In late 2004, Linda Wilkinson approached a group of widows living in Ng’ombe. Their families had been decimated by the HIV/AIDS crisis and they found themselves without any means for earning money to care for their ever-growing households.They nursed and buried their children and relatives and took in grandchildren, nieces and nephews. The first priority for the group became finding a means of making money. They had little formal education and leaned on artistic skills. The handbag project began with just a few recycled Shoprite bags, a crochet hook and a pair of scissors. Today, the group has grown to 45 widows and 25 at risk youth making beautiful handcrafted items. Their skills as artists and entrepreneurs have grown through various classes ranging from learning about color and design to financial training for both their personal and professional lives. English training has helped the women continue learning even though they dropped out of formal education many, many years ago. Their confidence has increased tremendously; they regularly attend local fashion shows and often find themselves speaking to organizations about the project and how they can help.


Below you can find answers to common questions about our MicroEnterprise Program.

  • How do I buy Chikumbuso products?

    - Visit our online store
    - Attend an event
    - Visit our stores in Connecticut (350 Cossaduck Hill Rd, North Stonington, CT 06359) or Ng’ombe
    - Visit one of our local retailers

    - Kutowa, Roma
    - One Way, Airport Store
    - The Green Shop, Foxdale Court
    - Kamanga Wear/Xstina, Chindo Rd
    - Vala, Foxdale Court
    - Zebra Crossing, Addis Ababa Rd
    - Royal Zambezi Lodge, Lower Zambezi
    - Mfuwe Lodge, South Luangwa National Park

    - Visit our booth at the Dutch Reform Market in Kabulonga

  • How do product sales help the widows and at risk youth at Chikumbuso?

    Chikumbuso purchases items directly from our participants as they are produced to our quality standards, taking away the burden of holding stock until it sells and carrying that burden for them. This allows them to get paid when their work is done.

    Every artist gives back 15% of their income to the project from all their sales. This is used for paying the salary of one teacher, the community bank salaries and several other small utility costs. The artists are also required to save a portion of their income in the community bank; they receive their savings at the end of each month. This is an incredibly powerful tool and allows them to have a bulk amount at the end of every month to pay for rent and staples for the month. Setting aside money in families where the needs are so overwhelming is extremely difficult and we are very happy to be able to offer this service to our artists.

  • Who manages the community bank?

    The community bank is managed by four widows who have been to financial training classes and has oversight by the director and president of Chikumbuso.

  • How do the sales help the community?

    The bags that Chikumbuso purchases are sold in Zambia and around the world. The proceeds from our product sales come back to the project for our many outreach programs – educating children, building the capacity of our teams, and reaching out to our vulnerable elderly with direct support.

  • Do the product sales fully fund all that Chikumbuso does?

    No. Product sales are a big part of funding our programs, about 30%. But our goals of educating some of Ng’ombe’s most vulnerable children and reaching out to helpless grandmothers are big goals that require more funding than what comes from our product sales. Chikumbuso’s unique approach of combining business with charity is making a real difference in Ng’ombe. Each and every one of our artists has a vested stake in the work we do through giving back. They are very proud of all they do in partnership with our amazing donors!

  • How long does it take to make a crocheted bag?

    Depending on the artist, it can take up to one week.

  • How many plastic bags go into an average sized crocheted bag?

    95 on average.

  • Where do you get your materials?

    We have collection baskets around Lusaka where people can recycle their used plastic grocery bags. However, due to the desire to help many women and make beautiful bags we also source our plastics from the factory itself. Materials like leather and chitenge are sourced locally.

  • Where do you get new design ideas?

    Chikumbuso has been fortunate to have design volunteers that assist with new ideas from the fashion world. The ladies also draw inspiration from their lives. For example, Joyce makes a beautiful pattern inspired by her late husband’s sweater; Edina makes a pattern inspired by leaves.

Purchase a Chikumbuso Product today and change a life! Shop Now!

45 widows earned...


in 2013

Chikumbuso provides a means to a decent living for so many widows in the Ngombe Community. Please continue to buy their products!…more

My Story...

3 Sep

Meet Esther

Esther came to Chikumbuso bone thin, rejected and desperate for ... more


More than 1 in 7 adults in Zambia are living with HIV. - UNAIDS 2012

23.4% of Zambian youth ages 15-24 are unemployed. - World Bank