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Timbali Crafts connects Gainesville to Swaziland-made goods
Timbali Crafts has opened at 328 Bradford St. NW. The shop is filled with items made by women from Swaziland, a small nation in southern Africa, who are all volunteer cooks at community-based feeding centers. The money made from the sale of the items helps them provide for their own families.

Timbali Crafts

What: Nonprofit retail store selling clothing, bags and home goods made in Swaziland

Where: 328 Bradford St. NW, Gainesville

More info:

A new store in downtown Gainesville is easily identifiable by the bright, colorful patterns of its products.

Pillow covers, tote bags, aprons, ornaments and headbands are some of the products for sale at Timbali Crafts, located at 328 Bradford St. NW.

The nonprofit sells the products, made by women in Swaziland who rely on the sales to feed the nation’s massive orphan population.

Marcia Borg, U.S. distributor for Timbali, said more than 110 women in Swaziland, a small southern African nation, are part of Timbali, handmaking the products daily.

“My husband and I had been doing some mission work in Swaziland back in 2005, and that’s when we first met all these women,” Borg said. “They were organized as a co-op, feeding over 3,000 orphans and vulnerable children one hot meal every day.”

Swaziland has had the highest HIV and tuberculosis rate in the world, Borg said, meaning the nation has lost almost an entire generation.

“People in their 30s and early 40s are pretty much missing,” she said. “That leaves over 200,000 orphans and vulnerable children in a country of about 1 million people. So the older women and grandmothers are raising all these children.”

While they were feeding thousands of children at feeding centers across the country, these women were struggling to feed and clothe themselves.

Eventually they went to Julie Anderson, a missionary who was living in Swaziland at the time, asking what could be done to help.

Anderson provided the women with a marketable skill and gave them the tools to build a business.

“We met some people who hadn’t eaten for two weeks at the beginning of this,” Borg said. “So Julie taught them how to sew, and she’s the founder of Timbali Crafts. She designs all our products, and she’s lived there over 10 years now.”

Borg and her husband worked in Swaziland for three months, when Borg and Anderson would meet with the women twice a week to encourage and assist them.

“We had Bible study and prayer every Monday and Thursday,” she said. “As we got to know each other, they began to tell their stories.”

Thus, Timbali Crafts was born to help support these women and their mission to feed the young in Swaziland. Initially, the products were sold to missionaries in the country, but Borg and others started bringing it back to the U.S., where it “has just boomed.”

The store in Gainesville is the first retail location, where pictures of the women and children are on display amid the colorful bags and clothes.

“There are a lot of great people in Gainesville that already believe in giving your life away,” Borg said. “They already believe in making intentional purchases. I feel like Gainesville has a really special opportunity to make good purchases intentionally through Rahab’s Rope and now Purchase Effect, as well as Timbali Crafts.”

Borg runs the store with Allison Clyburn, who lived in Swaziland five years and worked with the women there for three years.

Clyburn said all her work with the organization “has just been amazing.”

The store also has a retail website. Every product for sale includes a tag signed by the woman who made it.

“For each woman, we have their picture and a short bio,” Borg said. “It’s on our website and in the store. Each woman signs the tag of the product they make. So you can see your product made by say, Constance, and read her story and think about her and pray for her.”

The word “timbali” means “flowers” in the Swazi language, Siswati.

It comes from the Christian Bible’s book of Matthew, which states, “Observe how the lilies of the field grow: they do not toil nor do they spin …. But if God so arrays the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more do so for you.”

“This is the message we wanted the Timbali women to know,” Borg said. “Their lives are very difficult, but they have a lot of joy. They’re wonderful, and they’re very strong. They’re the champions, really, of Swaziland.”