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Amani D.C. transforms women's lives in Africa

When Brittany Noetzel and Rachel Kistner, two Alumni from Wheaton College went to visit Amani Ya Juu as college students, they did not quite envision how big the trip will be on their respective lives. Several years later, they have set up Amani D.C., an African boutique located in Washington, D.C.

Sarah Moore is the new Amani D.C. Director for Amani Ya Juu.  (Photo: Foumena)

Established in 2009, this retail store sells hand-made products made by marginalized women residing in Kenya, Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda and Liberia. The U.S. warehouse of Amani Ya Juu, the main organization, is located in Chattanooga, Tennessee. 

Since 2007, Debbie Noetzel, the mother of Brittany Noetzel, has been actively involved with Amani D.C. as a volunteer. She helps with different duties such as on-site and consignments sales and the coordination of volunteers. Debbie Noetzel's commitment to Amani started after her 10-day 'Amani Safari' with her daughter Brittany. During the trip, she finally met the women Brittany, the co-founder of Amani D.C., has extensively talked about. They both went with Rachel Kistner.

“Amani Ya Juu is all about community,” Debbie Noetzel said."But it's also working with other women to support our sisters in Africa.”

For Noetzel, Amani Ya Juu not only provides a job skill to women but also spiritual support. In Rwanda, women from the Tutsi and Hutu tribes found in a healing place in Amani. The members of the Tutsi and the Hutu tribes were both involved in the Rwanda genocide.

Amani D.C. transforms women's lives in Africa (Photo: Jessica Foumena)

Noetzel's sentiments are echoed by Sarah Moore, the Amani D.C. Director for Amani Ya Juu. Before joining Amani D.C., Moore was on a career track of becoming a 12-grade high school English teacher.

When Moore earned her Bachelor of Arts in English Literature and her Master of Arts in Teaching for Secondary Education in English from James Madison University, her goals were to teach English overseas and to join the peace corps.

“I thought my teaching job was fine. But I always wondered what else I could do. Since I am still in my 20's, I thought this was the right time to try new things,” Moore said.

In 2012, she resigned from her teaching job for new opportunities. She realized her dream to work in the music industry, only to find out the industry was not a good match for her. From the experience, she reports to have built her current business skills. During her job search, she heavily relied on her friends and her Christian faith.

Some Amani products on sale in Amani D.C. (Photo: Jessica Foumena)

When Breanne Wroughton, the former U.S. Marketing and Development Associate asked her to apply for her current job, she saw it as a great opportunity to work in a faith-based and peace-building project directly linked to the international development field.

“I'm confident the money generated through the sales of Amani D.C. goes to the right people. I know when I transfer funds, the money sent is handled responsibly,” Moore said.

Moore has not yet visited one of the Amani production centers in Africa. However, she said to feel a strong connection through the different stories she had heard from other staff members such as Emily Kirwan, the current U.S. Marketing and Development Associate for Amani Ya Juu.

African hand-made jewelries on sale at  Amani D.C.  (Photo: Jessica Foumena)
“Supporting Amani Ya Juu is the best way for Americans to support fair-trade,” Moore said. “Amani projects benefit the whole person while providing holistic healing.”

Starting this October 2013, Moore will coordinate a job skill program for marginalized women living in the Washington D.C. Area. This is a first for the Amani D.C. boutique whose goal is to be more than a retail place: a healing center for women.

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