Ok so the Adult Beginner donates to a non-profit called Fount of Mercy every now and then, not because I’m a particularly good or generous person -I think I skew more toward curmudgeonly if we’re going to put a fine point on it- I donate because my friend Tara works with Fount of Mercy and I adore Tara to bits and then I pick up all the bits and adore them some more, so I like to support her projects whenever I can and plus ok I admit it, I like what Fount of Mercy does (more below on what Fount of Mercy does).
Anyway, got an email recently about this scarf project that Fount of Mercy is doing and I was like, Scarf Yes! and immediately bought three.
One for my sister, one for my friend who came over and modeled for me (isn’t she pretty), and one for you, Gentle Reader.
Check it out- this could be you!
Yes, Gentle Reader, you can be the Lucky Winner of a grey chevron scarf, hand batiked in Uganda in lightweight cotton. It even comes with a hand carved horn buckle.
But what is the meaning of this scarf? What is behind it’s scarfy awesomeness? Here is Mrs. Nyanga to answer these important questions:
Adult Beginner Tara, please answer these important questions!
Tara Nyanga Ok!
AB Who makes these scarves?
TN The scarves are made by Fount of Mercy‘s staff of 12 in Jinja, Uganda. They are a team of 12 (sometimes 14 because we overhire when needed) who care collectively for 39 children. 39% of their children are orphans who have been taken into their homes. 61% are biological children. By buying a scarf, you are guaranteeing their jobs, and therefore ensuring their families remain stable and their children can eat healthy food, get medicine when needed, and go to school.
AB Whoa. Tell us more about the making part, who does what and what-all goes into making them.
TN This current season of scarves is designed by me and our previous intern, Yevette. We collaborated on pattern and color ideas, as well as the size of the scarf. The buckle detail was my idea. The scarves are handmade in our 2-room workshop, which is about 250 square feet. Our staff is trained for all positions, but generally either are skilled for one area, or prefer a certain part of the job. Jobs include: washing/prepping fabric, batiking (drawing with melted wax), dyeing fabric (very specialized and detailed job), hemming scarves (with treadle machines bc electricity can be un-reliable), and ironing/packaging scarves. The buckle is carved from cow horn, then polished up. It is contracted outside of our workshop. Our dye baths are heated using charcoal stoves. Here is a link to our facebook page’s slide show, telling more about the scarf-making process:
AB Dude. Treadle sewing machines Dude.
So when I buy a scarf, where does the money go?
TN You will notice that we are selling the scarves through a partner organization called The GO Exchange. This is an organization with a similar vision as ours for orphan-care. The cool thing about them is that they have their entire salary and administrative costs covered by a few generous donors, so 100% of profits from the sales of their products go towards orphan care in Haiti, Uganda, and India. Both Fount of Mercy and The GO Exchange believe in caring for orphans at the community-level. This means we empower communities to care for their orphans by providing jobs, skills training, and other programs in education and health care. You can learn more about them, the work they do, and the other products they sell at their website.
What does it mean for communities to care for orphans? UNICEF estimates that 90% of orphans in Sub-Saharan Africa live with an extended family member or a neighbor….the remaining 10% live in a children’s home or an orphanage. This means that most families in Uganda have taken in “extra” children and are over-burdened. When you combine that with extreme poverty and a soaring unemployment rate, you can see the need families have for consistent income. Our pay rates are almost 5 times the Ugandan minimum wage! And, we have safe working conditions, so you can rest assured you are supporting a responsible organization.
By partnering with The GO Exchange, a larger organization with more capital, we were able to start creating cool products for a western market, thus employing Ugandans….a hope of mine for years. I thought we were still a few years away from this because we are so small and simply do not have the capital to begin something at this scale. When GO approached us to create a product for their fall collection, we were thrilled. GO buys the scarves from us at a wholesale cost, which directly benefits our workers and our programs in Uganda, then they sell them at retail cost, which provides orphan care through their own programs….so, it is like an orphan-care double whammy!!!
AB Wow. Also double whammy lol. Please tell the readers some more about you, your job title and stuff.
TN I am the Vocational Development Director for Fount of Mercy. I have been with Fount since 2007, when I first traveled to Uganda as a volunteer. Since that point, we have created a program in Uganda which teaches small groups of women basic business skills, as well as other vocational trainings such as baking, farming, and sewing skills so that they can create small group or individual businesses of their own and make an income for their families. We also have a group that started a successful village bank. This scarf project is allowing us to take the next step and provide actual jobs in addition to the training and support we have already been providing. We hope to grow this project into a sustainable one that will grow with new designs each season, as well as new products.
My background is in costuming. I lived in New York for 10 years, where I worked as a tailor in the entertainment field. I have worked at the Metropolitan Opera as well as on several movies and television shows….in fact, Adult Beginner wants me to mention that I was the tailor on the first 2 seasons of Gossip Girl!!!! Oh yeah!!! that was a great job….such high-end, couture clothing to work on, and interesting things to make…not to mention all the teeny-bopper drama, on and off the screen!
AB Yes! Gossip Girl 4-evah!!!!!!!!!!
Ok, anything else you would like to add?
TN I guess the only additional things I feel compelled to share about are the numerous challenges we have had to face in this project. Working in a third-world country with sub-par logistics, as well as a culture that is not focused on timeliness, deadlines, or even numbers in general is very difficult. We are also constantly having electricity and water turned off city-wide, and materials coming damaged and/or inconsistent with previous orders. It is very costly to ship from Africa, and we have sick workers almost constantly. When you see this scarf, what lies behind it is countless headaches and sleepless nights, as well as tons of pride and opportunity for our workers! I cannot be more proud of this project and all it means for us…
If you’d like to buy a scarf, or any of GO Exchange’s high-quality products, please use this link (or put “Fount of Mercy” as an affiliate at checkout) and we will receive a small donation from your order. This page also shares a little more about my personal story.
AB Sweet! High-five Tara!
Ok Gentle Reader, that was intense right? It’s not just a scarf, it’s, like, making the world a better place. Bam!
To win the grey chevron scarf, leave a comment on this post. Entertain me. Tell me how you will wear the scarf. Or tell me about your cat. Whatever.
At midnight on Friday October 25th I will round up all the comments, assign each a number, put the numbers in a hat, and make my husband pick one.
I will announce the winner on Monday October 28th.
I will ship anywhere in the world. Planet Earth only. Extraterrestrials, you lose.
And of course you can follow the link above and check out all the different patterns and colors.