Just east of the Ghananian capital of Accra, Catherine expertly strings beads onto a needle.
“I’m the type who likes using my hands,” she says as she chooses another carved bauble from a table of various glass jars — jars full of clay, wood, and other beads.
Catherine spends her days crafting bracelets, necklaces and other adornments in her jewelry workshop in the small coastal town of Tema-Kpone, where she was born and raised. While her unique designs are worn by people around the world, her passion remains close to home with her community, where she uses the proceeds of her business to bring aid to its most vulnerable members.
“I have an NGO [non-governmental organization] that helps widows and orphans,” she explains, adding that she often travels to different schools and neighborhoods in her other role as a pastor. “If they cannot continue, we take it from there and then we help.”
In order to keep her inventory stocked, Catherine needed a small amount of capital. A Kiva loan helped her buy more beads and thread as well as calabash gourds, clay, and other organic materials to create her unique designs. It also funded extra supplies for her to teach others so that they might also sustain a living from the craft.
“I'm very happy to pass this knowledge to people, especially to the less privileged,” says the 58 year-old who describes herself as an otherwise reserved and quiet person. “I'm happy to be with them and they are also happy to be with me. I give them all the necessary things that they need.”
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A multi-talented artist
“When I attended parties, I'd see women dressed up in beautiful beaded necklaces and wondered how to create jewelry myself”
Before Catherine settled on making jewelry, she used her artistic vision in all kinds of endeavors. Formerly a florist, hair stylist, wedding decorator, and wreath maker, she had always admired the artistry worn by others and in daily life.
“When I attended parties, I'd see women dressed up in beautiful beaded necklaces and wondered how to create jewelry myself,” she recalls.
The curious crafter had the good fortune to meet another artisan who taught her the basics of beading, and after a few months, she began producing her own designs. While much of her work comes from her own inspirations, she also accepts consignments from clients who hear about her through word of mouth or via the internet, clients who want “a prescribed bead and colors” and a specific arrangement.
Catherine has now been beading for 16 years, supporting the efforts of her NGO and keeping an eye on her extended family of siblings.
“I'm the only person who is not married,” she says with a shrug. “It's like I'm married to my work!”
Succeeding with a loan—and a global platform
Catherine has been able to continue her good works with the help of a Kiva loan. Her beading mentor first introduced her to NOVICA, a longtime Kiva Lending Partner that also hosts an online commerce platform for artisans to sell their products.
“She told me if I did well, she would take me to a place where she used to sell her things,” says the now-established artisan. “When I started, it was just small, in the corner. So when I went to NOVICA and they introduced me to the loan, I decided to take it and then expand my business.”
NOVICA offers loans at zero percent interest to its vetted artisans, and one of the hallmarks of these loans is the flexible terms, allowing artisans to repay the loan relative to their sales volume. Catherine appreciated this adjustability as she worked to stock her online shop and build her business.
“I've paid back the loan because the way they take it, I don't feel it,” she says, referring to the adaptable loan repayments. “It makes it easier for me to pay it back.”
Catherine’s most recent Kiva loan enabled her to buy bulk quantities of beads and materials to make jewelry and provide lessons for others—with enough left over to provide for the education of the children in her community.
“This loan has helped me a lot because after buying the necessary things for the beading aspect, I was able to give some to other people who are in need, especially the orphans who are in school,” recounts the compassionate artisan.
“I used it to help them with their prospectus and their pocket money, and sometimes I pay the school fees, too.”
Check out Catherine’s story and learn more about the dedicated artisan here:
A lasting legacy
“Even when I'm no more…there will be somebody who will continue what I'm doing.”
Catherine plans to continue stocking her shop with her eco-friendly earrings, beaded bangles and exquisite necklaces, not just for her own livelihood but for the legacy she hopes to leave behind.
“My dream is to open a vocational school to teach beadwork and crafts to street children and orphans,” she shares, citing the peace and joy she experiences from helping others.
“So even when I'm no more or when I'm dead, there will be somebody who will continue what I'm doing.”
The impact of Catherine’s loan continues to bring a positive impact to the people of Ghana.