“We will be donating kitenge masks to an NGO in Moshi.” – “Tutakuwa tunachangia masks ya kitenge kwa NGO huko Moshi.”
From a Crossroads volunteer to a Crossroads supporter
Over the past three years, I completed two mandates with Crossroads International, as an Access to Justice Program Advisor, at the Kilimanjaro Women Information Exchange & Community Organization (“KWIECO”). The Tanzanian organization provides advice on legal, health, social and economic issues to women, girls and survivors of violence by ensuring equal access to justice and gender equality. My position afforded me the opportunity to observe the treatment of victims of gender-based violence in the judicial process and provide concrete recommendations.
During my time in Moshi, Tanzania, I became the fourth friend of a shop called Tatu Rafiki (Tatu Rafiki directly translates to “Three Friends” in English). Composed of three deaf tailors, Tatu Rafiki repurposes bags and sneakers with bright and colourful Kitenge (African wax print fabric), and also stitches apparel through the use of various fabrics available in the local markets.
I bought a plain backpack from Memorial Market in Moshi, brought it to Tatu Rafiki on my way home, and explained my vision of fabric placement using hand gestures. I fell in love the moment I saw the completion of my backpack. I take it everywhere.
makING a difference in Tanzania again
Like many around the world, COVID-19 has been a time of pause and reflection of what and to whom my energy and time will be dedicated. I am letting go of anything that is not serving my spiritual purpose and cultivating a space of real respect and love.
Tatu Rafiki was financially struggling due to the effects of COVID-19, and there were people globally that needed non-medical masks for daily usage. With the ultimate goal of supporting the needs of people on both ends, I created a partnership with Tatu Rafiki and launched the Rafiki: Mask Project. We donated our first 20 masks to KWIECO to ensure the protection of each staff member while assisting clients.
Supporting local communities, one shipment at a time
Our first shipment to Canada consisted of 110 masks, half of which were donated to six different organizations: Anduhyaun Inc., The Villij, Best Before Date, The Community Healing Project, Barbra Schlifer Clinic and Indigenous Life Sport Academy. We are proudly completing our second shipment, which consists upwards of 700 masks to be distributed globally, as well as bomber jackets and hats, all beautifully draped in Kitenge. This shipment also includes unique “Black Lives Matter” printed Kitenge masks, with 10% of the proceeds being donated to Obsidian Theatre Company.
The vibrant multi-layered patterns of each mask have become a symbol of joy amidst all the challenges many continue to face. My Google-translated-Dictionary-driven conversations in Swahili with Polkarpi, one of three tailors at Tatu Rafiki, remind me of the value of human connection. Despite being oceans apart we are able to connect Being to Being over our shared initiative that sparks creativity and fulfillment.