Tuesday, January 17, 2012

With each OPPORTUNITY, a new DOOR opens

When I tell people about the last five years of my life, I always say that once I was brave enough to step away from my current reality and say out loud, "I want to go back to Africa," door after door flew open. All these years later, metaphor becomes reality. I recently began a 4-month contract with Door International, a mission-based organization that serves the deaf community around the world.

One of our artisans, Anna.

I have long been drawn to any service provided to people with physical disabilities in the developing world. The longer I live in this context, the more aware I am of people unfairly ascribed to lives of isolation, humiliation, dependency and general dehumanization as a result of some physical ailment outside of their control (often the result of poverty and the lack of immunizations or poor healthcare in general). A few weeks before I finished my fellowship with Vittana working at Opportunity International in Ghana, I received a job posting from a friend in Nairobi for a Business Manager position. Door had been looking at social business opportunities to provide jobs for the deaf and raise funds for their programs. Having worked with a jewelry consultant that specializes in helping non-profits start businesses, the program had been launched, but needed someone on the ground to develop a local supply chain, navigate shipping and customs issues, take over wholesale and retail responsibilities and oversee the artisans directly. I threw my hat in the ring, another in a long line of steps taken in faith that if it was meant to be, it would.

Winnie, one of our artisans wearing the "Her time to shine" Onyx Necklace.

A few weeks later - here I am! I'll be working with Sasa Designs and helping market our organic farm through the beginning of May, at which point we will review our progress and whether the business can support me working full time or if I am able to raise my own support (I tell you, I didn't see life as a prospective missionary coming - funny where God puts you!). For now, I'm diving in, getting up to speed and learning sign language as fast as I can. And yes, I'm still working on my thesis, which is of course directly tied to this work in the first place. A door opens and things come full circle once again...stay tuned!

One of our artisans, Rose.

All photos by my colleague Whitney Simons.