HOW IT ALL BEGAN
While researching ‘gendered jewellery’ at the Queensland College of Art in 2010 I came across a book by Rebecca Ross Russell, Gender and Jewellery: A Feminist Analysis.
Moving forward to 2013 I learned Rebecca had established The Small Things (TST) in Nkoaranga which partnered with the local orphanage to provide improved care for children. Residential care and family preservation programmes followed fairly quickly. During that year I began sponsoring a seven-year-old child, Isaak, whose mother had died during the birth of his sister. I became a regular supporter of TST, with contributions to fundraisers.
In April 2016 I was at loose ends after completing Honours in 2015 not knowing what the next step was, I received an invitation from Rebecca at The Small Things to volunteer in Tanzania. Although I was on an Australian aged pension, I raised funds by selling all of my furniture, books and personal jewellery.
With 89.7kg over three suitcases filled with tools and metal, I flew out of Australia on November 16 2016, into the great unknown with a one-year contract to collaborate with Reuben Pallangyo in developing a jewellery studio.
Very soon after arrival, it was easy to discern, that yes, children needed support, but a greater problem existed.
More than 60% of young folk are under the age of 24 and unemployment and poverty is over 60% for this group. With the potent mix of joblessness, alcohol, drugs and unprotected sex, something need to be done for this demographic.
In Tanzania, adolescents 15-19 have higher birth rate of 116 per 1000 twice world’s average of 65 births per 1000 adolescents (UNICEF website). Teen pregnancies mostly end up contributing to so many other public problems both socio-economically and health wise. (Mbelwa. c & Isangula. K G, 2012).
Countless NGOs with orphanages are battling to assist the large number of ‘accidental’ babies either abandoned by young women or families who are unable to support them. Many of these children will end up on the street and the cycle is perpetuated.
A need to change the culture became obvious. A need to provide training and provide the means to earn an adequate income became essential.
Watching my funds dwindle rapidly as I took over the funding of the studio only made me more determined to be part of the answer. With a vision of contemporary, cultural art jewellery, we set about teaching young folk the art of metalsmithing using brass, copper, titanium and sterling silver. Within 6 months we had generated more than 6000000Tzh ($AU3,800.00), enough to feed the 4 students each day and to begin paying them weekly money. We were also able to financially assist the student’s families with hospital fees, helping with the harvest, clothes and other essential items.
Everyday there were young folk virtually begging to be part of the program but we had reached the limit of what available monies and space allowed, it broke my heart to turn them away.
Single parent families are also a big need, a large number are younger women who became caught in the ‘no condom’ web and children resulted. I developed a program “Bibi Bags”, reusable fabric shopping bags for women at home. More than 3,000,000Tzh has been generated with 25% of sales being returned to the women.
After 2 years and 8 months I decided it was time to return to Australia to share with the people here how dire the situation is in Tanzania and to ask for support via a crowdfunding campaign. I have demonstrated what can be done with limited resources but the need to expand has become overwhelming.
$AU50,000.00 will equip a jewellery studio with all of the necessary tools and equipment for 10 students. This will include 5 flex-drives, rolling mill, draw table, 5 double jewellers benches, single and double gas cylinders and torches.
A sewing workshop with 10 sewing machines, 2 overlockers, 2 large cutting tables, scissors, 2 irons and ironing boards.
A woodworking workshop with work benches, drop saws, lathes, routers, drills and hand tools.
I hope your financial participation will give you as much joy and sense of purpose that I have enjoyed over the last three years.