In 2007, Taree Rotarian, Tanja Curcic-Olwoch took a two month trip to Kenya to visit her sponsor child. It was the first step of a life-changing journey of discovering, education and empowerment.
Now, alongside the Rotary Club of Taree, Tanja is inviting the community to help her set into motion a project that will improve the lives of thousands of women and children in Uganda, now and into the future.
“I was really impacted by the experience, it really shook me up,” Tanja said of her initial trip to Kenya.
“I went back to my comfortable job in Sydney, but I just had this stirring, I kept thinking about the kids over there, and I just couldn’t settle. Who I used to be was gone, and I couldn’t go back from that.”
Tanja took a ‘teaching English as a second language’ course, quit her job and set out to make a change.
Little Blue Shed gives women hope when they have lost it. Our focus is to bring out skills and talents in every woman so that she feels worthwhile and valued. I really hope the community will get on board and help with this cause by attending the fundraiser.- Tanja Curcic-Olwoch
“I ended up in Uganda and it just felt like home, I felt so relaxed there,” she explained.
“I settled in this little village, they had just one sewing machine. The women of the village asked me to help them get more, and that was the beginning of the Little Blue Shed.”
After initially planning to teach, Tanja quickly realised the rundown blue shed with one sewing machine was something special, something she could turn into a women empowerment project, and that was exactly what she did.
“Since then I have been back and forth between Africa and Australia, working with women to empower and educate them, not only in creating a product to sell, but in marketing it and developing their own sustainable businesses,” she said.
The essence of the Little Blue Shed project is empowerment and sustainability, values that stem from Tanja’s passionate advocacy for vulnerable women and girls, and sharing her knowledge of running a sustainable business to teach them to support themselves and provide for their families.
“It's all been about learning the ways of their culture, their lifestyle. When you want to make a difference you need to be careful not to disturb the natural flow, help in a way that incorporates their values rather than giving a foreign concept that doesn’t work.”
Tanja learned quickly the best way to implement change was through working with the women leaders, training them and giving them the resources so they could go on and train others in their villages.
“For me, learning to give empowerment rather than a handout was a big thing, people are conditioned to think “I’ll give a handout,” and I’ve learned that’s not the way, the reality is Africa is so resourceful, the way is to build sustainability and empower people.
“There’s the practical skills, rolling the beads and making jewelry, then the business skills; bookkeeping, inventory, purchasing and quality control. All these skills enable women to achieve independence and stability.”
Tanja’s business plan is simple. Once the business and creative skills have been taught, each woman receives a loan to start their business. The Little Blue Shed then buys the product back and the women pay off their loan, and keep going with their sustainable business.
To raise funds for materials and equipment to bring her dream to life in Africa, Tanja is holding an “empower me” fundraiser on Saturday, June 2, at the Exchange Hotel on Manning Street.
“For me, learning about empowerment rather than hand-outs was a big thing, people are conditioned to think “I’ll give a handout,” and I’ve learned that’s not the way, the reality is Africa is so resourceful, the way is to build sustainability and empower people.”- Tanja Curcic-Olwoch
The event will be a two course meal in the Waterfront Function Room, with live entertainment, Little Blue Shed wares for sale and some African entertainment.
Tickets are $45 each, with the event commencing at 6.30pm for 7pm.
“It will be a one off fundraiser to help start up the sustainable business,” Tanja said.
“Little Blue Shed gives women hope when they have lost it. Our focus is to bring out skills and talents in every womn so that she feels worthwhile and valued. I really hope the community will get on board and help with this cause by attending the fundraiser.”
Tickets are available at www.littleblueshed.org, or can be purchased at Centrepoint Cafe, Your Heritage Financial Planning and Old Bar Pharmacy.
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