In just 15 years Neema Crafts has helped 120 people with disabilities find their way off the streets.
Founded in 2003, the Neema Crafts Centre was part of the Anglican Diocese of Ruaha project in Iringa, Tanzania, a country where around 10 per cent of the population are classified as having disabilities, according to the country’s 2012 census.
What started as training three young deaf boys, Josephat, David and Godfrey, to make paper from elephant dung and maize leaves to produce greetings cards has grown into a business which, since 2013, has been self-sustaining and no longer dependent on charitable donations. From its elephant dung beginnings, Neema Crafts Centre now boasts a workshop, a crafts shop, a restaurant and café and even a 10-bed guest-house – all staffed by locals with disabilities, making Neema Crafts a beacon of hope for the disabled population in the region.
“As well as the tangible benefits like a better wage and standard of living, Neema Crafts has raised the profile of people with disabilities in Tanzania,” said director Susan Tomes.
“We want to actually change attitudes. One of our workers recently came into the office and was delighted because his neighbour had asked for a loan.”
You might wonder whether being asked to lend money was a positive thing, but as Susan explained, the craftsman had grown to be known as a person of good standing in his community.
“He told us before Neema existed that would never have happened. But now, he’d taken on a status as a respected village elder rather than an outsider,” she says.
As well as boasting its many Tanzanian-based projects, Neema Crafts is one of our newest additions in The Big Issue Shop!
Its bold designs are screen-printed by hand onto stylish cushions, tote bags and wash bags all made using eco-friendly materials like sustainable teak, glass, recycled paper and of course, back to where it all started, elephant poo!
100 per cent of the profits made from its products sold in the UK go towards one of Neema Crafts’ most recent projects, a housing project that assists Neema Crafts staff in building their own homes.