Sunday, January 2, 2011
This brings my heart to Karama. I find that I continue to struggle putting Karama into words when new friends ask me to describe this sweet, new part of my life. (I think a lot of this will get easier when I finally get to go and experience this continent that I am constantly drawn towards.) But as I reflected this morning on my own personal belief of who God is, I found myself thankful that God chose me to play a small role in serving the precious women, men, and children of Africa. It renewed and confirmed my desire to help better the lives of our incredible artists by exposing people here in the States (most of which would otherwise buy similar products at Target) to the beautiful, handmade products that hold the story (and more importantly, the lives and souls behind the story). My belief that Jesus is everything that he claims to be (John 20:31) leaves me thankful that He is life and light for me…as well as for the sweet little woman in Ethiopia that dyed my Karama scarf that beautiful eggplant purple color.
So I move forward…wanting to do so much more than simply hosting a “Karama Party,” but knowing that this is a small step towards sharing the amazing story. Hopefully those women are now sharing the story too, and so on…. Thank you, Jesus, for Karama.
Monday, November 15, 2010
But, in Africa. Where poverty runs high and opportunity looms drastically low. Last summer as I spent a couple weeks in Liberia on a short-term mission trip, I was blown away by the beautiful fabrics I came across. Being sold on the streets in plastic bags, fabrics that could easily be sold in high-end designer showrooms for high-end prices in America. As an Interior Designer in Dallas, I knew the incredible value of these products and how Americans would go crazy for them. Oh, the potential with just these gorgeous fabrics!
And this was only the beginning. Africa is RICH with beauty, rich with resources, rich with hard-working people who have the ability and the desire to create.
This experience on the streets of Liberia was the starting point in my journey that has led me to my role with Karama now. Today I live in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. And I still wonder.... How can I play a part in making these abundantly beautiful products available to people in other parts of the world, people who are willing and able to pay fair wages to those deserving of them?
This is where Karama comes in. And this is where you come in.
Karama: Employing women who are in need of work while utilizing resources that are already here in abundance. Giving dignity to women who desperately need to know that they have value, while living in circumstances that can make it so easy to believe that they don't.
You: Getting the word out to your friends and associates. Supporting and purchasing Karama's products. Throwing Karama parties and e-parties that continue to grow Karama's vision and mission.
Let's be in this together. Let's beautify our lives and our homes, but let's do it in fair and meaningful ways. Let's think before we purchase. Think before we consume. Think before we support.
We all love beauty, but let's act on it responsibly. Karama: Fair trade, but so much more. Meaningful trade. Purposeful trade. Empowering trade. Help us grow the Circle of Good, as we do our part to do the same.
Tuesday, November 9, 2010
Living in Africa I really identify with the mantra of give a man a fish and u feed him for a day; teach him to fish and u feed him for a lifetime. Unemployment is a real issue here, no doubt because of a combination of reasons such as poor government labour policies, over-population/demands-exceeds-supply, and corruption.
But another factor I think exists is a “hand-out” mentality/lack of motivation which I have observed from people around, and hear people complaining about. Was reading a book lately entitled Dead Aid, by Dambisa Moyo, where the author talks about how “aid crowds out financial and social capital and feeds corruption”, such that after 50 years and almost US$1 trillion of aid being handed-out to African countries, these nations are hardly better off than they were before. In fact, she argues (backed up with statistics) that the recipients of aid are worse off, and that aid has helped make the poor poorer and growth slower.
People here are discouraged and I can see it. Who can see a bright future for themselves where it appears that the only way to get rich is not thru hard work or entrepreneurship but by pocketing bribes or donations from foreigners (either by being a politician, rebel leader/dissident or policeman)?
A young friend of ours from church was struggling to find a job, and finally decided he would do “field work”, i.e., work for free, with one of the big hotels here, so that he could at least get the experience for his CV. He was later told that the manager needed a bribe to let him work there. I would never forget the frustrated SMS he sent me that day, “This is why I hate my country – work field no pay, pay to work field”. There is no wonder why people aren’t motivated to work hard to make a decent living.
But now and again you come across the gems, who have a job and are really focused on their job. Even if it may involve tiring manual labour and pays $50 a month or less. They have a job and are determined to do it well. Simple people like that really touch my heart, and I am glad that I can name many whom I know. I always try to make sure that they get enough encouragement and affirmation, and that know that their hard work and integrity is not going un-noticed.
There is another group of people who really struggle, and these are the marginalised (handicapped, diseased, albinos, and even women). They are not able to find jobs because of their disability (or what people perceive to be a disability), and (according to a local organisation who employed handicapped) because having enough to eat is a daily issue here, when an adult person cannot support his family, they are often rejected by their family/community simply because of economic reasons. Many of these people end up begging on the streets, which actually is a pretty effective way to make a lot of money fairly easily (especially those who accost drivers when they are stopping at traffic lights), but where’s the dignity in that?
The organisations which Karama partners with are really small (no UN or World Bank type) and are situated locally. They employ and teach marginalised people skills at a fair wage and sustain themselves through the selling of the products produced/made by these people.
What these organisations have in common is that they give people dignity (which is “Karama”, in Arabic), by empowering and enabling them to be useful and make a decent living for themselves and their families, although they may be suffering /previously suffered from a humiliating disease, or completely do not have use of their legs, or can't talk or hear. Most of these organisations are based on the ground (or in the bush) and do not really have the funds or management capacity to sell their products to a larger audience worldwide (main customers end up being the expats living in the place they are based, or occasional tourists); a couple of them have websites which talk about what the organisation does, but generally none of them do worldwide e-commerce.
Karama’s mission is to bring these products to a wider market, which means increasing sales and sales income, so that these organisations can focus their funds on expanding their premises, increasing their product portfolio, hiring more people, and in turn benefitting more people who are struggling to make a living.
We have not reached the point of starting our own non-profit organisation to directly reach those who are struggling, but we are starting small by supporting the people who have already started this wonderful work. Aid may not have reached the people who really need it, and it is true that many these people may never ever get rich in their lifetime. But they still deserve to live with pride, to know the meaning of dignity, and to look forward to a future. These organisations have got it right by teaching people to fish, and from the ‘success stories’ I know that the fish caught with your own hands will be much more abundant and rewarding than hand-out fish could ever be.
(Adapted from Rebecca’s original blogpost published on http://safiri.wordpress.com on May 27, 2010)
Tuesday, July 13, 2010
I had bought a scarf here...and had a Karama party there....but it just wasn't enough.
And so the door was opened.
One evening about 9 months ago I was lying on my couch in Fairview, TN watching the evening news (Channel 4...which is by far our favorite!) I saw an interview with 2 young women about my age that had started something called 147 Million Orphans. It stirred something in me. These women had begun an organization making t-shirts (not just any t-shirt...cool, trendy ones that you might see artsy musicians wearing when you spot them in Starbuck's) and the proceeds went to helping the 147 million orphans around the world.
That night, as I lay in bed wide awake at 3 a.m. (due to my pregnancy insomnia), Karama came to my heart and I decided to get up and email Dyan (in Africa) to ask if there was any need that I might be able to fill within Karama. She responded with a resounding YES!
The dreaming began. She and I emailed back and forth almost daily for several weeks, just brainstorming what could be and should be and what we hoped would be....
And now I'm here. Living back in my hometown of Newburgh, IN. I am just beginning to learn the depth of this amazing ministry and how God can use my gifts to be a part of what He has already begun in the lives of the beautiful artists in Africa that make up the heart of Karama.
So so thankful to be a part of this.