By CHANTAL COOKE
Mr and Mrs George Clooney have been there. I have been there. And if you’re visiting Tanzania then you should go there too.
I am talking about Shanga – a community project in Arusha. It was set up in 2006 by Saskia Rechsteiner to help disabled people earn a living.
Shanga is the Kiswahili word for bead – and the project started as just that…beads on a necklace.
Originally it was just a few women working from home making jewellery. But now it covers many crafts: glass blowing; weaving; sewing, beading, glass mosaic, jewellery, painting.
Their strapline is be kind and recycle and that’s certainly what they aim to do and help others to do. For example, all the glass is donated to the project by local hotels. It’s then crushed and melted and blown into new, beautiful items that are sold in the shop.
There are also elaborate beaded necklaces, brightly coloured scarves, mobiles made from aluminium and glass beads, natural dyed cotton rugs and tablecloths and elephant cushions fashioned from old shirts. If you buy an elephant cushion some money will also be donated to elephant conservation – so they are giving back as well!
And let’s not forget Moshi – who paints colourful nameplates with stylised African animals. I couldn’t resist the ‘bathroom’ hippos.
Shanga is a short drive from Karama Lodge and Spa which also supports the project by donating glass, buying some of their products and nudging grateful tourists in their direction.
Karama Lodge itself is a great supporter of local people and projects. Its founder Mike Brydon set up The Arusha Children’s Trust to provide pre-primary education for many local children. His ethos is to train, educate and empower his staff – and if they then choose to use those skills to set up their own business, he’ll help them.
Ethics are at the heart of the business. For example, all the water at the Lodge is filtered – not bottled, and they are currently switching over to LED lights that use solar power.
If you get a few moments to chat to Mike ask him about the other projects they are involved in; everything from teaching English to permaculture, from training yoga instructors to natural health practitioners. There is no end to his ideas and willingness to get ‘stuck in’.
Both Shanga and Karama left me feeling inspired that perhaps tourism really can be a force for good.
About the Author:
Chantal Cooke is an award winning journalist and broadcaster with a passion for the planet. In 2002 she co-founded the award winning radio station PASSION for the PLANET and in 2009 Chantal was awarded London Leader in Sustainability status. Chantal also runs a successful communications agency – Panpathic Communications.