How a Foundation in Africa Employs People with Disabilites to Create Handmade Gifts

How a foundation in Africa creates sustainability by employing people with disabilities to create beautiful, handmade gifts from recycled goodsA few weeks ago, I went home to visit my parents. In the basement I found a beautiful handwoven blanket with a little tag on it that said Shanga. I found out soon from my mama, who had just visited her friend in Africa, that it was made by an organization that employs blind, deaf, and disabled people in Tanzania.

Not only do they give jobs to people that need them, they also use recyclable and sustainable materials whenever possible! I thought, wow, we could really learn something about sustainability here! Not only that, Shanga is truly making the world a better place by supporting employment for people with disabilities.

How an organization in Tanzania is using recycling and reusing to employ blind, deaf, and physically disabled Africans; how to purchase handmade items made from recycle material while supporting a good cause

Here’s what the Crunchy Nana (aka: my mama) says about Shanga:

“On my recent mission trip to Moshi, Tanzania, Africa with the Rafiki Foundation orphanage, I was introduced to Shanga. While on the orphanage’s compound and on site school, I noticed some of the missionaries had beautiful glassware, bowls, jewelry, and wind chimes, as well as handwoven blankets. After inquiring about them, they took me to Shanga in Arusha, Tanzania.

Wow–what an unique experience!  All the items are made by people with disabilities using recycled material, including the bags they put the purchased items in; these were made out of newspaper and a twine handle. There were even two stools and a little table made out of recycled bicycle tires. (pictured below)

A sign caught my attention while I was there; it said “Kindness is the language which blind people see and deaf people hear”. Those beautiful words of Mark Twain were emulated perfectly at the Shanga organization. I do know my next trip to the Rafiki orphanage will include another trip to Shanga and more space in my bags to bring items back, not only because of the uniqueness of their product, but for what they believe in and represent.”How an organization in Tanzania is using recycling and reusing to employ blind, deaf, and physically disabled AfricansThanks mom!

Emily here– I reached out to Shanga’s marketing manager, Lucy, to get a little more detail on the organization. She replied with this:

What is Shanga?

Shanga is a successful social enterprise based in Arusha, Tanzania which employs people with disabilities to create unique, high-quality handmade jewelry, glassware, and homeware using recycled materials. These products are sold in Tanzania and all over the world, with profits being reinvested back into development of new products and further employment of disabled people.

Combining an uplifting local community project with unique artistic activities and an opportunity to purchase handmade gifts, Shanga has been a favorite Arusha tourist destination since its inception in 2007.

Elewana Arusha Coffee Lodge is the home of Shanga, which comprises an open workshop for weaving, sewing, Tinga Tinga painting, beading, glass blowing, metal work, and recycled material storage and sorting as well as a shop showcasing handmade Shanga products. At Shanga we recycle glass bottles, window glass, secondhand men’s shirts, scrap metal, paper, newspapers, bottle caps, and sunflower seed oil as the energy source for our glass furnaces.

Shanga has welcomed many happy visitors and become an institution in Arusha. Some of our highlights are seeing Amal Clooney wearing our Amal necklace in the international news, and a visit from Bill Clinton and the Clinton foundation.How an organization in Tanzania is using recycling and reusing to employ blind, deaf, and physically disabled Africans

Shanga’s Beginnings

Shanga was founded in 2007 when local resident, Saskia Rechsteiner, made a handful of fabric necklaces for a Christmas Fair in Arusha. Combining local fabric with some beads and her sons’ marbles, she created a unique necklace that sold out within hours. The days after the fair were busy–orders for the necklaces came in from safari companies, gift shops, and even people who wanted to export them to Japan and Australia.

Saskia saw an opportunity to generate extra income for a local deaf lady she knew and together they started producing the necklaces to sell from Saskia’s backyard. Demand for the necklace grew and soon the first Shanga Workshop was established. The Shanga range of products was expanded, utilizing recycled and sustainable materials where possible, and the project was opened for people to come and meet the inspiring disabled staff and purchase products on site.

Over the years Shanga has grown to employ more than 50 people with a wide range of disabilities to make creative products including weaving, glass blowing, beading, paper making, and metal work, using recycled materials wherever possible.

In 2017 Shanga was acquired by Elewana and our workshop and store are now hosted at the beautiful Elewana Arusha Coffee Lodge. Our staff is so pleased to have such a beautiful and safe working space and we are thrilled to have the incredible Elewana CSR support for our project and foundation.

How an organization in Tanzania is using recycling and reusing to employ blind, deaf, and physically disabled Africans; how to purchase handmade items made from recycle material while supporting a good cause

Shanga’s Itinerary

  • Take a guided tour of the workshop
  • Meet the inspiring disabled Shanga staff and hear their personal stories
  • Try beading, weaving, and glass blowing with Shanga staff
  • Design and make your own Shanga necklace
  • Learn about Maasai beading culture and techniques in a beading lesson
  • Participate in a sign-language lesson
  • Learn about disabilities and recycling in Tanzania in a Q&A session

How an organization in Tanzania is using recycling and reusing to employ blind, deaf, and physically disabled Africans; how to purchase handmade items made from recycle material while supporting a good cause

Reasons to Visit Shanga

  • One of the top rated attractions on Trip Advisor, attracting people from all over the world
  • Over 10,000 visitors a year
  • Active workshop and trendy boutique shop
  • Empowerment of people with disabilities in Tanzania
  • Unique handmade products
  • Supporting employment for people with disabilities
  • Shanga Foundation- helping make lives better of the physically challenged people
  • Outsourcing to organizations that need support.
  • ‘Heartwarming’ ‘Inspiring’ ‘Uplifting’ ‘fun’ ‘Interesting’ ‘Educational’ ‘Surprising’ ‘Different’

How an organization in Tanzania is using recycling and reusing to employ blind, deaf, and physically disabled Africans; how to purchase handmade items made from recycle material while supporting a good cause

Connect

  • Visit our website www.shanga.org to get more information about Shanga.
  • For orders please email Denis Salamba through orders@shanga.org
  • For bookings and enquiries please contact Lucy Evarest through marketing@shanga.org or info@shanga.org
  • For donations contact foundation@shanga.org

Learn more about the Rafiki Foundation HERE, who’s goal is to support widows by buying products from them and to educate orphans in Africa while teaching them about the love of Jesus.

I know many of us will never get the chance to visit Tanzania, but I wanted to share this beautiful and inspiring story with all of you! I hope you are encouraged, uplifted, and inspired by this amazing organization and these wonderful people. They absolutely blow my reusability skills out of the park!

About Emily

Hi, I'm Emily. I'm a free range mama helping women conquer simple, healthy living with a side of science!

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