Learning to Make Jewelry

Carolyn is a Peace Corps volunteer who has been working closely with the witches’ village in Gambaga to develop income-generation projects and skills training for the women there. She and Madame Lariba (who runs the Outcast Women’s Home) decided that jewelry making would be a good project for the women to undertake. So, Carolyn wrote a grant and bought some beads. She intended to teach the women (and herself) jewelry design. That’s when Melinda showed up. An artist and jewelry designer herself, Melinda accompanied her OB-GYN husband on a two-week mission trip to BMC in Nalerigu. She wasn’t sure what her role would be, but she was ready for whatever might come.

What came were the witches of Gambaga and a two-day jewelry-design seminar culminating in a show for community leaders. Melinda taught us all how to attach the clasps, reinforce the string, and make a pretty pattern with our beads. All this without being able to communicate directly with the women themselves, as none of them spoke English, and Melinda did not speak Mampruli. One thing she did learn was the big smile a simple “di vela” (that’s good!) could bring to the faces of the women creating the jewelry. Most of these women have spent their lives at hard manual labor, so the creative outlet of designing something beautiful created a real sense of joy and excitement among the women.

After two days of training, leaders in the community came to see and purchase the jewelry the women had made, as well as to offer advice for creating a successful business model. The endorsement of these people was very important to the women’s efforts to insure that their products were not shunned as the product of “witches.”

Each woman was presented with a certificate to show that she had completed her training, and the ceremony ended with refreshments and pictures. The women were truly proud of what they had accomplished.

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