Artisan Profile HELENA

Since hearing from followers that they love hearing about the artisans, I decided to re-publish a few. Here is a post about Helena
 “Work of Our Hands” is a great help. I can make money with my own handiwork, a nice and honorable way to make ends meet. Maybe one day my children have to go to hospital or pay school fees, so I’m saving a bit of my commission for them. The rest I spend on foods and clothes for them.

Although at first, none of the ladies were very good at painting patterns ( under developed fine motor skills) Helena has learned fast , and is now our best detail painter. She is the only one so far who has mastered the zebra pattern. It's time to challenge her to even harder things, (which she hates and loves at the same time.) 
Helena is a treasure.  She and I have worked together since the beginning of Work Of Our Hands. (about 2004)
 As far as I know Helena has never been to school, yet she is very intelligent and talented. Because of the expense of school fees and uniforms ( about USA $30 per term) many parents of the poor, just don't send their kids to school.
At the beginning, Helena spoke no English and all of our communication was through an interpreter. Today, she understands almost everything said in English, and can make herself understood as well.( Ok we have to use a bit of pointing and hand signs, but we communicate well.)
Helena is skilled in paper mache, ( our first endeavor) seed bead jewelry making, ceramic bead making ( our best pattern painter) and lately she has been learning the potter's wheel. 
Helena is unmarried, but is in a monogamous relationship, and has 1 son about 5 years old. At least  one other boy calls her mom, but it gets confusing as the tribal people take care of children for each other, and it's sometimes impossible to really sort out the relationships. ( Cousins are often called sisters or brothers, plus there is no he or she pronouns in their language, so in English they might say for instance " my  brother, she......") which makes it all the more hard to figure out.

Helena looking a bit tired after our week long wheel workshop.

I am unsure of Helena's age 26 maybe?  She almost always has a smile on her face and is the first to help when something needs doing around the studio. As you can tell, I am very attached to her ! I feel all the ladies in the project are my African daughters, but I must admit Helena is a bit of a favorite!

She once said " Before you came Meme ( Meme means mother, Mrs. etc. it's a tribal title of respect) I was very bored !!

I have mentioned different times to the ladies that there is a proverb  ( Proverbs 22:29) that says something like " if you are skilled in your labor, you will stand before kings. Last month we saw this happen !  Helena was one of two ladies chosen to present gifts to the honorable Mrs. Pohamba, Namibia's first lady, when she visited our center. Helena all I can say is " YOU GO GIRL!" I'm very proud!


Monique (A Half-Baked Notion) said...

Thank you for sharing Helena's story again, Val. I had to laugh when you mentioned the confusion over family relationships. Obviously these matters are much more vital to the "western" mind... I'm sure that would drive me crazy for a while!

Kathy Lindemer said...

It is wonderful reading about good going on in the world.