As I start stuffing bags with all sorts of random things, preparing for my next big adventure to Gunu Village, my thoughts go back to where it all began.
I often get asked, "why Gunu village?" and how did I find it. Well, it didn't quite start off with Gunu village and it wasnt that easy to find.
About 6 years ago, I had an aspiration to take spiralocks from my kitchen table to an underprivileged village, anywhere in the world and support women by giving them employment. I carried this desire with me for awhile, not knowing how to achieve it or even where to begin. I was an unworldly traveler who hadn't ventured out of Australia. I had no contacts with any charity organisations or contacts in any other country. I was basically clueless to the idea and didn't even know how to begin. I just knew making spiralocks was a simple craft that did not require machinery, power or intricate skills and could be created in basic conditions. I could envision my end result and just focused on the final possibilities without considering the implications that eventually lie ahead.
I often spoke to friends and family, asking of potential contacts in remote villages in other parts of the world....I rang charities asking for advise.....I searched endlessly on the internet trying to find a starting point, emailing organisations, all to begin my dream to ethically expand the production of spiralocks.
It was back in 2015 when I thought I had a break through. I had made contact with an 'acquaintance of an acquaintance' who had family in Ghana and was looking at possible financial options to support them. I was so excited to have this opportunity. I spent months of constant back and forth communication via the 'acquaintance of an acquaintance' teaching their family members in Ghana the techniques of crafting spiralocks and sending over multiple amounts of supplies and money. I felt so proud to finally be achieving my dream. Empowering women with financial security. I soon received my first batch of Ghana made spiralocks covered in traditional Ghana kente cloth and wax fabrics. I continued to communicate the faults in the first batch and where improvements could be made, and making payments to the workers.
It was not long after the arrival of that first batch, when I was feeling so proud, I was made aware that the two 'acquaintances' had decided to work together and use the ladies I had just trained to make mass replica spiralocks for themselves and sell their own version of 'spiralocks'. They told me I had "liberated the women in Ghana with a trade and now they were free to make spiralocks for who ever they chose". Hearing that and knowing I had just lost all that I had worked towards, I felt like my world just fell apart. It was a really devastating time for Helen and I. We shed a few tears and felt like giving up. I felt like everything we had created and worked for was just pulled away from us. We were just a couple of mothers at home, trying to make an income and trying to support others while doing so. It was hard to pick ourselves up and move on. We wondered if this was how people in business grow, by taking the efforts of others for themselves? If so, then we didn't want to be in business. It was almost the end of spiralocks for us. But, now looking back, we appreciate this experience as something we have grown stronger from. Fortunately for us, we had each other to build ourselves back up. No one could take away our passion for a creation we invented and we had nurtured. No one could take spiralocks away from us as it is ours and no one could make spiralocks better than us as we had been hand making them for years and we had mastered and perfected the design. We never spoke again of the bitterness we felt from what had happened, nor did we dwell on the sadness we felt during that time. We simply got back up and found that creative passion and thrived harder to make spiralocks a bigger success then it ever was.
And a bigger success it became.
As spiralock popularity grew, so did my desire to pursue supporting families in poverty, but it wasn't until mid 2017 when I was again randomly ringing local charity organisations asking if they had any contacts, information or an interest in supporting my idea. I happened to ring a local op-shop called 'Global Ripple' in Byron Bay, run by Jackie. As confusing as I must have sounded to Jackie on that initial phone call, it was reassuring to know Jackie seemed interested in what I wanted to do and wanted to know more. We had a couple of follow on chats about a possible village project with spiralocks. I was so excited. As expected though, my family, Helen and her family, were all very cautious of me pursuing again another overseas venture. I was concerned that I could possibly ruin it again for us and waste a lot of money and conceivably expose our trade secrets again, only to have them exploited. But I felt confident this time. I had learnt from the last failed project. I didn't want to deal through a third party. I wanted to deal direct with a village and its people. I wanted to teach them in person. I wanted to be the only contact for this project, and I liked Jackie. She was genuine and had a true desire to support people all over the world in poverty which was evident in all the projects she had personally accomplished. Jackie only wanted to help and not have a vested interest in this project.
So without too much thought or preparations, I jumped in head first and booked plane tickets for Jackie and I with only a few days notice to visit a small unheard of village on the outer Islands of Fiji. Jackie had spent a bit of time with a family in the village a couple of years earlier and thought it would be a good place for me to set up spiralocks.
For me the idea of Fiji didnt make much sense as I assumed Fiji was a high-end luxury island full of fancy resorts and rich people. I couldn't picture anyone living in poverty or in need of any support, but then I had never traveled far. I was oblivious to it all.
Jackie had traveled far and had experience with charity projects. I was fortunate to have guidance from her.
It was the longest I had been away from my family. The first time I had done anything on my own, without my husband who I have been with since we were 18 years old.
With suitcases full with spiralock supplies and gifts for the villagers, Jackie and I departed for Fiji, heading for Gunu Village. It was a hot December in 2017.