Thursday, July 21, 2011

And the winner is...

Ryan and Hannah! We'll be sending you the deluxe satchel bag that you wanted to check out!

In case your wondering: This is from the give-away that we hosted last week. We went to and got a random number to pick the winner of our give away. The website gave us number 6, and that is how Ryan and Hannah won! Congratulations!

So maybe you have been out on the beach, or somewhere else on a lovely vacation. And you missed our give-away. Sorry about that!

But you should definitely still come check out SHONA's fabulous summer colors. Really, what can capture summer better than brilliant African colors? We're down to our last few summer wrap skirts. Check out this super cool blue swirl, and this beautiful red and blue wrap. There are only a few left and there is nothing better in this hot weather than these great wrap skirts!

We've still got our free shipping offer posted, so come and take advantage while it lasts!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Loss and Hope


The child was named Asante. What a beautiful name. In Swahili it means "thanks".

Unfortunately this was the child that I mentioned earlier. The child of Solange's sister. Solange has only 1 sister and 1 brother. Although she is only 20 herself, Solange is the eldest in her family. Her parents died years ago and her younger siblings have had a hard time of it. For a while they were living in a refugee camp. During which time, Solange's sister had a little boy and named him "Asante".

Eventually they moved back to their family home, in an area that has been all but deserted because of ongoing fighting. That is where they were living, way out in the bush, and in the midst of insecurity, when Asante became sick. Medicine didn't seem to help. They had no money. They took him to a "kishenzi" doctor. That is a "traditional doctor" or an "herbal doctor".

I am sure there is a place for this type of medicine, but I also know that these are often the doctors of last resort.

When there isn't a hospital nearby...
when no one knows what is wrong with you... when you think someone is poisoning you... or when you just don't have much money...

you go to these "doctors".

You get the idea.

The Kishenzi doctor gave Asante some form of treatment. But he died. And now the family owes $50 to the doctor anyway.

But what other options did they have? Doing anything feels better than doing nothing.

When Asante died, Solange was summoned by her sister and brother before she had a chance to get a hold of me.

She had no money in her back account because all her savings went into the small plot of land that she bought 6 months ago. She is still waiting to save more money to build a house on that plot of land, so her brother and sister can live there in safety.

She planned for Asante to live there too. But he didn't quite make it.

Solange went back to her rural home, full of shame, because in Congo it was surely her duty to contribute to the cost of a funeral for this little child. And yet she had nothing, but the promise of some land she bought for the future. They couldn't bury Asante for 2 days (a long time in Congo) because no one had the money for even the simplest of burials.

I can't think of a more clear example of what it is like to live in Congo. There is an endless, unimaginable balancing...where somehow you have plan for a future when the present is barely hanging on by a string.

Do you save money to buy the land and build a little house, so that a year from now your family can live in safety? But what happens in the meantime?

Or do you cover the emergencies that arise each month, shelling out month after month, but building nothing for the future. The tyranny of the urgent, leaving you just as destitute next year as you were the last.

It is a balancing act. Solange has now paid for the medical debt to that kishenzi doctor. And she remains with the promise of a small plot of land. If only she can find the money to build upon it, her brother and sister could have a safer place to live. It may seem a small consolation to the loss of a child, but it is also the best way to avert the next disaster, before it happens.

A tiny house in Goma, can mean a lot. It means better security, and better health care, and it means hope to continue forward. It is SHONA sales that bought that land and it is continuing SHONA sales that will allow Solange to build upon it one day.

I wish for all the world that Asante had a different life, the opportunities he surely deserved.

But I remain forever impressed by the strength of those who face these losses, often too many to count, and still believe that a different future is possible.

Please buy SHONA products and reward that hope. For Solange and her family your purchases really do make all the difference in the world.

Having Children

In case I haven't mentioned it, I am pregnant. 21 weeks. It's a girl!

We're of course very excited. As are the SHONA women, who have been wondering for quite some time why we don't have children.

So far, I have been feeling quite well and things seem to be going ok and the baby looks fine. But as I am sure anyone who has been pregnant here in the States will probably tell you, pregnancy seems to involve a lot of numbers these days. Especially here in New York, it seems there is a lot of blood screening and testing of various sorts. The results of these tests are often statistics. You have a 1 in X chance of having a baby with this problem or that. Sometimes those statistics can be reassuring, and sometimes not. But in any case, I am often left with 2 realizations.

1. It is fascinating how much they can learn through a blood test or see on an ultrasound
2. And yet there is still so much about life that can't be seen...

At my most recent ultrasound I was thinking how I would describe an ultrasound to the SHONA women. There are no words. I don't think they would believe me. Or else they would believe me wholeheartedly, and assume that we must be able to see and control everything about this baby.

But it is hard to describe this middle ground where our fancy machines can help us know so much, and yet still leave us guessing.

I'm thankful to be pregnant here in the US with the benefits of medicine and technology. And I wish that women in Congo had these same benefits. But I am also aware that in many ways, no matter all the technology, pregnancy is a reminder of all the ways we cannot see or know the future. And in surrendering to that, I understand a little bit more, the resilience of Congolese women.

Monday, July 11, 2011

When It Rains...

I received a number of phone calls in the middle of the night last week. That is not entirely unusual, since the middle of the night here, is morning in Congo. Yet usually the women will call me once, all of them together. This time it seemed each woman was calling on her own.

When I finally talked to the ladies they said "problems zilisha kuwa mingi" which means something like "Our problems have become many." Don't worry, the ladies will survive, and they are still eager to buy new cloth and get back to their sewing ASAP, but in the meantime they and their families could also use your prayers. It does seem that when it pours.

Mapendo is in the hospital right now. She had what sounds like a boil, or some other kind of swollen bump, which grew to unreasonable sizes. The hospital operated on her last week, and she started to get better. But then it appears to have gotten infected and now she is back at the hospital so that they can keep her on IV medicine for the next week.

Solange's 2 year old niece died. This was the only daughter of Solange's younger sister. The little girl had been in and out of the hospital with malaria. She had just been released from the hospital and seemed to be getting a little better, when she died. Solange has gone back to the rural village where her brother and sister live for the funeral.

Riziki is also visiting her family. Her mother is back in the hospital and Riziki is there to help take care of her.

Argentine's father was recently arrested and put in jail for marrying a 17 year old girl.This was despite the fact that he is still married to Argentine' mother, not to mention the father of 6 children who barely have food to eat.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

2 More Days!

...To join our free give-away. Just read this blog entry and leave a comment, to win your choice of a free SHONA product delivered to your door.

And please help us get the word out about SHONA by sharing this link with others!

We've got a bunch of things happening right now in Congo, with the SHONA ladies, which I'll write about soon, but in the meantime come out and support the work of these amazing women! We really appreciate it!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Sticky Summer

Recently we had a free shipping sale, and many of you came out to shop! Thank you! Your purchases allowed us to pay the SHONA ladies and ship the work they had completed. That is huge, and we couldn't have done it without you.

But we didn't quite have enough money to buy new material. So the ladies have been waiting. Anxiously, of course. I've told them wait until we sell a few more things.

So we've decided to extend our FREE SHIPPING for 1 more week, to help us get those last few dollars to buy new cloth. Just select the FREE SHIPPING option at check out!

To be honest, the summer is always a little bit sticky for us. Everyone goes on vacation and gets busy with summer plans. There is less shopping and more barbecues. Of course I fully support that type of a world. But the thing is we need your help to keep going through the summer and get ready for the winter. We do great in the months leading up to Christmas. In fact we sell out of most of our products by December and wish we had sewn many more.

But you see we can't sew many more, because NOW is when we should be sewing our stock for the winter. And we don't have the money to buy the cloth!

I consider myself anti-consumerism. I do not want a world where we shop MORE, but I do want a world where we shop better. I want us to buy meaningful gifts and meaningful clothing. And I want us to choose purchases that have a positive effect on the world.

One way to do that is to shop early. Consider it a little Christmas shopping in the middle of July. Just tuck your purchases away and in December I promise you will be happy to have them! That way your purchase is a double blessing. It is a blessing because it supports the woman who made it. And it is a blessing because it buys her more cloth to sew.

If you already took advantage of our free shipping week, maybe you can help us out by sharing this link and telling people about our sale!

And don't forget, we have a free give away going on right now. Right now, you have a 1 in 5 chance of winning a free product from SHONA. So spread the word!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011


Would you like something free?

Would you like to win a summer skirt? Or maybe a shirt? Or a travel purse, or placemat set?

Just enter our lottery below and in 1 week we will pick the lucky winner! The winner will choose any product from our online store for free!

Here is what to do...
1. Go to our store and choose your favorite item.
2. Leave a comment on this blog post telling us what your favorite item is
3. If you want your name entered twice (double the chances of winning) spread the word! Mention us on facebook, twitter, or your blog and we will enter your name in the give-away twice! (Just be sure to let us know about it!)

We'll assign each comment a number, and on July 12th we will pull a random number from a hat. We hope you win!