My first trip to Africa ten years ago was truly life changing. No one could possibly imagine all the obstacles to living in an underserved area. Homes were simple mud thatched cardboard box houses, and open sewage flowed between ditches but in the midst lived some amazing people. Broad smiles greeted me from people full of grace, peace, and love. There was a difference from my own home.
While in Ghana, I attended a lively, Sunday service. The mass was full of glorious singing and dancing. The pastor was extraordinarily passionate about his message, the “helmet of salvation.” God must bless these people with contentment and peace. We in the US never seem content. We always want more, how spoiled we have become. My entire life, I have loved design and the opportunity to help other women by working with artisans and fair trade to improve their lives and the lives of their families was an opportunity for me to make an impact. How many of us have jobs that combine all our passions and help others?
While at 7 Loaves, our organization helped many artisan groups through disaster and times of need. One of our Kenyan artisan groups, Kipepeo, located in the Kibera slums had suffered more than most. On more than one occasion, their workplace was overcome with violence and their livelihood burned to the ground. Many of the women were raped and killed. Those who survive today are working harder than ever to produce amazing handmade cards. Triumph of the human spirit keeps them smiling and full of faith.
This past year, I have done a lot of reflecting. In the US, we seem to have more difficulty achieving peace and happiness. I have met numerous humanitarians this past year, strong individuals that step out to do amazing things. These individuals often put their own lives at risk in order to help others whether working in refugee camps, war zones, or amidst disaster. It has always been easy for me to help others, but in the safety of my own life here at home in the US. This past year I have been in transit. After selling my home rather quickly, I was left with where next, what next? I didn’t really want to stay in my hometown, and I knew it was time for a change as my children were grown. It has taken me a little over a year to decide that next step. I have never experienced this sense of being displaced. Granted, I have a roof over my head, but my life and possessions are on hold in long term storage. If for just one moment, I have had a glimpse of what our artisans face losing their home or business. There is a sense of loss and sadness. But, life doesn’t stop. One must move on.
When put to the test, we all can find our faith and still smile as we rebuild. I am excited to combine my love of art and design as the Vice President of 7 Loaves into rebuilding a new brand as Executive Director of the non-profit, Red Rover Ventures. I will continue to work with all our Artisans globally. The sale of those products will go to assist with basic vision needs of both our artisans and in training new eye care providers primarily in sub-Saharan Africa.