This is an excerpt taken from an interview with New York-based, Elkie Soto. You can read the full interview on her blog A Woven Life.
"I lived in Malawi, a small country in Central Africa, in 2006 with my husband Jon. While living there I volunteered with the schools doing mural projects, coached a girls’ soccer team and worked on my fine arts painting. About once a week, I would take myself on little “artist dates” to the fabric markets in town for creative inspiration. I immediately fell in love with the vibrant colors and designs! Whatever I was drawn to in the moment became part of my growing African textile collection. As a painter, I had no idea at the time what would become of these fabrics.
"As I developed relationships in the community through my volunteer work, I was struck by the level of poverty at which most people lived. Even living in the “city”, most of my soccer girls lived in mud brick homes with thatched roofs, no running water or electricity. They came to practice barefoot, wearing skirts, since they didn’t have shorts or shoes. Friends my own age young men and women in their early to mid twenties, lived with their parents and worked the small family farm. 80% of the population are subsistence farmers, trying to grow enough food to feed the family for an entire year. When asked why they don’t go out to look for a job, the answer was simple...there are NO jobs. Even someone fortunate enough to get a high school education can’t find work. The idea was pretty clear to me, my Malawian friends needed jobs and they needed to be trained with an employable skill. It’s the classic proverbial “Give a man a fish, and he will eat for a day, or teach a man to fish, and he will eat for a lifetime.”