The Amazing Grace...
Why are the Mulberry Mongoose ladies called courageous? Working in the heart of the Zambian bush is not for sissies for a start. We frequently chase baboons out of the shop or run inside as elephants are passing within metres of our woodwork area. One day we were sitting peacefully at our desks when an elephant's head appeared through the door; "it was a mixture of noise (the door split into pieces), amusing, wonderful and terrifying!"
But Grace has another form of courage that is so important to Mulberry Mongoose. I first met Grace when she came for a recruitment day. She was not chosen but we gave her some piecework when we could. Grace always worked with dedication and impressed us greatly.
We had a follow up talk where she begged me for work. She has a son but no support from his father, she also supports 12 dependents on her salary. Her house is shared by her sisters, brothers, mother, aunt, and cousins. This is the tough part of living in a place where unemployment is so high; there just is not enough work for everyone. Then I had a light bulb moment which changed Grace’s life.
Could Grace make our snare coil beads….?
What are snare coil beads? Using wire collected in by the brave rangers of Conservation South Luangwa, we coil the thick and very un-malleable wire into beautiful beads that look very striking in our jewellery. With $5 from each sale going back to anti snare patrols they also enable us to help fund more anti snare patrols to protect more wildlife in Zambia.
But making snare coils is hard work. We had hired men to do it until Grace. Snare wire is often stolen by poachers from fencing; it is very tough and generally a stainless still, zinc alloy. That said women of the South Luangwa are strong. Having no electricity, they carry firewood and water great distances, normally with their babies strapped to their backs.
We create thousands of snare coils throughout the year and they need to be sanded down using a grinding machine and then sandpaper which all takes time and effort. Surely Grace could coil the snare wire? Well we might as well try.
Grace was delighted to be selected for the role; I knew she would be as she is such a determined and positive person. It was not easy for her. She had workers gloves but the grip was not easy, so she preferred bare hands. She started slow, a few hours every other day. She got blisters and her hands were rubbed raw from trying. She kept going with only a few murmurs about how hard it was. Within two months, and after numerous pain thresholds crossed, Grace got it. She could suddenly create the coils with amazing technique that made it look easy.
Grace is now one of the most valuable members of our team. She can not only make our snare coils, hammered snare wire beads and organic wooden beads but, due to her attitude has become one of the leading jewellery makers on our team. Grace even coined our company motto ‘There is no sweet without sweat’ and lives by it.
One word of warning though, if you meet Grace do not challenge her to an arm wrestle!