The trip to South Africa would not be complete without the excursion to George, SA. A five-hour drive from Cape Town this growing city has changed so much in the two years since I was here last. Today there are a multitude more of guest houses, restaurants, and shops. In addition, the township on the other side of the highway has expanded tremendously. In two years, our partners have also met some milestones. Both of our partners in George where with us at our initial launch and have been so supportive of all Branch Out Market accomplishments over the last year. They have helped to inspire, shape, and launch our business so I had to “stop by”.
Driving up a mountain that overlooks the ocean in the most stunning way Hope Art outreach center is nestled in the backcountry of Wilderness (next-door to George). The center comprises of a kitchen that feeds school children, a daycare/nursery, and the workshop for Hope Art. We arrive and are greeted by a handful of tiny humans (children) rushing to see these new faces. The women working away in the shop are a mix of shy and outgoing seamstresses and bead-makers.
I had not really met Klara yet at Hope Art, a few whatsapp and emails did not do her justice. She is the new dynamic coordinator for the ladies at Hope Art. Ilove her can-do attitude and thinking outside the box on shipping and product development. We had a blast going through the products, we spoke about what has been popular thus far, what we should try more of, and how the ladies can create a consistent product for the American buyer as well. What was really fun was bonding over our families, where we have lived, and our love of farming! We would have never stumbled on that topic over an email! In person was so much better than a voice-note or text. It made the partnership real for the both of us! I can’t wait to promote their work, find outlets, and share their story even more!
Options Care Centre:
Options Care Centre has moved to a new location in which the counseling center has been able to flourish. The women’s groups also have their own space for working on cards and jewelry. The ultrasound room is a beautiful room where families get to meet their children for the first time. From the moment you walk in it is light and cheerful to greet people coming in for crisis, HIV, and family counseling concerns. There is an abundance of new counseling rooms with newly upholstered furniture in light and airy colors. The center is full of light, plants, and a feeling of hope. The team also seems to have a new energy about them in this space of infinite potential. We of course gathered in the kitchen for tea and cake first!
Best of all I had the chance to meet not only the coordinators who I email and WhatsApp with on the regular, I had the chance to sit and chat with the card makers and jewelry group. The cards have been so popular and I study the names on the back, thanking them for sending us beautiful works of art. This trip, I got to thank them by name and in person. This was amazing and exactly the source of inspiration and energy I didn’t know I needed. I’m humbled to say that these women are wonderfully beautiful. They battle so many personal challenges everyday to just show up and then to sit and create works of art they lovingly package and give away (paid for but it still seems like an artist parting with their work-of-art). They became more than names on cards, they are real women, with beautiful smiles, and I’m humbled and honored to represent them. I think I also became real to them. While I might look a bit younger than I am (thank you God), they really wanted to know who I am. I shared my journey and how I came to start Branch Out Market all around their cards. I think we all really benefitted from the time together.
George as a whole did not disappoint. My friend and I had a great time bouncing from café to botanical garden, to more restaurants. We met one wonderful person after another and were inspired by how fast and well the city was growing. The natural surroundings are also breathtaking. We walked through a forest, did sunset on the beach, and while my patient friend/driver navigated the roads I tried to take photos and mini-videos everywhere! It was absolutely stunning in every direction.
It should be noted that George is experiencing it’s own growing pains while it takes on many new residents. The township is experiencing a taxi vs. bus struggle which puts many people at risk and impacts the ability of our partners to serve. The poverty is real and a constant challenge. And while families increase there is more need for intervention and child-services to ensure the next generation is brought up safely with a good education. What brings everyone together is a love of South Africa and their faith in a better tomorrow. I love that Branch Out Market is an outlet to this wonderful community.