Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Vikoi, Coming to a Town Near You (IF You Happen to Live in a Town We Are Coming Near)

This post is part advertisement and part ministry update.

Waldie and I will be heading to the States in a few days for a 5 week trip that will have us staying in 7 different states. Along with our smiling faces, we'll be hauling around a few items that will be available for purchase. By doing so, you will directly be supporting a group of women with whom I work.

In the last year, the focus of my work has really been around one group called Chanua, comprised of both children (watoto) and their caregivers (walezi). We meet twice a month with the children, who are either orphaned or just living in very difficult circumstances. At least once a month, we meet with the caregivers. Additionally, we offer various types of support to members of this group. Several women from this caregiver group joined together to start a cooperative, and they have really gelled together as a group. The group has learned to make several different types of products to sell, but by far the most successful- and beautiful- project has been making vikoi (or kikoi in singular form). Vikoi are basically tie-dyed cloth with tassels on the end, commonly used for shawls, skirts, decorations, carrying babies, etc. Here is a sampling of what we will have available to sell.

Various patterns and colors of vikoi.

Thanks to the generous donations from our friends, family and supporters, in the middle of 2013 we were able to sponsor the training for the women, which brought a facilitator in to teach them how to dye the fabrics. Here are some shots of that seminar. The women in these pictures come from 4 different women's groups.

The teacher showing the women how to prepare the fabrics for dyeing.

The women practicing folding the fabrics.

In addition to folding the fabrics, they tie it around bottle caps, which makes a nice pattern once dyed.

Dyeing and setting the fabric. It's very caustic, which is why they are wearing scarves over their mouths. Also, it seriously smells like farts.

Most women were very happy with their final products.

Since then, the women have been working with a few other teachers to learn more, practice their dyeing techniques, learn about quality control, sell some of their inventory, and build up money to increase their stock.

One of the best things that has happened to them was the bungling of their second batch of vikoi. We we working on producing a batch of vikoi for a craft fair in December, one that largely focused on a ex-pat customer base. Their patterns were slightly off, and the handiwork around the edges was a bit sloppy. I stressed how they needed to pay more attention to the details and that the quality craftmanship could really set them apart in local markets. They agreed and clearly took the advice to heart, because the latest batch is beautiful and the quality is excellent. I commend these women for really committing to their work.

We are so pleased to be able to bring some of these fabrics to the US to sell. If anyone is interested in purchasing any of these vikoi, we're selling them for $10 each (or more if you'd like to make a larger donation). All of the money will be given directly back to the women when we return to Mwanza. Seriously, I'll convert it from USD to TZ shillings and literally hand it to the treasurer of the group to be divided up among the women. This is a great way to directly support a disadvantaged group of women who are working hard to better their families and improve their lives.

We'll also be selling some  hand-crafted goods made by Sister Peg Donovan's project in Kalabezo. Sister Peg is a Maryknoll Sister who lived in Tanzania for 45 years and just returned to the States. In her time here, she started a pre-school for kids and a craft school for adults in a village, which we were fortunate enough to visit a few months ago when we attended her going away party. The women at Vema (the craft school) make purses, change pouches, computer bags, glasses cases, etc. We are bringing home some materials to ship to Peg but she gave us the go-ahead to sell any if anyone is interested.

Assortment of purses, coin pouches, glasses cases, computer bags, etc. made my the women at Vema.

Head over to Waldie's blog to see more pictures of Peg's items and some nice photos of Peg's goodbye celebration.

We have limited quantities of all the items featured above, so let us know if there's something specific you want and we'll do our best to set it aside for you. Let me know either in the comments below or via email at creid(at)mklm.org. Remember, everything is one-of-a-kind, so if you see something you like, it may be the only one like it. Get it while supplies last and support great causes in Tanzania!

Asante sana!

Monday, January 06, 2014

Victoria Falls, Christmas Day 2013

As many folks know, Katie and I spent Christmas at Victoria Falls in Livingstone, Zambia. We wanted to take advantage of a few leftover vacation days, so we decided that our presents to one another this year would be a trip to see what is arguably one of the most beautiful sites in the world. The trip down there was long (it's around 2500 kilometers from Dar es Salaam, and that doesn't include the flight we took from Mwanza to reach Dar) and we used planes, trains, and automobiles to get there. But the effort was totally worth it. The Falls are magnificent. Here are few selected pictures. They won't do it justice, but they're still purdy nonetheless.

Katie had a good write-up of the whole trip on her blog, so go there and see pictures of the train adventure, walking with rhinos, Christmas Mass, and a lively rendition of a Zambian take on "Happy Birthday."