Artisan photo by Billy Scanlan
Our donors and supporters have often asked us why we chose jewelrymaking. Orginially this craft was chosen as the vocation because the basics can be picked up quickly -- a novice can learn to make a simple pair of earrings in a few minutes -- as opposed to a handicraft that would take much longer to master, such as sewing. Learning to sew clothing that is sellable may take weeks or longer to be proficient in. We wanted a skill that we could train the women in quickly, to create a product that we could sell and bring in revenue to pay the women with good wages. Also, jewelrymaking does not require any level of literacy, which was important because many of the women we worked with had never been to school and were illiterate.
We have also found that jewelrymaking/ beading can be very therapeutic for women who have been through pain and trauma. It can be relaxing and can decrease illness-related stress, lowers blood pressure, and increases energy levels. Best of all, the process of creating something so beautiful with their own hands helped the women feel a great sense of pride--something that has eluded most of these women in their difficult lives. These creations were also helping them become independent and attain ecomoinc power, to help themselves and their families.
Jewelrymaking is not for everyone, we know. Although many artisans have moved up quickly in skill levels to create immensely intricate and challenging pieces, not everyone has been able to or have wanted to. The important thing was that we provided the opportunity for these vulnerable women, who needed safe and secure employment and a holistic program of support to help them back on their feet and reintegrate into society. Everyone was able to learn the basics and be a part of a team that allowed them to flourish, not only technically but personally and professionally.
In addition to the tehcinial training and counseling, we also provide our artisns with job-readiness training and a life skills education curriculum. Most of the women who come to our program have never held a regular job before. We equip them with the knowledge they need to be able to move on to any job in the future -- making sure they know how to put together a resume and how to dress and speak at interviews, to call when they will be late, etc. We teach the women on how to manage savings, about sexual health and other important life skills. We also provide support for education. Many women have elected to use this support for private school tuition, English classes or university studies.
Our goal is to help these women become independent and equip them with all of the skills and confidence they need to go out in the world and puruse any career and goals that they desire, and with that, heal. And it all started with learning to make a simple pair of earrings.