CONNECT ♦ SERVE ♦ INSPIRE
Your purchase of a high-quality, individually crafted product connects you to African artisans in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Profits earned by artisans enable them to provide and serve their families, communities and country.
Our cooperative seeks to inspire you to make a difference in the lives of others.
NGUYA, meaning strength, power and ability in Lingala, is an apt description of this chic African bow tie. Cooperative members love learning new patterns and eagerly await your feedback. We invite you to leave messages and photos at our Facebook page.
The Ndako bag symbolizes the creation of our cooperative. Ndako, meaning house in Lingala, was the first model made by Mama Aroyo.
MOBALI, meaning men in Lingala, is one of our feature products. We are thrilled to acquaint you with le nouveau spin on men's fashion. Spread the trend by wearing a MOBALI Tie and supporting economic development in Congo.
April 2014 – Our first cooperative meeting was held in the village of Aru, DRC. We gathered together to discuss the creation, implementation and engagement of TOTONGA BOMOI.; an artisan's cooperative in the Ituri District.
Inspired by the goals of its cooperative members, TOTONGA BOMOI translated from Lingala means Build Our Future. The purpose of our cooperative is to work and act together to achieve a common goal. We are addressing the social and economic development needs of the Congo.
The DRC is defined by a long history of civil conflict. It is a country rich in culture and natural resources, but lacking the infrastructure, technology and capacity to develop. The education system is outdated. Clean drinking water reaches fewer than 30% of the population. HIV/AIDS spreads with indifference and every citizen bears memories of suffering and loss.
Our cooperative, TOTONGA BOMOI, creates avenues for artisans to earn a living by their craft; building a better future for themselves, their families and community.
When I first arrived to Congo in October 2010, I was a highly-motivated, determined and terribly idealistic volunteer. Reality soon caught-up with me. I struggled to discover that not only does famine, disease and conflict destroy development, but more often than not it was tax increases at the border, broken copy machines, flat bike tires and faulty generators. When I looked back one year later, I saw that the obstacles became ordinary and the Congolese people, my inspiration.
Our cooperative began with a simple request. My good friend Mama Arroyo asked for help generating income to build a home for her family. Recognizing her talent as a seamstress, I requested that she make 25 African handbags that I could sell to family and friends in the U.S. Soon after Mama Aroyo received her profits, other women in the village expressed interest in joining the project: giving us the idea and courage to begin creating an artisan’s cooperative.
In December 2009, when I arrived in Congo, I was planning on serving for two years and then pursuing a masters in International Conflict and launching a career somewhere in the realm of diplomacy or conflict resolution. When I returned home two years later, I was bewildered and unsure what to do, but I did know that I loved the vibrant fabrics of the Congo. I wanted to learn to sew and be able to make clothes as beautiful as the Congolese wear.
I earned a certificate in Fashion Design and am thrilled to be able to work on product design that connects my love for the people of Congo and my love for fashion design.