Greetings from Nebraska! It seems fitting that while I'm on my current adventure across the U.S., I FINALLY find the time to properly tell you about my trip to Ethiopia and Tanzania with Karama last spring. I promise I'll be back later this week to tell you about life on a tour bus with 9 other people!
For now, Karama...
^^some of the seamstresses posing with a pennant banner they made in Dar es Salaam^^
When Jason and I heard the story of Karama, we immediately fell in love and knew it was an organization we wanted to support. Here's the origin story according to Dyan Larmey, the founder of Karama:
While living in Ethiopia, I developed friendships with many women who seemed to have no way out of the poverty they were in. Many were selling local food, their own clothes, or even their bodies just to be able to send their children to school or to provide food for their elderly loved ones. They seldom thought about their own needs. These women were natural entrepreneurs and creators. We would brainstorm a little idea...give them a small skill to use and POOF they were off to try it...always creating and working hard to sell what they had made. They taught me so much about graciousness, value and dignity. I wanted to help them sell their products. I realized that every dollar spent on these products was a vote for these women to be successful. Karama was born. (Read more here...)
^^sunset off the coast of Zanzibar^^
Karama is run entirely by volunteers, mostly women, the Karama Mamas. They invited Jason and I to join them and photograph their trip to buy product from their different vendors in Ethiopia and Tanzania. We were THRILLED to get to go with and document the trip, meet, thank and encourage the women and men making the jewelry and scarvesI love.
^^my first time on a private plane!^^
This trip was a whirlwind of interesting things, wonderful people and beautiful places. This little summary will hardly do it justice, but I have to start somewhere...
^^amazing beaded metal jewelry made from melted down shrapnel^^
In Ethiopia, we visited HIV+ women making beautiful jewelry out of melted down shrapnel, and I watched silk worms spin silk at a fair trade organization. Then weavers in the slums of Addis Ababa invited us into their homes to watch as they worked, turning the silk into beautiful scarves.
^^Ethiopian jewelry makers^^
Next we flew to Tanzania's capitol, Dar Es Salaam, where we visited an organization teaching women how to sew, offering them jobs there and skills to take back to their own villages. We took a charter flight to what seemed like the middle of nowhere to stay in a guest house run mostly by deaf and disabled people where we learned how to sign and bought beautiful glass beaded necklaces, carved picture frames and paper made from elephant dung, all made in the onsite workshop.
^^walking to the weavers' homes in Addis Ababa^^
Another charter flight took us to Zanzibar. We stayed in Stone Town where the streets are too narrow for cars, so we took mopeds to our hotel instead. We visited sights that left our hearts heavy like Zanzibar's former slave market and it's dark underground cells where slaves were crammed for days, awaiting transport to Europe or the Middle East. Then we saw hope, in the form of blind men weaving baskets. Simple, yet beautiful baskets. And a sewing school where Christian and Muslim learn a skill side by side, becoming friends.
^^sewing class in Zanzibar^^
The word Karama, means dignity in Arabic and that's the perfect word to describe overall what I saw on this trip. We saw people, who were given the freedom to create, people who were loved and encouraged and given a chance to take care of themselves.
I'll be posting more about Karama this fall, highlighting some of their amazing products and the people who make them.