I’m Gill and I live in Sydney, Australia. From time to time when you try something new and you’re not quite sure where it’s all leading, a door opens and makes you feel you are on the right track. Just for a moment you’re in step with the Universe!
That’s how I felt when into my email box came a circular from NEST, offering two-month Fellowships where successful applicants would live and assist artisan groups in developing countries. My heart leapt and my stomach turned a somersault.
I’d spent six years working for an NGO which looked after widows in Afghanistan and two years ago I left to be a carer for my husband, Mike, who has Multiple Sclerosis. I got time to focus on my passions for craft and textiles. I started art quilting and became hooked on hand-printed and hand woven textiles.
However, I still wanted to continue to do something with women’s groups in developing countries, so I started a small business importing hand-printed fabric hoping this would give me the opportunity to travel, write and work with social enterprise groups. Last year, my generous customers and friends, raised funds for an HIV/AIDS support group in Natal, South Africa so they could buy their first sewing machine and more scissors, etc.
(None of this would have been possible without the help of my divine daughters who ordained that each year I can take a break from home duties and be free to travel for a month or two while they look after Mike.)
I knew I was on the right path, but wanted more hands-on interaction with women’s groups. I really wanted to be able to spend my time off each year in a meaningful way in the field. So the assignments that NEST offered just felt right, would enable me to make a useful contribution and I knew I would gain enormously, whatever the experience.
NEST is a non-profit dedicated to supporting artisan groups in developing countries. It’s in partnership with Maiyet, an ethical up-market fashion brand.
This, to my mind, is just the best kind of support. Aid does pour into developing countries, but often it by-passes women and their capabilities are not recognised. To deny educating and empowering women is to deny a developing country half its creativity and ingenuity. Helping them with their aspirations lifts the whole community and adds depth and balance.
I liked the idea of Fellows flying from the NEST and reaching out to artisan communities. I really want to get my wings too!