(9/21/08. This posting is not in its correct place chronologically, but is being re-posted as a correction. I wrote it early in February after returning from Africa. This past week I received a box in the mail from the women’s group in Petauke, and we now have necklaces and bracelets and even a few rosaries made from “Heidi beads.” I will post pictures in another website gallery asap.)
A challenge to economic development is lack of resources: How does a person pull herself up by her bootstraps when she has no boots?! Let me reframe that, because I don't believe in "lack of resources." My mother taught me that sometimes you simply have to look harder to identify and locate them.
In Petauke, Zambia, there is a women's church group trying desperately to help 300 children orphaned by HIV. They have a small "tuck shop" but not much of anything to sell. But since every Catholic in the town wants a rosary, and every woman can afford a few kwachas for a bit of jewelry, I thought that making these items to sell in the shop would be profitable for the group.
Problem: Petauke is a very small place, and the market has no beads or other supplies for making these items.
Solution: I emailed Heidi Horan, Harambee's angel in Texas, lamenting. She quickly emailed me directions to make beads from paper. My skepticism quickly turned to awe and amazement as I rolled the beads. I held bead-making sessions with the church women's group, then all through Zambia, and then in Kenya. The women were as amazed as I had been at the beads. We used fishing line to string them. The women are very innovative and quickly came up with their own designs. One returned the next day with a bucketful: she'd enlisted everyone in her family to help, and it looked as if they'd been up all night working on those beads!
This is not work. Can there be more fun than a group of women engaged together productively, sharing, eating, talking about home and family?! When we broke for lunch, I received a lesson in proper use of a hoe. Now that was work!
On Sunday the priest announced from the pulpit that the women's group had a fine variety of rosaries and jewelry for sale in the tuck shop. After mass we were swamped with customers and orders. The whole town was talking about "Heidi beads." Congratulations, my friend; you've scored another direct hit for Africa. Add a cupful of drops to that bucket.