Craftpreneur Vera Ng’endo shares her passion for inspiring kids to create, learn and grow and why as parents, we should encourage our kids to craft

In recent years, school curricula have shifted heavily toward common core subjects such as science and math, but what about the arts?

Although some may regard art as unimportant, simple creative activities are some of the building blocks of child development. Learning to create and appreciate visual aesthetics may be more important than ever to the development of the next generation of children as they grow up.

 

In Kenya, Vera Ng’endo is at the forefront in encouraging parents to adopt Art at as a way of developing their children’s creativity and life skills.  Through her brand Yellow Sparrows, she focuses on training young children in creating craft-based products, encouraging use of technology in arts, and sharing basic entrepreneurship skills with them; what we call Craft-preneurship. Classes at Yellow Sparrows take place on Saturdays and during the school holiday season. During social events like birthdays, corporate, family functions or other events; the team puts together and facilitates the creative fun-craft activities.

Yellow Sparrows also trains school clubs,  home-schooled children, special needs students,  the youth as well as women groups and individuals who are interested in learning new skills. Yellow Sparrows mission is to create the next global creative designers from Africa.

48Vera is very passionate about hand-crafting and nurturing young children to grow and develop their innate creative talents as well as imparting hard and soft skills through craft-making activities; hence the founding of Yellow Sparrows Centre for Crafts.  Her passion for the arts & crafts goes way back from when she was a little girl.

She used to create her own fun by making hand-stitched dolls with their dresses by using off-cut materials collected from the local tailors. Looking back , she believes that her exposure to the creative sector was minimal and she had only heard of fashion design as a career that required her skills. It is not until she enrolled in college that she got exposed to the opportunities that a creative designer can have as a career.

A child today, does not have to wait until they are in college to be informed of the possibilities awaiting them hence her passion to impart these skills to them at an early age. Skills they can use to build careers, as a fall-back plan or skills that can be used to begin an entrepreneurship journey as business owners or investors in a sector they understand.  Simply put, the joy of creating a product from something mundane to a master piece is exciting and gratifying when the passion is nurtured into a business.

Why Crafting is important for children

53We are now in the technology era where all things are a ‘click away’ and has denied most of our children a chance to get involved in hands-on activities. Crafting has many benefits. For instance, children’s fine motor skills are improved by use of their fingers, hands and wrists as they learn to manipulate small objects by cutting, drawing which also act as a precursor to writing.  

There are children who learn best through practical projects versus reading.  We are not all born academically inclined and those who do not grasp concepts as quickly, are branded ‘slow’.

If crafting activities can be introduced to such students as an aid-to-learning, certain concepts can be reinforced compared to using only one mode of learning like use of the black board, hence strengthening their academic performance.

The ability to teach certain soft skills can be attained through crafting. Most children trained at Yellow Sparrows, learn to appreciate the process of creating from the beginning to completion, to self-regulate and to be flexible among other positive traits.

The old adage of practice, practice makes perfect comes to play when you create a product, along the way you fail and keep at it until you achieve the desired results; that builds resilience in a positive way.

 Learning that failure is just the beginning of a gratifying journey is humbling for a crafter or a designer and that sets the tune for most projects.  For instance, when we touch clay, most of us see ‘dirt’ but then try and imagine the process of making the tea cups, saucers, plates in most homes; they were all created from clay but the beautiful glazed kitchenware neatly arranged in some cabinet, only tell bits of  the ‘journey travelled’,  herein the process.51

The Creative-Craft sector is a contribution to the growth of the Kenyan economy that is awakening a sector well known as “creative economy”.  According to a study and an article written in one of our Daily Newspapers, it is important to take note that in 2011, former Information PS Dr Bitange Ndemo did establish a creative industry task force to understand and define the sector in Kenya; whose end results were to create 10 per cent of employment by 2017. It was noted that in the year 2014 the Kenya Economic Survey, revealed that arts, entertainment and recreation segments employed 67,000 Kenyans in 2013, up from 64,000 in 2012. The study also noted that the industry grew to Sh3.4 billion in 2013 from Sh2.9 billion in 2012.

These should be telling as to why the importance of crafting and any other skilled activities should no longer be ignored. Importantly, most of our culture and heritage is preserved in the form of works of art, either crafted or visually created. We need today’s generation that is continuously churning new crafting ideas and creations that will be used to conserve today’s story for our future generations as their history.

 

Vera’s journey as a Craftpreneur

Has not been easy and along the way she has been faced with several challenges from getting the right tools and materials for a specific project, to high expenses. Also lack of knowledge as to what art and craft is all about is daunting.  Most people think art is only meant for children while others think coloring and painting is the description of an artist.

54She believes that that most people be it parents or care givers may not even take note of the children’s talents because they have no understanding hence place no value in their innate interests.

She says there are parents who do not want their sons especially those aged above ten years, sewing or working with beads as these activities are perceived to be ‘girly’.

Despite these challenges she has soldiered on and came up with various solutions.

Yellow Sparrows sources for tools and equipment they need both locally and from out of the country. Improvisation is a creative-mind’s best friend. She has become very resourceful when searching for materials or when they we cannot afford them.

 What keeps me going

Simply having faith and believing that my God given talent and capabilities are not mine alone but to be put to use like in helping others achieve their own dreams too.

Yellow Sparrows programme not only nurtures, but also develops and imparts skill-sets that can be used later on in life- this way I have an impact on generations to come. We are also currently involved in mentorship programmes with other institutions like Akili Dada who have partnered with us to facilitate training for an under-resourced school like the Dagoretti Rehab Centre for girls, which is a school they offer other mentorship programmes. I have learnt the importance of creating key partnerships.

Word of advice to other women planning to go into business

One must first have the answers to “who am I?”.  When you are able to describe who you are when names, titles, status, gender, ownerships, husband and children are scrapped off from the picture you deem to be, then you begin a journey of self reassurance.

This is especially for one who is not sure what they want to do as a business or transitioning from employment to self-employed. Getting into business can be a rewarding or treacherous journey. One must be decisive and remain steadfast to your line of business. When I left employment, I had so many people invite me to do all manner of businesses that were deemed lucrative.

Sometimes as women, we get so carried away by testimonials from a trusted friend or a relative, about deals or businesses “we” should get into that we lose focus and stray away from our road map. Knowing who you are instills an understanding of what values you uphold that act as a guide while laying out the road map to your life or work’s journey.

Do the ground work or research the business you intend to do, have clarity, start with what you have, align your values to your business, know the endgame and work hard but smart.  One aspect that is sometimes overlooked is the aspect of collaborating where necessary. We hear this a lot when it comes to music artist. We have worked with organizations like Supamamas where no monetary funds were exchanged but for the mere benefit of both companies and the rewards of such collaborations is insurmountable in terms of the opportunities that come your way thereafter.

As a parting shot to parents… lets encourage our children to craft. It might surprise you how much it can help them develop from Motor Skills, Language Development,Decision Making, Visual Learning,Inventiveness: Cultural Awareness and Improved Academic Performance.

Want to get in touch with Vera and learn more about Yellow Sparrows?

Email:  info@calistacreations.co.ke

Call:  0736 547663

Facebook: Yellow Sparrows Kids Club and Centre

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