From London to the Maasai – the #onelessstranger journey

Sidai Designs, Tanzania

Sidai Designs, Tanzania

Entered 21 January 2015

Updated 28 September 2015

By Dieneke Ferguson

Since 2012 I have been hosting a room in my Stoke Newington flat  through Airbnb.  It is very enjoyable and I have met some great people from all over the world.

At New Year’s Eve I noticed that Airbnb had transferred  £10 to my Paypal account. The description said: “ Make #OneLessStranger: use this money to treat someone to something special.”  This was part of Airbnb’s #onelessstranger campaign  – a social experiment Airbnb had embarked on to reduce the number of strangers in the world, one kind, inventive and endearing act at a time. Airbnb had gifted 100,000 hosts with $10 or £10 as part of a campaign in which it asks people to use the money in a “unique act of kindness,” with the aim of inspiring others to join in and “pay it forward” and connect strangers .Therefore we were asked to ‘Do something fun and creative to meet a stranger’ and Share our story on our social network with #onelessstranger. Airbnb then posts them here .

As I work with creative people I loved the challenge to do something creative with the £10. My initial idea was to give £10 to a beggar that always stands in front of the London Seven Sisters Tube Station on Saturday mornings when I go past. He always says ‘good morning young lady’ or ‘good morning young man’ irrespective how old you are. However when I went past again in early January he wasn’t there. So fortunately I had to change my plan.

As I was visiting the  Home London/TopDrawer/ Craft  Homewares and Accessories Event. I decided to find someone here to whom I could give the £10.  As Hidden Art, a not for profit organisation of which I am the founding director promotes designers and makers I was keen to find a small company or an individual designer-maker who does something unique. Walking around the show I came across Sidai Designs in the Topdrawer Fashion Section, who I did not know.  Rebecca Olivia Moore, a British jewellery designer was manning the stand and she explained that Sidai Designs is a jewellery project with the Maasai in Tanzania. As I had not finished looking round I told her that I would come back later

When I came back I told Rebecca about the £10 from the Airbnb #OneLessStranger campaign. She was over the moon with the £10 and said that she would send the money to Sidai Designs in Tanzania for them to use as of course £10 goes much further than in London. We took a picture which we posted on our Social Media and which Airbnb retweeted.

#onelesssranger. Rebecca and Dieneke at Sidai Designs Stand, Topdrawer 2015

#onelesssranger. Rebecca and Dieneke at Sidai Designs Stand, Topdrawer 2015

But this was only the beginning of the journey. Next the £10 was paid forward to Tanzania to the Maasai women where another picture was taken with the group.

#OnelessStranger, Sidai Designs, Tanzania, January 2015

#OnelessStranger, Sidai Designs, Tanzania, January 2015

#OnelessStranger, Sidai Designs, Tanzania, January 2015

#OnelessStranger, Sidai Designs, Tanzania, January 2015

I asked Rebecca to send me some more information. She sent me some lovely pictures and background information.

Rebecca is one of the owners and driving forces behind Sidai Designs who work with the Maasai in Tanzania. She lives in London but travels frequently to Tanzania. Eszter Rabin who started Sidai Designs in 2011 as an informal business is based in San Francisco. The pair joined forces in 2013 making Sidai Designs a thriving social enterprise. Julie Benaim lives in Melbourne, and Sarah lives in Tanzania. So it is a truly global venture dedicated to help build a sustainable business model for the Maasai in Tanzania.

Rebecca Olivia Moore at Sidai Designs stand, Topdrawer 2015

Rebecca Olivia Moore at Sidai Designs stand, Topdrawer 2015

Sidai Designs is a not for profit organization which is based in Arusha, Tanzania. Sidai means “good or beautiful” in the Maasai tribal language, Maa. Sidai Designs supports Maasai women by collaborating with them to create and market beaded jewellery based on traditional beading techniques that are infused with modern aesthetics.

Sidai Designs, Tanzania. 2015

Sidai Designs, Tanzania. 2015

The jewellery is created entirely by hand using a combination of ingeniously up cycled products. Traditional glass beads are intricately joined using thread salvaged from old grain bags and enhanced with recycled metal beads, old canisters and yoghurt pots to create the boning, finished with luxury soft leather and sterling silver to create simple, elegant fastenings. Tanzanian made Kitenge fabric is added to some of the necklace designs. Each piece is slightly different and one of a kind.

Sidai Designs, Long Endito Necklace

Sidai Designs, Long Endito Necklace

They are currently working with 22 artisans, 2 of which are male. They have had such a positive response since they have launched internationally that they are training more women. Every Thursday they have a market day, where the mamas bring their completed homework and take new orders –The women are bringing other friends/relatives who might be interested in the project.

Sidai Designs, Weekend Warrior

Sidai Designs, Weekend Warrior

Next the jewellery is sold through the US, UK and Tanzania, with all profits being invested into Sidai Maasai Women Organization (their charity).

Sidai Designs Shillingini Necklaces

Sidai Designs Shillingini Necklaces

From the Maasai back to Airbnb

Sidai Designs also offer Beading Classes to encourage skill-sharing and cross-cultural conversations. The classes run for two hours, during which participants will learn about the Maasai beading techniques and the materials that they use. Participants have the opportunity to create their own beautiful piece of authentic handmade jewellery while learning about the women’s culture, values and roles within the Maasai society.

Location of Beading Classes, Sidai Designs

Location of Beading Classes, Sidai Designs

Beading classes are $30. But for those in the Airbnb community it is $25.  For those interested, there is enough choice to decide where to stay in Arusha. There are 61 Airbnb places in Arusha.

Woman beading, Sidai Designs, Tanzania

Woman beading, Sidai Designs, Tanzania

So hopefully in the near future  we will see a picture of the Airbnb Community participating in a beading class in Arusha.

Thank you Airbnb for allowing me to find such a lovely project I didn’t know before

and pay forward the £10 from #onelessstranger .

Updated 28 September 2015

I recently contacted Rebecca to see how Sidai Designs are doing and it was great to hear that they are now supporting 52 Maasai women. Their new collection has been launched in London, New York and Paris. More info on their website 

Sidai Designs, Maasai in Tanzania, September 2015

Sidai Designs, Maasai in Tanzania, September 2015

Sidai Designs, Maasai in Tanzania, September 2015

Sidai Designs, Maasai in Tanzania, September 2015

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