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Saturday, March 20

crafting a life

So, today I was a vendor at a Women's Conference for Buffalo for Africa. I didn't know much about them when I heard of the opportunity, so I did what we all do. Googled. And I was moved by what these people do for the women and children of Africa who suffer so much, not only at the hands of their tormentors, but through poverty and struggle.

There were workshops on Darfur and human trafficking. Things you can only try to assimilate. The keynote speaker was Maureen Orth, a respected journalist/activist and the widow of Tim Russert.

She spoke of the injuries suffered by many of the women and children as a result of repeated rape. But she also related the story of the school she helped establish and the positive changes being made. It was a sobering and powerful speech.

During a break I visited with the vendors who were selling items from the different countries as a fund raiser and I bought a little embroidered pouch with a peace dove inside for Russell and a small, carved musical toy for the mantle. Then I spoke with a woman who was selling jewelry made of paper beads by women of Uganda.


I am a papermaker, paper artist and I know paper beads. Here we use imported papers and foils and tissues. But the Ugandans use strips of magazine pages and packages and junk mail. They craft beautiful beads that bear little resemblance to the recycling project they are, and they are sold to finance a growing industry there that is making a difference in the lives of their community. I picked up a strand of rainbow colored beads and I swear I could feel the energy of the woman so far away that had spun the paper strips round and round to make the necklace draped across my palm. I rubbed my thumb over the fine ridges and imagined her. I chose a multi colored strand because I liked the free spirit of it and I thought it must have been fun to make.

All of us art carnies out there, selling our lovingly crafted work, are working to help support our families. Granted, for us it is more about needing a new car or fixing a roof than simple survival. But my fellow art carnies in Uganda, thumbs up to you. We, all of us, know the feeling of working with the joy of creativity. What you have done with this simple idea is amazing.

"Bead for Life" and "Grassroots Uganda" are 2 of the organizations helping to promote the artisans of Uganda. A visit to their website will bring some color, a smile for your day. While you're there, visit the store. Treat yourself. Reach out.

There are so many sadnesses in the world. I often feel powerless and sad. Will a strand of paper beads change the world? No. But hundreds of them will change a community. A community of sister artists who daily face trials I can only begin to comprehend and who carry on, spinning strips of color into dreams, crafting a life. Creating hope.

1 comment:

Mzuribeads said...

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Here you can check out a selection of ethical and eco beads all made by groups building sustainable businesses and promoting environmental awareness.

Thank you for your support, and for promoting sustainable bead projects.