Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Ubuntu Beads

I recently met a man on a mission named Jared Miller. Jared is the son of life coach Dan Miller, who has had a profound influence on my thinking over the past year.
Having been weaned on success theories based on entrepreneurship and firmly rooted in capitalism, Jared is taking a road less traveled, yet gaining momentum in our day: cross-cultural social entrepreneurism.

Enter KEZA, a growing division of the nonprofit organization Sisters of Rwanda, founded by Jared. KEZA is the result not only of an entrepreneurial spirit fueled by a genuine desire to achieve gender equality in the East African nation, but especially of over two years of listening.

Having heard of the horrific fallout of the infamous Rwandan genocide of the 90's, Jared made his first trek to Africa almost three years ago. His initial contacts in Rwanda stopped him in his American tracks: as he sat and listened, first to Pastor Joseph Ayienga, then to Virginia and Rosa's stories, all his well-intentioned plans began to evaporate. It suddenly occurred to him that his time would be better spent with an ear to the ground, rather than setting to work immediately implementing plans that, in hindsight, could have proven disastrous.

As Jared listened, a philosophy known as ubuntu began to take center stage in his consciousness. Ubuntu can best be summed up in the statement, "I am who I am because of who we all are." Archbishop Desmond Tutu explains, "We cannot be fully human alone. We are made for interdependence, we are made for family." In this case, 'family' means helping dozens of Rwandan women make their way out of gender-based, violent oppression where there is little to no opportunity for self-sustenance. KEZA provides them an opportunity to reflect the beauty of their culture through the making of vividly coloured necklaces. Each bead is, remarkably, hand crafted from old calendars, posters and paper scraps, then varnished and strung together to make a beautiful fashion statement.

Jared has now launched a campaign to export this jewelry to other parts of the world as a stream of revenue, not only for the women directly, but also so over a hundred children can go to school and make their own way out of the cycle of poverty and oppression.

Read more about KEZA and the Sisters of Rwanda here.

Bravo, Jared.

...and welcome to Water Cooler Wednesday!

1 comment:

Audra Krell said...

This is fascinating David. So often, if we just "put our ear to the ground" and surrender our own plans, things would work out just fine.