Tuesday, July 21, 2009
My husband and I love this region of the world, and have enjoyed being here for the past three years. Don't get me wrong, Goma has driven us crazy on a regular basis, but none the less, this place somehow fits us. And, perhaps against all odds, we love it.
But when we came here, we planned to stay for three years. And our three years is almost up. You see, I am an only child, and my parents live in the US, which in case you haven't noticed...is a very long way away. In fact my husband's parents and siblings are also in the US. And we miss living in the same country as our families.
But my husband was born in this region of the world and grew up here, in many ways Africa is home to him. So while we have never had much of a master plan for our lives, we have always assumed our lives would somehow be spread between here and there, and the people we love in both places.
Which seems to have left us living life in three year stints.
So this three year stint will end next month. We aren't really sure what is next, as I mentioned we aren't so good with master plans. But we are looking forward to seeing family and friends, and probably returning to New york City. At least for a while.
As for SHONA, don't panic. This is not the end of SHONA, but rather the beginning. I have spent two years pouring my heart and soul into a few women. The point wasn't to build a nice craft shop, or a fancy new website. And the point wasn't for me to stay here forever. The point was to empower those women, and they in turn would empower others.
The craftspeople are ready. They already sew completely independently of me. They have learned to buy their own materials, and even to ship their own products. And now they are training our new interns. The focus of SHONA has always been to empower these young women toward independence, and I see no better test of our success than for me to be a bit further away.
But in all reality, I will not be that far away. I will continue to do all of the online work for SHONA in the US and to work closely with the craftspeople by phone, and by visits.
In fact, SHONA is bursting at the seams. What I started as a little trial project, has turned into a true business. And I need to be in the US in order to work on establishing SHONA as a non-profit organization, expanding our stock and shipping capacity, improving our product photos and online store, and the list could go on forever...
So I will have my hands full. And the craftspeople here will have their hands full.
Make no mistake about it. We are attempting something quite remarkable. I am leaving the craftspeople on their own. They will have no manager and no middle man. These young, uneducated women are going to do it themselves. So stay tuned. It is bound to be a fascinating journey, and we are just about to take the first step.