On our first full day in Tanzania, we had breakfast and a briefing at Moivaro Lodge, our home for the first two nights of the trip, and then we all piled into a bus for our day at Shanga & Riverhouse, about 20 minutes away.
Set under the towering Acacia trees of Tanzania, East Africa, Shanga is a heartwarming project dedicated to supporting and empowering disabled community members. With breaking down obstacles for disabled Tanzanians and a commitment to environmentally sustainable business practises as its core values, Shanga is a for-profit company that raises standards. Now comprised of a bustling workshop, open-air restaurant, and three trendy boutiques, Shanga has grown exponentially from what started with one beaded necklace and a desire to help those in need.
Shanga is simply amazing. People with disabilities, some who might otherwise be tossed away or ignored by society, are empowered through art, and they make some beautiful things on-site using recycled materials. Trash is a big problem in Tanzania; people burn it, and there was plenty along the side of the road, so being able to channel that trash into beautiful merchandise goes a long way in keeping this beautiful country clean.
Before we took a tour at Shanga, we had a sign language lesson where we also learned some Swahili words. Our lesson was held on a sprawling lawn on pink and green couches made from old beds. It was a stunning, festive space, and we had a great time learning and laughing.
After our lesson we toured Shanga’s art workshop areas and got to meet some of the artisans behind the glassware, beads, paintings, and fabrics for sale in the store. Our guide Paul was kind and fun, and he really showed pride in the people working with him.
Shanga has people making beaded jewelry and cloth from recycled materials. We all fell in love with stuffed elephants made from mens’ shirts. I think we bought most of their supply for kids in our lives.
We left Shanga with hand blown glass Champagne flutes, stuffed elephants, and a beaded Christmas ornament to remind us of our travels, along with a major respect for the people living and working at Shanga. It was well worth the trip and an enchanting place to spend the day.