spoke of how mutually-beneficial their small business has become for her and the other women and she's proud of how much they have all taken ownership over the business.  They will all identify marketplaces to sell their product and volunteer to take turns working at different markets in Kampala.

My favorite part is you can design your own invitation or cards and they will customize your order with the designs and colors you prefer.  It was so fun to respond to all those compliments about our wedding cards by telling our guests that they were handmade by women we know and love.

The ladies can fulfill order from around the world, so if you are interested in having them make invitations, Christmas cards, gift bags, or other greeting cards, email Sarah at umujungu@yahoo.com.  You can also contact Sarah via the Facebook page.  If you're in Uganda, you can find the ladies selling their products at the Nsambya Friday market behind Sharing Youth Center, off Gaba Road or at the MCC monthly market on the third Saturday of every month.  You can also email Sarah and she can direct you to the office where she works, where she has many of the products for sale.

Enjoy some more samples of their work:

 Christmas collection

Christmas collection

 Thank you notes

Thank you notes

 Paper gift bags

Paper gift bags

 Invitation for our  kwanjula,  our traditional Ugandan wedding

Invitation for our kwanjula, our traditional Ugandan wedding

 Greeting cards for all occasions

Greeting cards for all occasions

 Africa-style cards

Africa-style cards