From the humble origins of a single necklace sold at a craft fair, Shanga in Arusha, Tanzania has grown into a thriving socially conscious for-profit business employing 55 disabled people. Founder Saskia Rechsteiner was faced with huge demand for that craft fair necklace, and decided to look to her local community for help in ramping up production. Her first hire was a deaf woman that had never had an opportunity to work before. After success with her initial employee, Rechsteiner made the decision to only hire disabled people that would otherwise have no opportunities for employment.
This was the foundation for Shanga.
From that first necklace, Shanga has grown to produce over 1,000 products made from recycled materials such as aluminum and glass, and has worked to decrease the stigma of disability in the local community. Culturally in Tanzania, disabled people are often shunned and viewed as a disgrace to the family, unworthy of the opportunities offered to able-bodied persons. Shanga is changing that culture one job at a time.
Luckily, Shanga is also open to visitors. In addition to the opportunity to buy the gorgeous products made by their local artisans, visitors can tour the workshop and see the various products being made, from intricate beaded jewelry to handmade glass-blown objects such as pitchers and vases.
A Delicious Twist
Shanga is situated on a beautiful coffee estate and has fabulous dining options. On my last visit, we were escorted to plush, colorful couches, with Moroccan lanterns dangling in the trees above. We were allowed a few minutes to relax with a glass of sparkling wine before our meal. The multi-course lunch was a delicious mix of local and Western dishes. It’s an easy and interesting stop on the way to or from a Tanzanian safari, as most people pass through Arusha on their trips.
Shanga artisan crafted products can be purchased onsite, as well as in a shop in Dar es Saalam, one of Tanzania’s coastal cities. They also have a website where you can order their beautiful products, learn more about their various programs, or donate to their foundation.
Shanga provides an open and safe environment for people with disabilities in Tanzania to develop new skills and realize their amazing potential. Using recycled materials and investing in people while following sustainable environmental practices has enabled Shanga to continue to expand and will allow them to offer these unique employment opportunities far into the future.
All photos courtesy Shanga
Have you visited Shanga or another sustainable business in Tanzania, Africa? Please share in the comments below.
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