Ben and Katy Ray, Tanzania

Ben and Katy Ray, Tanzania

Working with people with disabilities, providing training so they can earn a living

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In Tanzania, people with disabilities are often considered to be a burden or even a curse, not given an education and left to beg on the streets.

We are working to see and value people with disabilities for who they are rather than noticed for what they can’t do, in our local area as well as throughout the region.

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Ben and Katy’s story

In our location near Arusha, the tourism capital of East Africa, we are working to establish a hub for creating job opportunities for people with disabilities. We want to come alongside disabled producers, trainees and entrepreneurs and help them source the right tools and materials, expand their product ranges, connect with more customers and run their businesses more efficiently and sustainably.

Building on our 12 years working with people with disabilities at Neema Crafts in Iringa, we are planning to have various workshop areas where disabled people can explore and develop a variety of new skills, a shop selling crafts produced by people with disabilities from across Tanzania (including Neema Crafts products), as well as a cafe where we employ deaf staff, and use this as a community church space on Sundays.

We have set up an international NGO called See Ability First International or SAFI (safi is Swahili for cool or clean), to support Neema Crafts with design and marketing across the region and to partner with other existing projects. We are already working in partnership with a couple of other organisations and have a number of possible trainees in the pipeline.

We plan to train groups of people, coach them in business and product development and send them out to run their businesses independently. The idea is for SAFI to provide ongoing support through buying products from these producer groups and finding markets across Tanzania and beyond.

Ever since a short-term trip to Tanzania as an 18-year-old, Ben always felt a calling back to East Africa. Over time, the Lord grew in him a vision for setting up a training centre that would employ people on the margins, that would be self-sustaining by selling what it produced. He has a degree in product design engineering and trained as a design and technology teacher in the UK where he worked for five years.

Katy’s journey to mission began with five months in Tanzania in 2002 during her gap year. After this experience she changed her university plans and reapplied to study art. After three years of studying textiles, she set up her own business selling handmade interior accessories while working as an artist in residence at Monkton Combe School, where Ben was teaching. During this time God began to speak to us both about using our skills in Tanzania.

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