Angela Larkan began studying the impact of HIV/AIDS in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, as the topic for her college thesis. It soon morphed into her life’s work. Horrified by the number of orphans the AIDS pandemic has created in her homeland of South Africa, Larkan was galvanized into action. The result was Thanda Zulu Jewelry (“thanda” means “love” in Zulu) and Thanda After-School Project.
Thanda Zulu jewelry is handcrafted in KwaZulu-Natal by the women of the Zulu Beadwork Project, founded by Janet Shaw, an artist and designer who helps the beaders create products for the western market. The women are paid a fair wage, and profits from the jewelry collection support the Thanda After-School Project.
It takes hours to make each necklace or bracelet, using techniques the beading families hand down from one generation to the next. “It’s a really beautiful exchange from a woman’s hands in rural South Africa to an American woman’s hands,” Larkan says. The necklaces also make lovely gifts, she says. “People love to give ‘the story’ as a way of giving back,” she says.
Larken’s goal for the next year is to double the number of children in the Thanda After-School Project, which now serves 325 children. In addition, she wants to grow the project to 100 women beaders working full-time.
“We’re starting to train other organizations in what we do,” Larken says. She says the project can be replicated because it uses already-existing local resources — from classrooms to soccer fields — to engage children, ages 5 to 22, in after-school educational, artistic activities and sports activities. Thanda also feeds the children, and provides counseling.
Larkan has sobering facts about AIDS at her fingertips:
- Forty percent of pregnant women in Kwazulu-Natal, South Africa, are HIV positive.
- One in four children in Kwazulu-Natal is HIV-positive.
- One person with a job in Kawzulu-Natal may be supporting as many as 25 people through his or her earnings.
- Free HIV drugs are available – but many people can’t afford the transportation to get the medicine at the hospital.
How can you help? “Buy jewelry,” says Larkan.
# # # # # # # # # #
FOUNDER’S NOTE: There are many amazing organizations working to battle AIDS, improve treatment access, educate infected people and their families, etc. Another organization that can benefit from your donations is AIDSFreeAFRICA - a community of professionals dedicated to empower Africans to be come self-sufficient in producing pharmaceuticals. The Vision of AIDSfreeAFRICA is: Africa free of HIV/AIDS, to provide the world with the capacity to produce lifesaving drugs is an expression of our commitment to peace, health and human dignity.