|Karas Huisen CraftsThe dusty, sandy streets of Tseiblaagte in Keetmanshoop, snake haphazardly around a conglomeration of patched shacks and dilapidated houses in southern Namibia. This is a part of the town not supplied with electricity and characterised by soaring levels of unemployment, low levels of education, habitual alcohol and substance abuse, violence, hunger and the spread of HIV/AIDS. The community of Tseiblaagte is marginalised on so many levels, that it teeters on the edge of desperation.
Karas Huisen Crafts operates from the community centre in Tseiblaagte and currently employs more than fifty people from the community, living with HIV/AIDS, to produce a range of beautiful dolls, colourful and humorous carry and shopping bags, ostrich-shell adornments and hair accessories, and cuddly stuffed animals. Preferential employment is also granted to vulnerable women, who are very often barely literate and heads of their families. Sadly, the organisation lost a considerable number of crafters to AIDS in the years since establishment.
The aim of Karas Huisen Crafts is to instil basic working habits (like punctuality and task-completion), build self-esteem and give the crafters the opportunity to earn a basic income, accompanied with basic financial advice, to enable the most vulnerable and poorest to survive. In addition to an in-house HIV/AIDS training programme, the crafters are also taught the latest techniques in needlework, beadwork, embroidery and jewellery-making. The crafters are encouraged to be innovative, create their own designs and follow-through with final products.
The handmade products of Karas Huisen Crafts are sold locally at the Namibia Craft Centre and exported to Europe as a means to sustain the project, long-term. The concept for Karas Huisen Crafts originated with the concerned volunteers of international, Czech organisation ‘People in Need’ and was established in Keetmanshoop, in 2004.
The community of Tseiblaagte has a distinct cultural aesthetic which is immediately recognisable in the expert patchwork, triangular and precise, handmade decorations finished with painstakingly detailed embroidery on the products from Karas Huisen Crafts. This is an empowerment project requiring all the support it can possibly get.