Evening football (soccer) in Mfuwe, Zambia
Imagine this. We are driving down a road where children are running around, teens are hanging out and adults are moving around the mix. It's a bustling Saturday night.
In the distance, a group of kids are playing football (soccer). The evening feels energized.
As we continue driving, the night gets darker. Whilst the energy of the night resumes, there is something striking about the scene. It's dark with simple silhouettes simply illuminated by candles and kerosene lamps. The only place lit by electricity on this main road is the local gas station.
I have the urge to jump out of the car and join the fun here in Mfuwe, Zambia, but we still have a 30 minute drive ahead of us.
My travel partner is Hayley Stewart, the Design for Change winner, and the two of us are on our way to meet with Mulberry Mongoose - artisan partners of Dsenyo.
By the time we arrive, it's late in the evening. We'll have to wait until tomorrow to head over to the art studio and to meet the artisans. In the mean time, we are pleasantly greeted by Kate, founder and "momma" of Mulberry Mongoose who welcomes us like family.
We discuss the situation here in the South Luangwa Valley. Jobs are often scarce and there lies challenges between wildlife conservation and simply meeting your basic needs. For example, elephants (the iconic animal when we "think of Africa") have a tendency to disrupt homes and vegetable gardens. When this impacts your basic needs (food), this can be a conflict.
Side note: In next week's blog we'll talk more about how your jewelry purchase (particularly from the snare wire jewelry collection) is helping provide economic opportunities for artisans and making contributions to conserve wildlife - a win-win that is helping address the aforementioned situation.
The next morning we walk over to the art studio. A brick building surrounded by lively monkeys and baboons with a wood door known to be opened by elephants. Inside, the familiar tunes of, yes, Brittney Spears are blasting on the portable speakers taking me back to the 90s for a quick minute.
Making bracelets for the Snare Wire Twist collection
The women are working on bracelets and necklaces while the sole man is working on coil beads for the snare wire jewelry collection. The young early-20s-something man stops his work and smiles. Throughout the week, it becomes a little game to see if he ever stops smiling and as a good fail at the game, he doesn't.
Javesy is all smiles
The remainder of our visit I have the privilege of meeting with every artisan. I conduct the social impact survey with each one (report coming later this summer) and the common consensus is "please buy more jewelry." Yes, ma'am (and sir)! The group reports that because of their work, they have more respect in their community and as one woman reports, she now has credit at the stores - a sign of empowerment in the community.
Photo of Hayley (center) with Mulberry Mongoose
While spending time with everyone, the "Ellies" (or elephants) come by the studio. It's almost a comedic moment as people nearby the studio will quickly pop-in to keep distance from the elephants. Inside the studio, we all shuffle around from room to room viewing these large animals walk the perimeter of the building.
"Ellie" walking by the studio
To take a look at this special collection of jewelry from Zambia, please visit: http://www.dsenyo.com/collections/fair-trade-jewelry
Over the next few weeks we will be publishing blogs on the social impact of our work in Zambia with Mulberry Mongoose as well as looking at the relationship between the artisans and wildlife conservation. We'd love to hear from you with any thoughts and questions. E-mail: email@example.com
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