In my 60 years I have been an artist and early-childhood educator but my transformation into a woman waging peace for Zambian children began when my two adult daughters and I traveled through Africa ten years ago.
Visiting countless marketplaces, we were deluged with requests from native craftspeople to carry their goods back to the United States for sale.
I brought a few items home, selling them here and there at flea markets or from my home.
But during these and other African journeys, more than just being impressed by the beauty of the landscape and fine handicrafts, I was also struck by the level of human need, especially among children, created by the cultural devastation that was a looming possibility in the wake of HIV/AIDS.
In Zambia one out of three people are HIV positive and everyone has lost family members. Most adults are caring for orphans as well as their own children in an economy that barely sustains a subsistence lifestyle.
I came up with the idea of selling Zambian crafts and returning those profits to a grass-roots Zambian-run social welfare organization in the same locality where the craftspeople lived.
After some research, I discovered the Mama Bakhita Cheshire Center in Livingstone, a facility for disabled children. This seemed like a nice economic loop, benefiting the nearby artisans by marketing their handmade crafts as well as the Mama Bakhita Home, which was greatly under funded.
Over the years the few hundred dollars I was able to send every few months has grown into a $500 monthly grant enabling them to expand their programs and increase enrollment.
I call this low-end philanthropy because I am not a wealthy woman, except in a world perspective, where we are all wealthy.