Bead by Bead: Peace Corps Project Comes to Fruition in St. Kitts
By Guest Contributor on Thursday, July 28th, 2011
[Kim Matranga is a recently returned Peace Corps Volunteer who served with her husband in St. Kitts and Nevis. She now works as a program assistant at NPCA and contributed this article.]
One thing is certain; most RPCVs will not have a chance to see the impact of their projects while they are serving Volunteers. I on the other hand was lucky that with the help of Facebook I learned that one of my most important projects as a volunteer with the St. Kitts Nevis Association of Persons with Disabilities (SNAPD) had been realized shortly after my close of service.
My husband Geoff and I both served as NGO Developers in the smallest country of the Americas, St. Kitts and Nevis, from August 2008 until October 2010. Six months prior to my end of service I was thrilled to secure a $9,000 grant from the U.S. Embassy in Barbados to host a jewelry making workshop for persons with disabilities. The purpose of the workshop was to give persons with disabilities a skill they could use to help them lead independent lives. Since the collapse of the sugar industry in 2005, St. Kitts and Nevis’ economy has relied primarily on tourism. Having the ability to make and sell jewelry to tourists from the hotels and cruise ships was an invaluable opportunity for persons with disabilities who are often ignored and “shut in” in St. Kitts.
In preparation for the workshop my local counterpart, Anthony Mills, and I got everything in order. We purchased beads, hand tools and drills from St. Kitts and the U.S. My neighbor Leoni, who taught me jewelry making, was hired to teach the workshop. We launched a media campaign in both print and radio and we held a televised launch event with the Chargé D’Affairs, Dr. Brian Hardt from the U.S. Embassy. Everything for the workshop aside from the date and venue had been set before my close of service date arrived.
On October 15th I boarded an American Airlines plane and left St. Kitts, the place that had become our second home. As the plane took off and the island became a small dot in the Caribbean Sea, I thought about the project and whether or not it would come to fruition without me propelling it forward. I took comfort in knowing that throughout my two years of service, I had given Anthony the tools and skills necessary to carry this project through. Even so, I had to take a leap of faith that he would carry the torch in my absence and see this project to its completion.
For months, I checked my email hoping to receive news from Anthony about the workshop but news never came. Eight months later, just at the time I started to lose hope, I received a notice that I was tagged in a Facebook photo album from the St. Kitts Nevis Association of Persons with Disabilities. The album titled Jewelry Making Workshop 2011 was composed of wonderful photos of the workshop participants learning their new craft and smiling from ear to ear showing off their finished masterpieces.
As I clicked through all 88 photos I had an overwhelming feeling of joy and pride that I had a hand in making this project a success. I especially got choked up when I reached the photo of Ethel’s jewelry. Ethel who is completely blind, didn’t let that stop her from participating in the workshop where she made 20 pairs of earrings, 9 bracelets and 2 beautiful necklaces. Although the workshop was a fun activity for the participants, it was so much more. It was the first step in reaching SNAPD’s goal of helping persons with disabilities earn a livable income and live independently.
Recently I was asked in a video interview by Ernie Zaremba and his partner Helen what I was most proud of from my Peace Corps service. With tears of joy in my eyes, I began telling them the story of the Facebook photo album.