Made by Mosaic’s Latest Catalog

It’s finally here!

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Made by Mosaic Winter 2014 US

Made by Mosaic Holiday 2013 SA


Don’t Stop the Music


Agnes (pictured above in the pink), a regular attendee of the Ikageng Day Care Centre for the Aged, is over 100 years old. Agnes has lived through and seen the abolition of the apartheid. She has lost friends and family to the HIV/AIDS crisis. She has seen women’s rights and freedoms increase dramatically and yet has struggled to experience true equality. In all that she has seen, Agnes has always vowed to never stop dancing. She is always praising, worshipping, singing and laughing, and her wide grin against the backdrop of her wrinkly, well-worn skin only inspires more smiles from others. Agnes is truly a professional in the art of spreading joy.

Agnes is a mother of six. Three boys and three girls- now grown men and women. It is never natural for a parent to bury their children, but in a country where violent crime and AIDS claim lives before their time, it is commonplace. Over the past few years, Agnes has buried two of her three sons. She buried one who was the victim of an unsolved murder, his life taken by knifepoint. The next was run over by a taxi.

Now, on Saturday, Agnes will bury her last son. He was a soldier in the South African army and was wounded in battle in the Democratic Republic of the Congo just a few months back. South Africa’s President Zuma recieved domestic and international criticism for sending troops into this battle, which was being fought on behalf of one of his personal friends. Its outcome was argued to have no impact on South Africa and South Africans widely protested his decision. Not only did South Africa lose many soldiers in the fight, but the ones who returned shared that they were often fighting against and murdering child soldiers. The psychological damage of such a scenario is immeasurable. We were optimistic that Agnes’ son would pull through, but he fell victim to his extensive injuries yesterday. Please pray for Agnes and her remaining daughters, who are blind with grief.

It is no secret that South Africa’s problems are complicated, and often out of its citizens’ and governments’ control. Life here is not easy. Let’s take a lesson from Agnes, and despite the pain, suffering, grief and exasperation, never stop dancing.

The Dirty Knee Brigade

ImageExciting times in South Africa! A close friend of mine, the youth pastor at the Methodist Church that I attend, has just launched a new ministry called The Dirty Knee Brigade. The Dirty Knee Brigade is a prayer team for South African youth. Essentially, it’s a cell phone-based prayer chain that students in the youth program can anonymously text with prayer requests. Their prayer requests are then texted to all members of the prayer chain, currently over 100 people, who lift that person’s requests up in prayer.

We all know the true power of prayer- this is an awesome opportunity for these kids to grow in their faith both by getting the spiritual support they need and offering the same support to their peers. It’s our hope that The Dirty Knee Brigade will grow to include more schools in our region this year and that it will in time become an opportunity for youth all over the country to pray together and for each other.

Hopewell UMC has provided funding to launch this project by purchasing credits for text messages, but as the project grows, more credits will be needed each month. We have lots of creative ideas to raise some money locally to support this new project. I’ll keep you posted!

If you’d like to learn more about Potch Methodist Youth or The Dirty Knee Brigade, follow them on facebook at or email me at

Investing in Growth

As Hopewell UMC’s missionary in residence, I have the unique opportunity of determining where and how Hopewell invests its money in South Africa. These decisions need to be made carefully. Dependence upon donations from one source, such as Hopewell UMC, can be crippling to a developing a non-profit. However, investments from an organization such as Hopewell can also help any organization to reach their full potential. Hopewell has made two valuable gifts to our partner non-profit organizations in Potchefstroom, South Africa this month.

For the Ikageng Day Care Center for the Aged, we invested in poles and netting to surround the garden that the elderlies sow. They have been experiencing problems with pigeons and rats, who consume tOnica, Made by Mosaic Assistant Managerheir crops before they have the chance to sell it for petty cash or cook and consume it themselves. The fruits and vegetables that they grow provide them with both valuable nutrition and a steady source of income. This protection around the garden is helping the elderlies to maintain and expand the garden that sustains the work of the day care center without taking from them the dignity that self-sustainability brings.

Mosaic Community Developments’ for-profit arm, Made by Mosaic, in its growth, is beginning to deepen its commitment to employee development outside of steady employment.  Part of this is investing in continuing education for our Assistant Managers, Dorah and Onica, so that they can become stronger leaders within Made by Mosaic. For this reason, I took Dorah and Onica to attend a small business development conference in Johannesburg this week put on by a non-profit organization called Fetola. Made by Mosaic has been accepted into Fetola’s “Legends” Program, which provides resources, expertise, and guidance for developing small businesses in South Africa free of charge. Learn more here.

The conference was Dorah’s second and Onica’s first trip to Johannesburg, and for both of them, it was their first time staying overnight in a hotel. Dorah was happy to have such an experience before her 50th birthday 🙂  The trip exposed them to other South Africans like them who have successfully started and run small businesses in the context of a township. To see others like themselves who had moved themselves from poverty to prosperity was very motivational.

Thank you as always for your continued support for Hopewell’s missions in South Africa. Your donations are truly making a difference!

Sannah Goes to School

Well, this is why I love my job.

I know that I’m not alone in the belief that female education is one of the single greatest driving forces for positive changes in this modern world- so I hope that this news will make your day like it’s made mine!

One of Made by Mosaic’s employees, Sannah, came to work for the last day yesterday as she prepares to return to school for 2013.

Before Made by Mosaic, Sannah was unemployed and dreaming of continuing her education in either social work or entrepreneurship. She had worked hard to complete high school, an achievement not met by enough of those growing up in a township, but she struggled so see how her hard work had paid off. She spent more time than she would have liked to at home, without work and without anything to keep her busy. While she had the willpower, hope, and courage to keep her dream in sight, many of her peers in similar situations would quickly find themselves married, pregnant, or abusing alcohol or drugs- often as a result of boredom and hopelessness.

Showing off her going away present- school supplies!

Showing off her going away present- school supplies!

When Sannah was hired at Made by Mosaic, she decided to work as long as she needed to save up enough money to pay for an entire year of school- a mere R3500- about $400, but more than she could come up with without steady work. To meet her goal, Sannah had perfect attendance and took pride in the products she made. Her neat needlework quickly became the quality standard for our products.

After several months of employment, Sannah and her friend Florence approached me. Now this is a slightly embarrassing story, but I’ll share it anyway-

“Jordan, don’t you think you should wash your car?” they asked me.

“I suppose, but it always just gets dirty anyway…” I responded.

“Well,” Sannah told me, “If I had a car, I would make sure it was always clean. I would take good care of it.”


Sannah smiled. She wasn’t trying to offend me. She had another end in mind! She let me feel ashamed for a quick minute before…

“I have an idea. How about you pay us to wash your car?” she asked.

And so started Sannah and Florence’s Friday Car Wash. Nearly every Friday, the two friends would wash my car after work, and would offer the same service to any other Mosaic employee or volunteer that happened to be at the training center at that time. I don’t think any of us ever turned them down!

It shouldn’t be a surprise at this point that Sannah is now returning to school to get a certificate in entrepreneurship. “After I get enough experience,” she tells me, “I’ll start my own stationary shop, selling office supplies and offering services like typing and copying.”

Bravo, Sannah, we are so proud of you. Thank you for being an inspiration to the entire Made by Mosaic team, and for reminding me to take better care of my car 😉

It Can’t All Be Bad News

I hate bad news. I hate getting it, I hate delivering it, I hate hearing others discuss it while I’m waiting in line at the grocery store.

Bad news has a snowball effect. The more you hear it, the more likely you are to hear it again, and so it goes- it puts you in a frame of mind to only see the bad news, and before long, you miss out on good happening all around.

Last week I struggled with how to share a story that is nearly impossible to disguise as anything other than terrible news, and whether I should share it at all. It seemed that right after our little Made by Mosaic family celebrated our very first employee pregnancy, getting excited about throwing a baby shower and making custom gifts of crocheted hats and slippers for our crafter and her little one, we had to grieve the loss of the unborn child after 7 months spent with its mother. This was a responsible HIV-positive mother who was vigilant about following the treatment plan necessary to ensure that her child would not inherit the virus at birth- a time-consuming regimen that the majority of pregnant HIV-positive women do not follow.

According to Tswana tradition, after a woman suffers a miscarriage, she has to stay inside her family’s mokuku (shack) for three entire months, without stepping foot off of the property. If she has a job, she will lose it- there is no accommodation for cultural traditions in modern labour laws.

Due to the nature of our work, this crafter does not have to worry about losing her job, and her uncle (the man in charge- another foreign concept) has permitted her to work from home. This is a progressive move for a family that is still honouring other traditions.

This is where the grief subsides- after discussing with the other crafters what we could do to help our friend, we decided that Dorah and Onica (our Assistant Managers) should deliver some flowers and a cake to her over the weekend.

On the day that I brought in the small gifts for delivery, I had another meeting away from our headquarters and would only return later that afternoon. When I did return, Dorah and Onica told me that after further discussion, they realized that the entire team would like to deliver the gifts. So, over their lunch break, they all walked to her home to visit and pray for her. She was moved to tears, and it was a heartfelt, emotional time for the entire team.

Further, the team decided that they wouldn’t let their friend go too long without visitors- they’ve agreed to visit her separately in turns so that she isn’t wanting for company.

For me, the best part about this story is that I had absolutely no part in it. I didn’t ask any of our employees to sacrifice their lunch break for a visit, and it wasn’t my idea to bring her flowers or cake. These were community decisions. This is just another great example of how community building can be a powerful force for good, and it proves that terrible, devastating news, when the burden is shared amongst friends, can be a much lighter load to bear.

The good news? When we build supportive and compassionate communities we ensure that their members will never have to suffer alone. The bad news may never stop coming, but following it will always be help and love from friends.

Living and Dying with HIV/AIDS

Life’s not fair. As hard as we fight to help level the playing field, to correct prior injustices or to create opportunities for a brighter future, there are things that will always be out of our control. AIDS has devastated an entire population in South Africa. In fact, AIDS has hit the hardest amongst portions of the population that are the most poor, the most vulnerable, and the most downtrodden. NOT fair.

What we can do is try our best to help those that are infected with or affected by this terrible disease. Mosaic is doing that. Even more encouraging, the Mosaic community consisting of the foster parents and their children is a living, breathing experiment in the power of love and fellowship and generosity and selflessness.

Sadly, one of Mosaic’s newest foster mothers, Minah, recently passed away from AIDS. She did not know that she had been living with the disease, and by the time it revealed itself, too much time had passed. Minah leaves behind 5 foster children who are losing their second mother in one year.

The South African marketplace has adapted to accommodate the demands that AIDS has placed on it. You’ll be hard pressed to find a street without a coffin or tombstone vendor, and insurance companies have expanded to include funeral plans, where policyholders can pay a set amount each month to ensure that when they pass away their funeral costs will be covered. Most adults living in the township have funeral plans, unless of course they’re trying to cut costs in order to suddenly provide for five new foster children, as Minah was. For her, a funeral plan was a luxury she could not afford, so she suspended her plan only months before she died. This means that her family could not afford to provide her with a proper, traditional funeral.

This is where the power of community comes in. Even though she was new to the community, other Mosaic foster mothers stepped in to care for Minah’s children, provide meals, collect donations and prepare for the funeral. Mosaic foster mothers Dorah, Dinah, and Sannah awoke on the morning of the funeral at 2am to begin preparing food for Minah’s many friends and family in attendance. When the money came up short, Mosaic, the nonprofit, contributed tables, chairs, tents, coffee, tea, sugar, and other necessities, while Hopewell United Methodist Church and others provided food and other supplies for the event.

It’s my prayer that this same community will once again step in to provide an additional caretaker for these twice orphaned children. Minah’s husband, William, is unable to care for all five children by himself. It’s too soon to see the solution for them, but it could include finding a home for the two girls while the three boys stay with their foster father. It could also mean several families in the community caring for one or more of the orphans.

Please pray also for another Mosaic foster mother, Emily, who is living with HIV and recently lost her husband, Patrick- this is another family that can’t afford to lose a parent. For children living in the townships of South Africa, being orphaned multiple times in their lives is a sad reality.

Hello, Neo!

Today I am proud to introduce Made by Mosaic’s first male employee!! What a milestone…

When we set out last October to create jobs for women, I never thought about what I would do if a man came looking for work. Strict gender roles define which lines of work are appropriate for women, and which are appropriate for men. These unwritten rules are not flexible, and until now, I have never seen anyone challenge them.

It is for this among many more reasons that I am so proud of Neo and so happy that he’s joining our team.

How did we get here?

Neo first visited Made by Mosaic only a few short months after we opened. He was very curious about the project and wanted to know what we were doing, how it worked, who was buying our products, and what he could do to help. Several months passed by before he came back to visit, and I was glad for the reminder that members of this community feel invested in Made by Mosaic and want to see it succeed.

On his second visit, I learned that Neo has completed a 6-month sewing course in a nearby town that the government sponsored in order to encourage entrepreneurship. Following the course, he came back home to Ikageng and started his own line of handbags and sewn accessories called “African Youth.” Currently, Neo does not own or have easy access to a sewing machine, and he is selling about R200 (less than $30) worth of products in his busiest months of sales. R200 in revenue means that his actual income is even less than that! At age 21, he is living at home, and though he wants to grow his business and continue his education, a lack of income has essentially clipped his wings.

At the time, I didn’t have work available for Neo, but asked him to help us finish products as we completed them- this included sewing loose ends in and attaching labels to them. For two months, Neo stopped by the centre several times a week to drop off and pick up new products to finish, without ever asking to be paid for his work OR requesting a job from me. When I asked him why he was always so ready to help, he told me that it was because he wanted to stay busy and productive and enjoyed helping his community.

Amongst all of my employees, Neo is among the most expressive of gratitude for employment. He is so excited to be a part of the team, and I couldn’t be more impressed with this young man’s ambition, good nature and bravery- to be the only man in a collective of women is a VERY bold move for him.

Another one of our volunteers, Tannie Marjiette, volunteered to work with Neo today to help him learn how to make quilts- we are currently experimenting with some potential designs that will result in either handbags or blankets made with South African fabric and patterns.

A very warm welcome, Neo!!

When Banking Fails The Poor

I do understand that anger is not always a productive emotion. But, I can’t help but think of one of my favorite bible stories, when Jesus overturns the tables in the temple after he finds the holy space abused with bad business and corruption.

Sometimes it’s ok to get angry.

Unfortunately, many of my crafters have fallen victim to predatory banking schemes, fraud, and confusing banking systems that exist to take advantage of South Africa’s poorest segment of the population. It makes me angry to think that people exist who create traps to steal pennies at a time from the impoverished, while they themselves get rich. These pennies can often mean a person’s meal, medication, or shelter.

Today wasn’t the first time that a collection agent has come to the training centre where we work looking for one of my employees. However, today was the first day that I found out that, essentially, one of my employees had to quit so that she could sign a legal document stating that she was unemployed in order to receive a reduction on a loan she took out for a bedside table. A bedside table. I was able to purchase a R100 bedside table at the local pawn shop (about $12) that works just fine. Because this employee didn’t consider the ramifications of taking out a loan for R420 per month (about $55) over several years for this small piece of furniture, I feel as if we have failed her in a way. It’s not productive for employees to be earning wages if all of those wages are being wasted.

My eyes are opened to the lack of understanding around personal financial management amongst the poor. As an employer, I feel that Made by Mosaic should be responsible for developing and training employees to take responsibility for their own wealth management, and empowering them to make wise choices. Of course, we can never control how they manage their own funds, but I don’t ever want to leave them feeling as if they don’t have the tools to do so.

Since we started, I’ve been intent on educating our employees about personal finances, but it’s now clear that this is needed urgently. Please pray for our employees and all of those struggling to move themselves out of poverty while facing predatory bank loans, deceptive and unfair payment plans, and impulsive spending. It’s my goal that Made by Mosaic employees will soon have the tools and knowledge necessary to make smart decisions regarding the management of their wages from us!

Aunt Suzie, Globetrotter

Aunt Suzie’s whirlwind trip the U.S. was a huge success! Thank you so much to all who were involved. She continues to share photos and stories from her trip with all who will listen! Aunt Suzie’s favorite part of the trip was learning more about our culture, and she was very impressed with the fact that the people she met were all willing to contribute to her project overseas- even those who had never seen it before.

For those of you who haven’t had the opportunity to meet our dear Aunt Suzie, here’s her bio:

Malebona Susan Luthuli, affectionately referred to as “Aunt Suzie,” runs an elderly day care centre in the South African township of Ikageng. By managing this non-profit initiative, Aunt Suzie is responsible for more than fifteen “elderlies,” including five Alzheimer’s patients, on a daily basis. The total amount of elderlies in her care is over forty. For her long-term service and efforts in bringing dignity to South Africa’s impoverished elderly population, she was awarded a Presidential Medal of Honor by President Jacob Zuma in 2010. More than food and shelter, Aunt Suzie provides the elderlies in her care with a warm and productive environment, where they can cook, bake, garden, and practice arts and crafts. In the expansion of the centre Aunt Suzie has created jobs for several community members, including a gardener who produces fruits and vegetables that are sold in the local community to financially support the centre. The Elderly Day Care Centre she estabilished is in part funded by Hopewell United Methodist Church in Downingtown, Pennsylvania. At age 78, Aunt Suzie’s future plans include expanding her current operations by building a new hospice centre, which is desperately needed in Ikageng.

Plans for Aunt Suzie’s hospice, called “Malebona’s Elderly Care,” are now underway. Since we first began discussing the idea, it has morphed into a long-term care facility for elderly people in the township. Currently, the most affordable elderly home in town costs over $1,000 per month for its residents.

We have blended the ideas of an affordable old-age home and a hospice together under one roof. The reason for this is that we are passionate about helping not only elderly people who are at the end of life, but about providing a safe shelter for elderly people who are “orphaned” themselves- those whose families can’t or won’t care for them, but who can no longer care for themselves.

Sadly, over the course of her trip to the U.S., 4 elderly shut-ins who Aunt Suzie was attending to by bringing them food, washing them, and caring for them in their homes, passed away. All of these people suffered from chronic bed sores and were infected with worms. Because no one attended to them by changing their bandages or bedding, Aunt Suzie suspects that the cause of death for all of them was the infected bed sores and parasites that they suffered from.

If we had a long-term care facility for these people, we could ease their suffering and help them to die peacefully, with dignity.

We have begun fundraising for this initiative and have been actively seeking out a small holding in the township on which we could build this property. We are currently evaluating some abandoned properties that only need to be renovated and furnished. Below is a picture of our first choice- I’ll keep you posted on our progress there!

If you are interested in making a donation to Malebona’s Elderly Care, please email me at for more information.