“As the Foundation looks to harness the power of the entrepreneurial spirit, we are often amazed at some of the unlikely places that this spirit can be found. Today’s blog piece tells the remarkable story of how one of the poorest communities in Africa has found a way to benefit from the potential of entrepreneurship. In a further unlikely connection the products of this entrepreneurial venture have become an important part of a ritual in the Foundation’s annual community building Connect Camp, where Candidate Fellows are given a Hope Art bracelet in recognition of sharing their defining moment. In this way some of the highest potential young entrepreneurs are connected in the broader African entrepreneurship ecosystem with their counterparts in Western Zambia. There are few limits to the possibilities of entrepreneurship! Enjoy reading how entrepreneurship saved a village by Savannah Keeter.”
One of the absolute main focuses of The Zambia Project is to work to improve the lives of the orphaned and vulnerable children in the Western Province of Zambia. While this objective can cover a multitude of different programs, the Project has continued to improve and evolve in order to better serve the Zambian people and fulfill additional needs within the community.
When our founders, Paul and Marinette van Coller, moved to Mongu back in 2003, they could never have imagined the desperation, the need, and the hunger that they were going to face in the Western Province. For the first year that they were there, they worked to build relationships with people and thoroughly assess the most important needs of those within the community. These needs came in the form of malnourished children, uneducated and young mothers, lack of finances for education, hunger, thirst, and disease. In 2009, they started to teach basic school lessons underneath a tree at the bottom of our base in Mongu, teaching just a handful of children at the time. More and more children wanted to start attending these classes and, with this new influx of learners came more and more need for a proper school. Many of them that were attending were orphaned, were hungry, needed guidance and proper healthcare in order to learn and thrive. Our eyes were opened and, from there, we came to realize the incredible need for education, healthcare, and a safe and loving environment for the estimated 100,000 orphans in the Western Province of Zambia. We continued to grow the classes as we strove to decrease the number of desperate children in and around Mongu. In 2010, the school doubled in size to hold an incredible 150 learners from preschool to Grade 4! We were so excited to grow to this capacity and provide more children with the opportunity to receive an education. As the school continued to grow, we wondered more and more about where the funding was going to come from in order to continue running this school. While we implemented a child sponsorship program that we still utilize, we knew that we needed a more sustainable way to fund and run our school.
Around this time was when our founder, Marinette van Coller, had the idea for “Hope Art”. She talked with some of the local women at our church about finding a way to help provide money to run the new school and got a few incredible ladies who were willing to volunteer their time to help! Marinette then brought a friend from South Africa to come and teach a few ladies how to roll beads out of strips of paper, dip them into varnish, and string them into bracelets, necklaces, and key chains. The ladies came in, day in and day out, to make bracelets and necklaces that were helping to provide an education for some of their nieces, nephews, neighbors, and children that they didn’t even know. They were dedicated to seeing their community improves by empowering the next generation and giving them opportunities to succeed. After a few months of rolling beads and perfecting the process of making jewelry, Marinette took the jewelry down to South Africa to sell. And it was a huge hit! The stock that she brought down sold so quickly that she knew that Hope Art was going to have to grow!
After she came back to Zambia, she started working out a way in which we could raise money for the vulnerable children while also empowering some of the struggling widows and single mothers within our community. Instead of having volunteers from our church rolling the paper beads and stringing them into jewelry, we employed a few local ladies who we knew were struggling to find jobs and provide for their families. Many of the women that now make Hope Art are HIV positive, didn’t have any form of income before, and/or have many kids that they struggle to provide for.
We see this holistic approach to humanitarian aid as the most effective and the most needed. The approach in which we empower locals, helping them to learn a trade and have a chance to provide for them instead of having things handed out. We are striving to make all of our Hope Art ladies as self-reliant as possible. Not only is Hope Art empowering local women providing them a skill and an opportunity to bring in income, it is also impacting the lives of the children in the Western Province. After the ladies are paid for their hard work, we send Hope Art to be sold in America, Canada, South Africa and many other parts of the world. Any and all Hope Art profits are then sent back to Zambia to be used to improve the school, bring more children into our classes, dig water wells in rural villages, or provide healthcare for the children that come into our malnutrition center. We love getting to tell the Hope Art ladies what impact THEY made on THEIR community by making Hope Art with such excellence.
Since Hope Art has taken off in such a big way, we have started to expand our products, making bags out of local fabric (chitenges), precious little Hope Art Critters, and fun, playful headbands as well! We now have 9 Hope Art ladies and are looking to continue growing and impacting more and more lives of local women, orphaned and vulnerable children in the Western Province of Zambia. With 460 children now attending our school, new classrooms being built, teachers employed, we can’t wait to see what the future holds and are so excited to see where Hope Art support is going to be able to take us!
If you are interested in supporting Hope Art, please go and visit our webpage, www.hopeart.co.za to order your Hope Art jewelry or to find out ways in which YOU can help out!