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Jewelry Helps Kenyan Kids With Special Needs

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By Cassie Bonstrom

ST. LOUIS PARK, Minn. (WCCO) — No one at this jewelry party in St. Louis Park was afraid to splurge a little on last-minute Christmas gifts.

That’s because they found the story behind the handmade creations as beautiful as the jewelry itself.

Ten years ago, Tracey Hagman moved her family from Minnesota to Nairobi, Kenya to start a children’s center for kids with special needs. She named the school “Heshima,” which means “dignity” in Swahili.

“In Africa, if you have a child that’s born with a disability, it’s very shameful,” said Jodie Jennings, Tracey’s sister. “They hide the kids.”

Jennings said her sister was determined to change that. She was driven by her own son’s struggle with cognitive and physical disabilities.

“She has a heart for it ‘cause her son was born at 22 weeks,” said Jennings of her sister. “He’s now 14 but he was the size of a dollar bill when he was born.”

With that passion and determination, Hagman found a way to not only help the kids in Africa, but also provide a lifeline for their parents.

While the children are busy in school and receiving therapy, their mothers are employed by the school making jewelry. Most of them have been shunned by their husbands for having a disabled child, so making jewelry is their only source of income.

Hagman sends all of the hand-made creations back to her family in Minnesota. Jennings and her mom then host parties to sell it. All of the proceeds go back to Heshima.

“It pays for the building, the food for the kids, the therapists to give the kids therapy and the moms to make the jewelry,” Jennings said.

Hagman hopes that with each bracelet or necklace sold, her message of compassion will spread, too. And that eventually all of the disabled children in Africa will know the meaning of Heshima.

“She’s quite an incredible person,” Jennings said. “If anybody could do it, it’s Tracey.”

Hagman has raised almost $1,000 for Heshima through the sale of jewelry. If you’re interested in learning more about the jewelry or how you can host a party of your own, contact Jodie Jennings at jodier@gophersport.com or visit Heshima’s website at www.heshima.org.

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