I never imagined I would be importing goods across continents. Nor did I imagine I had the power to change lives.
But I do. And so do you.
When I came to Australia just over two years ago, I came with a vision to start a not-for-profit raising funds to support the projects we had started in Tanzania. I had no idea how. I didn’t know the ins and outs of how businesses work in Australia but went into it with a ‘let’s give it a go’-attitude.
I had to overcome the fear of asking for help. I have had to ask many questions and figure out things as I went.
The hardest thing about coming to Australia and wanting to start up a business, was not having a professional network. Well, in reality, I didn’t have any network. I had to make a very deliberate effort to meet people. Sometimes it has been a little awkward – ‘friend-dating’ in your 40s takes effort and courage (please be kind if you ever stumble into one) – but I am happy to say I have met some incredible people along the way.
In Tanzania, we built a hospital from scratch and now we manage the day-to-day operations. We make sure mothers can deliver their babies safely every day. This is not something taken for granted in a country where one mother dies in childbirth every hour.
We check and vaccinate children under 5 with no charges to the families. In Tanzania, 1 out of 3 children is stunted due to malnutrition and continuous and prolonged infections.
We deliver mobile medical health services to people with disabilities and give them an opportunity to be included in society. Besides causing an extra financial burden on already impoverished families, people with disabilities also face stigmatisation and exclusion from the community.
Image: Our medical outreach team on their way to home visits
We teach teenagers about HIV/AIDS and sexual health and rights through football.
With HIV and subjects like safe sex and menstruation being taboo it is important to have a safe space where such things can be discussed and talked about.
Through our gender equality project, we have seen a positive change towards violence against women in the communities we work with.
And we have more projects to come. Clean water and a community centre are on the cards for next year.
Like any other business, we felt the difficulties when COVID-19 hit. We had to think quick and figure out how to create an alternative income stream.
That’s how ARTEFACTZ was born. Suddenly I found myself in the business of import, logistics, supply chain and eCommerce. All areas I have never really worked in. I say ‘really’, because when working in Africa whatever your job is, you can be sure to end up dealing with about 50 other things that definitely didn’t appear on your job description.
Working in the not-for-profit space also fosters Jack-of-all-trades. As we always strive to keep overheads as low as possible outsourcing is a last option. Learning everything from web-design to how to submit BAS statements was part of a steep learning curve through the first year.
We have used this extra time to source even more quality handcrafts and now have a much larger shipment on the way than first planned. I always try to look for the silver lining.
ARTEFACTZ has given us another way to support and sustain our projects in Tanzania. Plus the added benefit of supporting talented artisans across East Africa. It’s a win-win.
Through every handcrafted item purchased we change lives.