Our Story

Shanga was founded in 2007 when local resident, Saskia Rechsteiner, made a handful of fabric necklaces for a Christmas Fair in Arusha, Tanzania. Combining local fabric with some beads and her sons' marbles, she created a unique necklace that sold out within hours. 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 saw an opportunity to generate extra income for a local deaf lady she knew and together they started producing the necklaces to sell from Saskia's backyard. Demand for the necklace grew and soon the first Shanga Workshop was established. The Shanga range of products was expanded, utilising recycled and sustainable materials where possible, and the project was opened for people to come and meet the inspiring staff and purchase products on site.

Over the years Shanga has grown to employ more than 60 people with a range of disabilities to make creative products including weaving, glass blowing, beading, paper making and metal work, using recycled materials wherever possible. 

Shanga has welcomed many happy visitors and is an institution in Arusha. Some of our highlights are seeing Amal Clooney wearing our Amal necklace in the international news, and a visit from Bill Clinton and the Clinton foundation.

In 2017 Shanga was acquired by Elewana, our workshop and store are now located in the grounds of the beautiful Elewana Arusha Coffee Lodge. Our staff are pleased to have such a beautiful and safe working space and have the ongoing support for our project and foundation through Elewana CSR program.

Did you know... 'Shanga' is the Swahili word for bead!

Our Philosophy

Throughout Shanga’s colourful journey, the heart of our message has remained the same - “Be kind and recycle”.

Of utmost importance to us is providing a safe, consistent and loving environment for Tanzanians with disabilities who have so often faced terrible hardship in their lives. At Shanga the focus is “ability over disability”. Of no lesser importance is making amazing products from discarded materials so that we can contribute positively to the sensitive Tanzanian environment while producing creative pieces that celebrate Tanzanian culture.

Meet Our People

Learn more about some of our inspiring staff members who make Shanga so special. Hover over the images to read each of their stories.

Aminipa was born a happy, healthy baby in Iringa, Tanzania. At the age of three, she fell into a fire-pit too deep for her to climb out of. When her mother found her, Aminipa had lost both of her hands.

Aminipa faced discrimination during her childhood, and was turned away from schools in her area due to her disabilities. As an adult, she has worked through her physical challenges to creatively function in life, managing a busy household of four children. She says that you never really get used to being disabled, but you find your own way to get things done.

Aminipa is talented in tailoring and beading, and joined the Shanga team in 2015. Her job at Shanga enables Aminipa's independence and provides her children with the education she never had.

Basley is the fifth born of three brothers and three sisters to parents in Dodoma, Tanzania. He was born deaf. He trained as a carpenter, but no one would hire him due to his disability. After moving towns three times to find work, Basley ended up in Arusha and approached Shanga.

Basley is part of our glass blowing department and uses recycled bottles to make home wares and beads. He is creative, talented and designed a new dolphin shape bead for Shanga which we call ‘Basley Beads’ after him.

Basley is a favourite among the Shanga team due to his work ethic and positivity - his infectious smile brightens everyone's day.

Angelina was born deaf to a family of four siblings in the village of Mtombu, bordering the Serengeti plains of Tanzania.

As a child Angelina was supported by a close community, but as the only deaf person in her village was unable to communicate with anyone accept her mother.

Angelina attend a special school for the deaf and received a primary education as an older child. Here she learnt Tanzanian sign-language which enabled her to communicate with friends for the first time.

During her time at school, Angelina met and befriended one of Shanga's original employees and decided to seek employment for herself. Seven years later Angelina is a skilled tailor and one of our longest serving staff members.

Daniel is from a large Arusha family of nine children, and one of three siblings that were born deaf.

Daniel is bright and educated, he was fortunate to receive primary and secondary education at a special school for the deaf. After school Daniel returned home to Arusha to work as a builder, before hearing about Shanga from a friend. He joined the Shanga team in 2009, quickly becoming one of our star glass and metal workers.

Daniel feels passionately for the need to advocate and support people with disabilities in Tanzania. He chooses to work for Shanga because he believes that educating visitors about the needs and abilities of people with disabilities in his country will help raise awareness worldwide.

Upendo was born deaf, but this never held her back. The only girl among four siblings, Upendo grew up in the green and fertile Kilimanjaro mountains of Tanzania.

Upendo received limited education as a child, but as a young adult undertook a vocational weaving program. Proactive and determined, Upendo applied to Shanga and joined the weaving team at 23 years old. It was a decision that impacted not just her professional life, but also her personal life.

Upendo and her now-husband, Livingstone, met at Shanga. During lunch breaks and leisurely walks home Upendo and Livingstone, who is also deaf, fell in love. The couple married in 2015 and now their Shanga employment supports their healthy baby girl.