We are Todd and Holly Petitt. Just two regular people living a regular life. Todd is a roofing contractor and Holly is an airline pilot. We are raising three teenagers and live in Loveland, Colorado.
About 10 years ago, after watching a documentary about the Rwandan genocide, we became aware of some of the issues Africa, as a continent, was facing because of poverty. We began researching what others were doing to empower Africans to help themselves out of the poverty trap. As our passion for Africa grew we decided we desperately wanted to do something to help. Although we found a lot of inspiring projects in Africa, couldn’t find anything that was a “perfect fit” for us.
So at the beginning of the 2007 we decided to create our own non-profit organization. On January 28th, 2007 Africa Bags officially came into existence.
In May of 2007, we made our first trip to Malawi. Upon arrival we met with village leaders and decided to introduce our project into three villages near Mzuzu, Malawi. We entered into the villages of Kamweko, Viweme, and Nkhata Bay and introduced the production of reusable cloth shopping bags. The villages were provided with foot powered treadle sewing machines, cloth and all other items needed to make the bags. We trained small groups from each village to operate the treadle sewing machines.
Shortly after we left, a small group of people broke off from our Nkhata Bay group and formed our fourth group in Chintheche.
Our initial sales have stemmed from a grassroots campaign. We have contacted our friends and family asking them to spread the word about our project. As production of the villages has increased we have decided to pursue retail avenues of selling Africa Bags. We are currently looking for retail stores that would be interested in selling our bags. We would love any help from others with experience in retail sales or those with connections to retail stores.
At the end of July in 2007, Todd went back to Malawi to make sure production was occurring at a good pace. The villages had made great progress and had surpassed our expectations. While in Malawi, Todd was able to encourage the village groups to set up savings accounts and to organize committees. These committees will oversee each village’s production, and will be responsible for solving any problems that may arise.
During this second trip Todd visited all four villages involved in Africa Bags. He was especially pleased with the progress of the community center being built in Kamweko. The village was in the process of making over 25,000 bricks for building construction. This community centerwas paid for by generous donations from Africa Bags supporters. Construction for the 1,000 sq. foot building was finsihed in 2009. A second community center is now almost complete in Viweme village.
Todd was also able to find other hand crafted items made by local artisans and set up delivery of their work back to the United States. Africa bags is now proud to sell numerous wood carvings, paintings and jewelry that have been hand made in Malawi.
Africa Bags takes part in numerous 3rd World Craft Shows, Alternative Giving Fairs, and other Holiday craft shows. We set up booths to showcase the Africa Bag and other hand crafted items from Malawi If you are aware of a show in your area that might be of interest to Africa Bags please contact us with the show information.
As Africa Bags moves forward our main goal is to find homes for the thousands of bags that have been made by our villages in Malawi. The villagers are eager to increase production. As we find more outlets to sell the bags we hope to be able to expand production into other villages in Malawi. Since 2007, Africa bags has expanded into 7 villages in Malawi. We also now buy bags and other products directly from groups Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda and Swaziland. We sell 3,000 -4,000 bags each year and are able to return over $50,000 a year in “profits” back to Africa. Everyone in America volunteers their time with Africa Bags so that all the money from bag sales can go back to the project.
We are extremely grateful for and touched by the passion and help we have received from numerous churches, organizations, friends, family members and even complete strangers. As a grass roots organization we encourage anyone that would like to HELP to contact us.
- To provide economic opporntunity to the people of Malawi Africa
- To reduce the use of plastic shopping bags.
- To promote a charity that gives back 100% of proceeds to the people that need help.