In 2016 Saskia Rechsteiner made a few fabric necklaces for a Christmas Fair in Arusha, Tanzania. Combining local fabric with some beads and her sons' marbles, she created a necklace and sold out within hours. Needing a name for the necklaces, she asked what the Swahili word for a bead was and was told it was a "shanga". The days after the fair were busy - orders for the necklaces came in from safari companies, gift shops and even people who wanted to export them to Japan and Australia. Saskia's sabbatical was over and she decided to start producing the necklace with the help of a deaf lady who worked on the coffee estate where Saskia lived.
Saskia soon fell in love with the idea of helping people from the deaf community and within weeks she had employed over 6 deaf ladies - all making the Shanga necklace in her back yard. She decided to ask to rent a property on the coffee estate so she could expand her workshop, and was given the River House on the estate to move her workshop to. She soon openen a restaurant for lunches, a Shanga Shop and expanded the range of products made in the workshop. Over the years this resulted in employing over 50 people with disabilities in a workshop where everything from glass blowing recycled bottles, recycling old pots and pans, paper making, beading, bead making, weaving and metal work is done. The Shanga Shop has seen many happy customers and become an institution in Arusha.
In 2015 Shanga had to move premises and is now part of the purpose built Trader's Walk at the Arusha Coffee Lodge, just across the road from where Shanga used to be and 5 minutes from Arusha Airport. Everything stayed the same apart from having a wonderful new location for the workshop and the Shanga Shop. The River House restaurant closed, but Trader's Walk has a unique African themed restaurant with live entertainment and bead making which has proven to be a huge success with the old River House clients.
In 2016 Shanga opened a second branch at the Mount Meru Game Lodge in Usa River, 20 minutes from Kilimanjaro Airport. Here Shanga has a mini workshop showcasing weaving, beading, bead making and tailoring, and a fabulous Shanga Shop.
Throughout the journey Shanga has managed to stay true to their roots and code of ethics. Of utmost importance is providing a safe, consistent and warm environment for Tanzanians with disabilities. Of not less importance is making amazing products from waste materials that are sold in Tanzania and around the world, regardless of their story. They are simply great products made by great people!