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How Did I Meet Our First Artisan

Posted by Linda Edwards on

When I first met our key paper bead artisan in Uganda, she came to our cottage and showed us her beads. She begged my daughter and I to buy a few strands. Why was she so desperate when what I saw was a valuable collection. She shared her life story which was devastating to hear, even from someone you just met. It involved murder, AIDS, malaria, poverty, mal-nutrition, lack of education, poor housing, all the worst conditions of existence. After she talked about her life, I asked her about making beads and what it involved. Paper, plastic string, coating, tools, time and skill. She had no way to judge the time it took to roll 28 beads, coat them, and string them. Her time had no value. We talked and talked and arranged how we could stay in touch. I gave her money for her motor bike ride home. Her two boys were home alone in their one room space. (Her belongings were a mattress, her jewelry tools, a radio, their clothes, and a Bible. I ended up buying all of her jewelry, perhaps a hundred stands and paying her several times over what she asked. I learned from that experience, if she could not calculate her expenses and time, I would double or triple what I paid to the artisan. I am obligated to make an educated guess to better the life of an artisan. I still taught and teach she and the artisans how to calculate their costs and their needs.

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