In 2008, I went on a post-graduation trip to volunteer and explore East Africa. In Kenya, I met an orphaned boy on that first night over dinner. He was a 17-year-old, sixth grader and a well-respected young man in his village. He was the oldest child at his school, and towered over all of the other kids, as he didn’t get an opportunity to start school until he was eleven. I started asking him questions on that first night, and his answers only led to more questions. We spent six weeks having these nightly dinner conversations, and over the course of the summer, I grew to understand. As I packed up my bags to leave Kenya, I viewed poverty in a very different light and saw the complexities involved. I witnessed the downfalls of misguided foreign aid and ‘help’ that wasn’t leading to the intended outcomes. It was this exchange and friendship that altered my career.
I returned home to work in the design field, but couldn’t shrug off that summer in East Africa. Believing that everyone should have access to education, I knew through job creation, we could educate future generations and support self-sufficiency. Shortly after my return home, I quit my job and packed my bags to return to Africa. I researched artisanal work in East Africa and worked in micro-enterprise development in South Africa, before moving to Kenya at the end of 2012 to start Amsha.
Now based in Portland, Oregon, Amsha works directly with artisans across Africa. We focus on driving social change in underserved communities by bringing quality, ethically made goods to the marketplace.
We know this is only the beginning for Amsha and for our artisans. Much of our story is still waiting to be written.
With Love, Laura