Thursday, 29 December 2011

simple really

You know what inspires me? No, I’m not talking about wishy-washy stuff like the scent of rain on dirt (though that does) or sitting down with some personal one-on-one time with Kerewin, my guitar (though that too produces a lovely uplifting effect).
The object of my inspiration is this woman.
This woman.
This woman.
If you’re too cool (or busy, or tired – I don’t know) to click on those links, let me give you think quick 101 on what Shanley does and why it’s got my odd, crooked toes twitching for 2012.
This is how it goes. Shanley goes to Uganda, more specifically, to the village of Kakooge. She meets a young orphan girl named Cossy Nakate and through getting to know her, finds out the situation women in the village are in – working harder than any person should, some even having to prostitute themselves in order to earn enough money to feed, clothe and home themselves and their children. Often these women also suffer from AIDS and need to buy medicine for themselves and their families on top of everything else.
But instead of blindly, shallowly throwing money at a problem she couldn’t think how to solve, Shanley did think. She saw the necklaces some women were making – necklaces with beads made of paper wrapped around needles – and realised there was something she could do. These handcrafted, beautifully simple beaded necklaces had a market back in the US, and indeed all over the world, a market which would hopefully begin to be able to support the women of Kakooge, Uganda. So she brought the necklaces to the market and she called it The Nakate Project. She worked hard, pushed herself to the brink of exhaustion and desperation to make it work and she bloody well did make it work. She built up a business. She built up relationships with the women. And she has started to build up a future for them and their children. 
She documents this journey, a mix of life which is sometimes perplexing, sometimes amusing, oftentimes frustrating, endlessly uplifting, and driven by her innate determination and passion, on her blog, Voye’m. A good first post is this relatively recent one which starts off well and just gets better in process.
Well, I guess that’s just Shanley feckin’ Knox.
Yeah. She’s pretty awesome.
So how has she inspired me? She’s shown me a way to help people that is not only donating money – though that is not to be belittled as it is the cornerstone of every great philanthropic organisation from Amnesty International to Cancer Research UK – but it also means thinking small to think big. The women of Kakooge live in one village in one country in one continent in one world – this is not the scope of Greenpeace or Oxfam or Fair Trade. This is personal, and that is one of Nakate’s and Shanley’s great strengths.
Another thing which inspires me about Shanley is that she’s involved – she’s just come back from Uganda and is planning her next trip already. The people there are friends and business partners, not some distant, abstract ‘poverty-stricken community’. Again, I’m not disregarding the immense effect which Water Aid, Save the Children, and The Red Cross have, but here I can see a close-up of how one person with one idea and a hell of a lot of energy can change the lives of many.
So what’s the end result of all this inspiration?
Amnesty International. Cancer Research UK. Greenpeace, Oxfam, Fair Trade. Water Aid, Save the Children, The Red Cross.
I’ve namedropped an awful lot of charities and organisations here. Shanley and her blog have made me more certain than I was before that I want to work in the 3rd sector – that is, aid, environmentalist, fundraising, charity. But what, where, how? What inspires me? Where do I start? How do I get going? I don’t have the experience, or the specific cause to focus on in order to follow Shanley’s steps exactly. Instead, I’ve got to figure out what exactly tickles my toetips and that’s the task of 2012. Seeing as travel is my life, it’ll be international, ideally based abroad (this whole Unversity malarky is the only thing stopping from leaving Britain for good). I want to be able to use my language skills. I don’t ant to fundraise – I’m bad at it and find it boring. I’m good at organising… But this is all far too advanced. I’m only a freshman, an ickle firstie, and I too have to start small.
So, in 2012 I will be finding new ways to volunteer abroad --- and at home. If you want to find out more, you can click the nifty little ‘Charities and Causes’ link at the top of this page.
Till then, tara!
Oh one more thing.
My first two Nakate necklaces are in the mail. I can’t wait.

1 comment:

  1. I've got far too many necklaces like that. I met some women who made them in Uganda as well :) They're so pretty - just remember not to get them wet!


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