arusha, wild hope & SEW

by racheliliadis

Words fall short when trying to express how rich and full the past two days have been here in Arusha. From watching women bead beautiful handcrafted items at Wild Hope to hearing stories of hope and empowerment from HIV + women at SEW, Erin and I both feel tremendously blessed to be able to build relationships with such stunning women.

Yesterday began bright and early as Erin and I met up with Tammy Russell, the visionary and co-founder of Wild Hope, and Faith Moshi, the accountant and office extrodanire, in order to travel out to a beading project. The four of us followed the long, dusty dirt road to Mama Fundi’s home where the women were waiting for us.

During our time at the house, each artisan shared their story of how employment with Wild Hope has transformed their lives. One artisan even said that because of her job she was able to not only provide for her children, but she was also able to give to her local church. Unbelievable. You mean because of one person’s choice to give to her, she was then able to give back to God? What a beautiful story of generosity abundant!

Looking back on yesterday, I’m still amazed that we were able to share chai and donuts, exchange stories, and build relationships with such strong, loving women. It’s one thing to look at tag on the jewelry back home and know it’s “fair trade,” but it’s another thing to watch the hands carefully craft it! Gratitude, it’s the only word that comes to mind.

And today, we were off again to visit another one of our amazing artisan groups: SEW, a group of about 9 HIV + women who make the coolest, most beautiful eco-friendly, recycled bags (in all shapes and sizes).

In Africa, it’s almost impossible to find a job once infected with HIV/AIDS, because of the stigma associated with the infection. As such, SEW acts as a stepping stone for self-employment. While making these bags, the women learn valuable business skills, which help them develop their own enterprise. These carry bags are made from a mix of recycled and environmentally friendly materials. The women are paid a fair wage and all profits are re-invested back into the project. SO COOL!

And so, during our visit, we heard more stories of lives changed, experienced more joy, and even captured more beauty on film. We couldn’t have asked for a more delightful day with a lovelier group of women.

These women, from both projects, touched my heart in such a fresh, vibrant way. They taught me to persevere and trust the Lord, even when things might look hopeless. We often hear, but so easily forget, that God promises to provide for all our needs. But it’s true! He loves us and will take care of his children! A well-needed reminder …

And below I’ve included some photos and information about the organizations we visited in Arusha. Do yourself a favor and check them out online. It’s absolutely stunning work for an even greater cause: dignity, hope, and empowerment for women, men, & children.

Wild Hope

The Wild Hope Artisans project provides income generation and spiritual encouragement to a growing group of talented local artists. With close to one hundred women involved, the project preserves traditional art forms while producing innovative new products that appeal to western markets in countries around the world.

the makings of a beautiful garland

Karama is opportunity!

women who love life, value dignity, and seek first the Kingdom of God

New artisans learning from Mama Fundi

I'm speechless - these children are too cute for words!

And one of my favorite items they make …

And in the end ... a beautiful dragonfly!


Supporting and empowering Women, SEW, is a development project that employs HIV+ women. They are employed to design and handcraft totally cool bags made from a combination of recycled and eco-friendly materials. (I wear mine everywhere!)

Karama is speaking up!

noble women

The final product