The South Luangwa Valley is not an easy place to grow up, as Naomi can attest to, however, she believes that it has been made enjoyable because of her career at Mulberry Mongoose.
Naomi not only makes jewelry but is one of 3 team members who have been trained in retail also. As a young lady forced to leave school at Grade 9 due to lack of funding through being an orphan, she is beyond proud of her achievements. She is 33 years old, and a mother of two young children; a girl, Memory, and a boy, Yolam. Like many others in Mfuwe, Naomi has to wake up very early to prepare meals for her children, clean her home and surrounding areas all before catching her bus to work at 6am. After a full day of work, Naomi shops, cooks and readies her children for bed. It's a full life but she is proud that her strong work ethic will give her children the education she dreamed of but wasn't afforded.
Work at Mulberry Mongoose is not easy. It’s a very physical job as the team transform hard, steel snare wire into beads as well as making each accessory. Naomi said that, depending on the jewelry, some pieces can take up to 6 hours to make. However, all of this has not diminished her devotion to the cause “jewelry making needs concentration and time management, so you don't make unnecessary mistakes”. She takes great pride in her work and loves seeing international guests visit the shop and show their appreciation for all the effort.
Unlike the majority of us, Naomi says that Monday is her favorite day of the week. For her it's is a fresh start and the whole team is at work. 'It’s like working with your best friends; constantly sharing stories and giving advice to each other'. Before working at Mulberry Mongoose, Naomi was living with her uncle for 2 years trying to find work. She began working as a casual worker at an electricity company. It was incredibly hard for Naomi to survive as a simple casual worker. She describes that it was not enough to earn a living and it was not providing her with any help for her family. With Mulberry Mongoose she not only earns a good living but is also given school sponsorship for one dependent and Mealie meal each month to help with her housekeeping budget.
Naomi grew up as an orphan, and Mulberry Mongoose has become her family. Her mother died from low blood pressure, and her father passed away from liver problems. Although these health issues are normally easily managed in the West, in a place where healthcare is limited, and money was lacking Naomi was orphaned because of them.
But, Mulberry Mongoose has changed how she lives as she is able to “prioritize important things which are helpful in [her] life” such as health, shelter, food, and education for herself and her children'. She also greatly appreciates the independence it has given her and that she is constantly meeting different people from across the globe. She states that “life with [Mulberry Mongoose] is not at all as difficult as it was in the past”.
It is beautiful to see that people like Naomi, who have faced such struggles throughout their life, find the positivity in every situation. Mulberry Mongoose is a network of strong independent women who truly love what they do. Their passion is what drives the company and what makes every piece unique.
Article by Natalia Noyen