[By Alex Neikirk]
Do you wonder what life is like for artisans who design and hand craft jewelry, leather and home products? What does a workshop look like, are there language barriers, what happens day to day in Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania and Haiti? Here's an insider perspective from Jill Morley, Co-Executive Director, who has made a number of visits to Karama artisan partners.
Each time Jill prepares for an artisan visit, her excitement builds. She arrives expectant to see God’s hand in her work with Karama's partners. “One of the things I love about visiting African countries is all the people… Even as I am driving, to look out the window and see life happening is amazing.” In contrast to the fast-paced American lifestyle, Jill sees people in the developing world spending a lot of time outside, walking along the streets, enjoying one another’s company. Jill delights in the face-to-face time she spends with different artisan groups. Her favorite part of each trip? Reconnecting with them and continuing to build lasting relationships.
Jill trains artisans during every trip, but it’s not always the production advice she expects to share. As a former engineer, Jill finds herself explaining the most interesting cultural differences. On this visit, she shared how post-it notes work! Isn’t it amazing how very different our cultures are, yet we are able to connect with one another through the little things…like a post-it note?!
Business growth means more lives touched
Work environments look different in Africa and they vary depending on location. Jill visited one of the largest urban slums in Africa (located near Nairobi, Kenya) and noted recent developments. “Workplaces have improved and artisans are now working in more organized and cleaner environments.”
Given that Karama visits artisans regularly, Jill documents changes in each group. “The biggest change I have seen is growth and space!” This growth and expansion reflects Karama’s mission to invest in and grow small-to-medium-sized businesses, as they are the foundation of healthy local economies. “As our orders grow, they are able to hire more people.” Creating more work means MORE of everything we hope to accomplish...more families sustained with dignified work, more knowledge of the global marketplace, more capital infusing and stimulating local economies, and more lasting relationships.
Temporary and eternal impact
Jill affirms that she sees lives changed on every visit, most recently in the form of improved living conditions. “We have seen multiple artisans move into new homes... a step up from where they were.” In the course of her visits, Karama’s impact continues to grow in tangible ways…from artisans’ children completing school and moving forward with training, to artisans developing leadership skills as work and opportunities increase.
What’s the highest priority for Jill on each trip? She hopes that through respecting and honoring the artisans, they will see Christ. “We are witnesses to the Gospel through every interaction!” Jill enjoys praying with artisans and being able to add their prayer requests to Karama's prayer list back home.
By providing dignified work for Karama artisans, their lives are improved... not only temporarily, but eternally.