Juja firm gives hope, vocational training to disabled, caregivers

Skills power them economically to find jobs, gives them dignity

In Summary

• Jamii Products Limited trains them to make kaki fabric packaging, replacing plastic bags. Food, cereals, rice, sugar, cooking flour, many items bagged.

• Proprietor Charles Kimani said the project focuses on trainees’ abilities and potential, instead of their disabilities.

Jamii Products Limited CEO Charles Kimani (left) presents certificates to some of the disabled persons and community caregivers at the firm in Witeithie, Juja.
Jamii Products Limited CEO Charles Kimani (left) presents certificates to some of the disabled persons and community caregivers at the firm in Witeithie, Juja.

People with disabilities and caregivers in Kiambu county are getting skills to help them earn a living and even start their own businesses. No more begging.

 Drawn from all the 12 subcounties, 20 team leaders of 35-member PWD groups have already completed hands-on skills training in the khaki fabric bag business, including branding and marketing. The fourth cohort has already graduated from the free programme that started last year.

The free two-month programme has equipped them with skills to make bags for food items such as cereals, sugar, rice, cooking flour, gift bags, book covers and  envelopes, among other items.

The training is provided by Jamii Products Limited, a local khaki bag manufacturing company based in the village of Witeithie in Juja constituency.

It aims to give formerly overlooked PWDs a head start in small business.

Jamii Products proprietor Charles Kimani said the project focuses on trainees’ abilities instead of their disabilities.

He said the training is matched to the trainees’ interests, level of ability and market needs to help them venture into in-demand small businesses so they can overcome emotional and financial stress.

Speaking during the graduation ceremony of the fourth cohort, Kimani said that most PWDs have been struggling with discrimination, loss of social life, lack of key government support. They all contribute to psychological problems, depression and physical exhaustion.

“We began last year after we saw a gap in how PWDs are treated in the society. Using our small profits, we wanted to give back to the society through training them to go for their dreams, instead of begging,” Kimani said.

“This is the fourth unit since we started and we hope to keep up the spirit. All of us have a responsibility to transform a life and in this way, our society will be a better place,” Kimani said.

Using their hands, glue and small pieces of wood, the PWDs and caregivers receive lessons to produce khaki bags needed to package cereals, sugar, rice, popcorn, chips and other items.

Besides, the khaki packaging bags replace the plastic carrier bags the government banned after they polluted the environment and clogged drainage systems.

PWD’s parents and caregivers have also been trained to make envelopes, gift bags, book covers and other items.

This will help them venture into businesses to better their lives.

Led by Felister Waithera, beneficiaries of the programme told journalists the initiative has given them a new lease of life and they are now ready to compete in the labour market.

“We have been trained and are now well equipped to go compete with other people,” she said.

“Those who still hold on to the notion that we cannot do things on our own should watch us now. Given soft loans and or grants to help us acquire raw materials and establish ourselves, we will go for our dreams uninterrupted,” Waithera said.

David Karu, a beneficiary from Gatundu South, said most PWDs are only able to work using their hands, due to poor mobility.

Having been equipped with knowledge and skills, Karu called on the government to create a special grant for PWDs and or soft loans to enable them to utilise their new skills.

“The government should help us begin small businesses, such as making khaki packaging bags, which we know how to do. We only need small interest-free loans to get us there,” he said.

Ann Njeri, a caregiver whose son has been grappling with a disability for 17 years, said the training will reduce marginalisation of people with special needs and those who are differently abled in the labour market. This will reduce social and economic costs to individuals and the community at large.

   “There is no more begging as we now have the power to turn the knowledge we have acquired into money. We only ask for small capital to get things going and are asking the government to consider us,” Njeri said.

WATCH: The latest videos from the Star