Building a NEST


Meet Chantal of the West African nation of Togo.

Chantal Donvide is an artist, like you and me. She was born into an artistic family and it was always her dream to create beautiful things, making craft production her life’s work. Because of her extensive training in seamstressing and batik work, she has developed a successful product line that combines modern styles and trends with traditional artisan craft.

She is the founder of Aklala Batik and it is her goal is to use her business to provide economic opportunities to women who already have skill but don’t have fair access to markets, capital or financial knowledge to improve their own livelihoods.

How did Chantal come into my life? That story begins with following a link.

When I retired in May, I began searching for a volunteer opportunity but was almost immediately paralyzed by the overabundance of  worthy causes. So much need in my community and the world at large – how could I make a difference?

Then I participated in the inspiring “Find Your Eye” series of photography courses. In addition to being a motivational teacher, Kat Sloma also gives back by donating 10% of our registration fees to Nest. Curious as to where my money was going, I clicked the link.

And that’s the next chapter in our story.

Nest is a non-profit organization dedicated to changing the lives of women artisans in developing countries. Expanding upon the proven tool of microfinance lending, Nest gives small loans to women to build or maintain art or craft-based businesses. But unlike traditional banks, Nest allows loan recipients to repay their loans in crafts—a system dubbed “microbarter.” Nest searches the globe to identify “existing artisanal workshops that have strong leadership, are scalable, and can transform their communities in one of three ways: alleviate poverty, empower women, and promote peace.”

Empowering women artists? How could I resist an organization with this as a key element of their mission?

And then, the final piece fell into place. Nest was seeking graphic design volunteers. Wait a minute – I could do that! Not only would I be helping an amazing organization but I could do it using my design skills.

And so, here we are, almost 2 months, many hours and multiple projects later. I have found my volunteer opportunity and, in a small way, am helping Chantal reach her goals. By donating my time and skills, I am making a difference in the world.

At this time of thanksgiving, I am overwhelmingly grateful to Kat – for her personal generosity and for providing my initial exposure to Nest. And to Rebecca Kousky, executive director and founder, for giving a rookie designer a chance. And so thankful for the opportunity I have been given to support women and their art throughout the world. Each hour has been a privilege. My heart is full.

Perhaps this is what I was meant to do with my design training – it was all leading me here, to this moment of giving.

All this, just from one click.

Photos Courtesy of Nest – combined in Photoshop by me


Posted on November 25, 2011, in Inspiration and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 10 Comments.

  1. This is one of those stories where you know everything was meant to happen this way. I am continually impressed by my interactions with Rebecca and Nest. I love their model of supporting women and arts this way. I’m so glad you’ve been able to connect and help at such a deep level, it’s such a great organization!

  2. It is amazing how this all dove-tailed together for you and Nest. Their microbarter system is great! Thanks for sharing another chapter in your journey.

  3. Serendipity! I love stories like this! Women helping women, artists supporting other artists….this kind of effort generates so much positive energy. Bravo Brenda!

  4. What an awesome story. What a perfect fit and how fabulous that you made that click. I love stories like this – it can seem so hard to find direction to begin with and then suddenly everything falls into place and you realise how all the pieces fit together. Well done for volunteering, I know that you and your skills will make such a difference.

  5. This gives me chills. What a beautiful convergence.

    Happy Thanksgiving!

  6. Oh…this is so beautiful!! What a wonderful ‘thanks’giving story!!! I’m going to have to check out this organization for myself.

  7. Brenda, this is wonderful. Leave it to you to feather your empty nest with another Nest! Blessings to you and to them!

  8. Brenda,
    What a wonderful post and opportunity. We use KIVA for microloans, but I’ll have to check out NEST too. Thanks.

  9. How Cool is this Brenda!?! Awesome thing to do and support. I wish I didn’t need to sustain myself and could offer time, energy, etc to things lke this instead. Love the image you posted too. I’m going to check out NEST.

  10. A great story- this is wonderful & inspiring.

I greatly appreciate your comments!

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