Dear friends, old and new,
In 1999 I found myself at the craft market on the Zambian side of Victoria Falls. Fifty booths of vendors waited for the next tourist bus. It was a mystery to me how these vendors could possibly make a living. A Mukuni craftsman named Foster Wachata convinced me to take a few boxes of wooden carvings made by him and his friends and sell them here in the US.
That’s how it all began.
Three years later I decided that the crafts I sold for Foster could benefit both the artisans and the Mama Bakhita Center for Disabled Children in nearby Livingstone, Zambia. I bought the crafts at fair market rates, sold them here in the US and sent the profits to Mama Bakhita.
In 2002 I visited the Center for the first time and found a small, dedicated community of Franciscan Sisters creating a facility for children who had formerly been hidden away, their disabilities a source of shame and superstitious unease.
I saw how grateful the parents were that the Center believed that their children could be educated and valued within the community. I saw the children themselves respond with confidence and playfulness.
In 2002 these warm-hearted Zambian Sisters provided medical referrals, food, clothing, and physiotherapy, accompanied children who need operations to Lusaka and conducted workshops for parents all in a modest compound that had been the private home of an Indian merchant.
Today, ten years later, the AACDP has helped them build a large hall for group events, a two-room special needs school for 30 students who cannot be mainstreamed in the local public schools, and a state-of-the-art physiotherapy room. We are able to send them monthly support.
In those ten years our work has steadily grown.
Now we buy crafts at fair trade prices not only from the Mukuni craftsmen, but also from:
• Craftswomen at the Kabwata Cultural Center in Lusaka
• The mothers of the disabled children at the Mama Bakhita (who make Zambezi Dolls that we designed together)
• A small non-profit in Ghana who fund education for poor high school students
• A Tuareg tribe in Niger who are struggling to settle in the desert
• Various children and young adults who send me crafts as a way to pay for educational grants.
We are pursuing cross-cultural collaboration connecting American artisans with the Kabwata craftswomen’s Quilt Project and the Mama Bakhita Mothers’ Zambezi Doll project.
We assist in emergencies when a family is at the edge of survival, as when a family lost half its members to a drunk driver who crashed into their house. The police did not arrest the driver. We sent money to help them build a house of their own. When the tiny village of Jack Mwanapapa flooded, we bought seeds and tools for replanting.
We’ve increased our income from craft sales every year to $24,000, but our income from contributions has remained steady at around $4000 for the past several years.
Your contribution will go directly to people in need. There is no middleman at the AACDP. Just me…and I personally know that every dime we send actually helps a specific child or family or organization in need.
Please give today.
P.S. – The African Artists’ Community Development Project is a big name for a small enterprise. It is also hard to remember. So we are going to change our name in the coming year to The Zambezi Project and hope that you will continue to support our work.
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Marsha Winsryg is an artist and a low-end philanthropist living and working on Martha’s Vineyard. “In my 60 years I have been an artist and early-childhood educator but my transformation into a woman waging peace for Zambian children began when my two adult daughters and I traveled through Africa ten years ago.”