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.
Just over 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, we 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. A for benefit, empowerment project focused on a triple bottom line of People, Planet and Prosperity! 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 established Africa Bags within the villages of Kamweko, Viweme, and Nkhata Bay and began training on the production of reusable cloth shopping bags. The villages were provided with foot powered treadle sewing machines, cloth and all other resources needed to make the bags. We trained a couple individuals from each village to operate foot-powered 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 always looking for more 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 center was 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 complete in Viweme village, with a third community center nearly complete in Chintheche.
Since the beginning of our project our online store has grown to include much more than just bags! We are now selling numerous wood carvings, paintings and jewelry that have been hand made in Malawi. Africa Bags recently launched our brand new Home Products Line including duvets, pillows, and organic soap.
Africa Bags takes part in numerous 3rd World Craft Shows, Alternative Giving Fairs, and other Holiday craft shows. We set up booths to showcase Africa Bags and other hand crafted items from Malawi. If you are aware of an event in your area that might be of interest to Africa Bags please contact us with 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 9 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 opportunity to the people of Malawi, Africa
- To fight environmental waste and reduce the use of plastic shopping bags.
- To promote a FOR BENEFIT organization that gives back 100% of proceeds to the people that need help.
- To empower our customers to make a difference in the world through IMPACT INVESTMENTS