The ‘Eighty Four’ Necklace, or Dreams as Development

Ember Arts Eighty Four Necklace

How do you help a poor country develop? Give them credit. Western-style education. More international trade.

This isn’t development, it’s duplication. When wealthy western donors envision a better Uganda or Haiti or Nicaragua, we see something that looks like America or Western Europe, just with a different ratio of skin-tones. It’s all we know.

Power imposes itself. The American lifestyle looks like paradise to most people. Can you imagine a small-plot farmer who wouldn’t like to trade his dirty, sun-baked, subsistence labor for the endless dance party he sees in American music videos? Or even the landcruiser-driving, bar-haunting life of the international development professional? It’s the best life he has ever seen.

I had a Ugandan friend in Gulu who worked with me for an American non-profit. When he got a promotion and a raise he invited me over to his apartment to show me his new satellite television, which flashed American action movies and music videos.

Development should not duplicate American prosperity. Development should fuel the unique prosperity of the people and place that seek to develop. This is a completely different process, and will have a very different outcome.

This sort of development takes a deep understanding of the culture, needs, and opportunities of a place, the sort of understanding usually found only in people who were born and raised there. When these people dream of a better home they aren’t envisioning a new America. They are dreaming of something totally unique, something that could only come from their people and their slice of earth.

Our partnership with the Ugandan women who make our jewelry is founded on them pursuing their dreams for their families and communities, rather than us pursuing our American version of a better Uganda.

Our new ‘Eighty Four’ necklace is symbolic of this commitment. Each of our 28 partners has shared 3 dreams they would like to accomplish. That’s 84 dreams in all. The necklace has 84 beads, one for each dream.

And we added one extra bead, a pure white one, to represent the dream of the woman who buys and wears the necklace, and how she is now connected to the women who made it.

Shop online by March 23 and 50% of your purchase will be donated to the non-profit Two Wings, in honor of Ember Hero Elena Bondar. Click here to shop.

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