Knifemakers shape much more than blades

Nov. 13, 2013 @ 12:28 AM

A recent mission trip to Uganda demonstrated not only the skill of a knifemaker, but also his ability to forge a future for orphans and at-risk youth from the village of Bamba. George Icard, who owns and operates GI Custom Knives, lives in Winston-Salem with his wife Katie. He returned from his 10-day trip Oct. 16.

The trip came about through his association with fellow knife maker Tim Troyer of Sugarcreek, Ohio, also a director and founder with The Reckoning International. The nonprofit provides individuals struggling with chronic poverty with the opportunity to work, grow and thrive and to be generous in return.

When Troyer invited him to accompany him on a trip to Bamba, Uganda to teach knife making skills, Icard jumped at the chance. Journeyman knifemaker Jesse Hemphill of Fyffe, Ala., also traveled with them.

The small village of Bamba is in central Africa, just west of Kenya.

Ugandan youth face difficult circumstances such as widespread HIV or AIDS, child trafficking, sexual abuse and poor facilities. In Uganda, orphans and widows face a cultural prejudice which makes it difficult or impossible to get a high-paying job regardless of their education level.

"Bamba Forge did not come into existence until The Reckoning International stepped in," said Icard. "The Reckoning provided the initial capital to purchase the equipment and basic materials to get Bamba Forge started."

A group of at-risk young men were selected to use their natural talents to learn the knife making skill. Each day during the trip, the three teachers met with them at the Forge set up in an open shelter. Toilet facilities consisted of a path to one of the village’s squat-pot outhouses.

Icard was impressed by the talent and tenacity of the beginner knife makers, one of whom spent the night at the Forge to complete his first project.

“File work is accomplished by using small hand files,” said Icard. “I mainly use round files and triangle files. I showed one student, Jacob initially, and he in turn showed some of the others and they loved it!”

The majority of Ugandans are Christians who usually eat meat one time per year — at Christmas. On their last night there, the young men truly appreciated one final meal together. The menu included a goat provided by the ministry.

“I walked away from this experience with far more than I could have given,” Icard said. “I went with the intention of teaching, but those young men taught me. Most of them face far worse situations than I will ever face but they do not let it hinder them. They attack life with vigor and a desire that I very much admire and aspire to attain. If we could have an attitude like they have, we would all be better human beings for it!”

When Icard returned to North Carolina, he was satisfied that the time he dedicated to teach these young men would give them the opportunity to develop a sustainable skill.

“The Reckoning International will continue to assist in helping Bamba Forge gain access to the knife making market and community,” said Icard. “It has already started via Youtube and Facebook.”

Retail outlets for the custom knives are being sought in the Piedmont area. Write The Reckoning International, 205 W. Main St., Sugarcreek, Ohio 44681, or visit www.thereckoning.org, or call Tim Troyer at 330-763-4786.

To view photos of the team’s work in Uganda, like The Reckoning International on Facebook.