The Blue Haus was funded by Among Equals in 2017 at the request of the Goroka weavers. It is a simple space that protects the women from the natural elements, a place to work together, to socialise together, a place for women.
Most homes that our weavers live in have no electricity or running water. They weave by candle light and cook on a small stove in the centre of the house. The Blue Haus has a fresh water tank attached to it, electricity and a place to rest as well as work and recieve training.
Living in the Blue Haus from March 2018 till now is Serah Nalie and her daughter Sophie.
Here they share their story..
“My name is Serah Nalie, I am 42 years old and I come from Aibom, Chambri Lake on the Sepik River in the East Sepik Province of Papua New Guinea.
I am married with four children and currently live in Wewak, the provincial capital of East Sepik Province. I am self-employed and I earn my living by marketing bilums, traditional necklaces, and sewing clothes. I sustain my family solely on the earnings through the local market. From the sales in the market, I am able to pay for my children’s school fees and take care of my family.
My children are Sophie, my first born then Rene’e. She’s 15 and in Grade 8. Then there is Jasper, my only son, he’s 10 and doing Grade 3 and the last child is Ophearl who is 9 years old and in Grade 2
My eldest daughter, Sophie who is 19, is now attending the University of Goroka as a first year student studying a Bachelor of Arts in Literature and English. I cry when I think of my daughter Sophie who has helped me make traditional necklaces since she was in Grade 4. She started to make necklaces for her lunch money and then started to save for her own school fees with money that she earned from market sales. Sophie split her time of making necklaces and school work so that she was able to do both that were equally important. I was fortunate that Sophie worked hard at school and now she has an opportunity to go to university. I had saved enough money from the sales at the market to pay for our airfares from Wewak to Madang and then we travelled by PMV from Madang to Goroka.
Some months ago, by chance I met the famous Bilum Meri, Florence Jaukae Kamel in the Wewak market. Florence was on a buying trip for Among Equals. When Florence purchased some of my products she encouraged me to continue with my work. Florence and I exchanged contacts and became friends on Facebook.
When Sophie learnt that she had an opportunity to study in Goroka, I contacted Florence as she was the only person that I knew in Goroka.
Florence opened her arms to me and my daughter and spoke of the Bilum Haus, the Blue Haus, that Among Equals had built for bilum weavers in 2017. Florence suggested that Sophie and I stay in the Bilum Haus at Faniufa until Sophie was settled in at university. This is the first time that Sophie will live away from home and we were both afraid of the unknown but Florence assured me that she would take care of me as I am also a bilum weaver just like her.
I have lived in the Bilum Haus for over a month, living amongst Florence and her team of bilum weavers. I have undergone training with Florence with the financial support of Caroline Sherman, the owner of Among Equals as our future plans are that I will be a supplier of bilums to Among Equals.
My dream is to build a bilum haus in Wewak and earn enough money to send my children to further their education in an overseas country. I didn’t continue with my tertiary education as my parents could not afford the university fees. I want to help the mothers in Wewak to continue to make bilums from traditional fibre so I want to start a school to make handcrafts in Wewak. I want to do this so that future generations are able to safeguard traditional methods of making traditional jewellery for our custom rituals and to sell them to sustain themselves if they have no other means of earning money, like me. I’m lucky that I know how to make traditional jewellery, bilum and I have learnt to sew. In the village, if I want to make bilum, I just have to walk to the top of the mountain to collect the raw material. It’s just 30 minutes away, not far. It is just my labour that is the cost because I have access to traditional raw materials.
I have learnt a lot of new ways to interact with buyers through my training with Florence and I am looking forward to putting my new knowledge to work with Among Equals. The weavers in Wewak make bilums from traditional string; we have lots of widows and mothers with children who have been abandoned by their husbands but we don’t have many or regular buyers of bilum and I hear their problems and I worry for them a lot. I pray a lot and I believe that God directed Florence to cross my path and now she has introduced me to Among Equals.”