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Turning bones into treasure

Jack Nyawanga, co-founder of Victorious Bone Crafts was the man of the moment during the YouWin awards gala held on March 17 after revealing that what started as a noble idea now provides jobs to dozens of youths in Kibera.

Victorious Bone Crafts emerged second runners up in the awards after beating hundreds of other entrants.

In 2006, Mr Nyawanga sold his idea of using animal bones to make jewellery and cutlery among other items to his two friends, Fredrick Omondi and Nelson Ochieng.

Luckily, they were receptive and the trio embarked on a mission to provide employment not only for themselves but other youths in the slum.

With no capital to buy equipment and rent a workshop, they formed a chama to pool funds. They met regularly and during such forums, they would contribute towards the cause.

Mr Nyawanga said they started with a contribution of Sh50 which they banked until they were able to buy their first machine and get a space for their workshop.

Proceeds realised from the sale of the jewellery and cutlery were used to buy more machines. 

The business now boasts 16 bench grinders — used to sharpen, smoothen and draw shapes on the bones — and a big workshop that accommodates 25 artists.

The group sells its creations at Maasai Market and in various city shops as well as in Finland and Canada.

“We export to Finland every month while in Canada, we do it three times a year,” said Mr Nyawanga at their workshop in Kibera. 

Export

The group makes Sh50,000 for every consignment to Finland and Sh500,000 for goods send to Canada. Local sales account for not less than Sh100, 000 every month. 

The products are made from cow, goat and camel bones. A cow bone costs Sh20 while goat and camel bones are Sh10 and Sh100 respectively.

Mr Nyawanga was taught the art by his mentor William Ong’ele, and instead of employing the 30-year-old, Mr Ong’ele encouraged him to be self-reliant.

Inspired by the need to create jobs for youths in the slums, Mr Nyawanga teamed up with his friends to start the business. Since its inception, Victorious Bones Craft has trained over 40 youths. 

The free training constitutes of a three-month part time and eight months full course. After completing the course, the youths are employed in various workshops while others opt to start their own businesses. 

At night, youths use the workshop for training while others use it to make their own creations for sale. Empowering youths and turning them from crime is the drive that keeps the establishment open, he said.