This past Sunday, Earth Day, Whole Foods sponsored an event where it collected old t-shirts to be recycled. While it should come as no surprise that Whole Food would be involved in an event like that, this event goes further than mere recycling. In this case, Whole Foods has partnered with The African InKNITiative, a business that employs Ugandan refugee women. The t-shirts will be sent to Uganda, where the InKNITiative will reuse the material by knitting it into scarves.
The African InKNITiative empowers their employees, most of whom are widowed and have lost everything, by teaching them a marketable skill. The InKNITiative provides them with training, the tools, the materials, and then, in the end, with marketing and distribution for the scarves that they’ve produced.
The long-term goal is to provide the women involved not just with a means of day-to-day survival, but with a means to provide themselves, their families, and their communities with continued, sustainable support. This work is one of few alternatives these women have. For the most part, their only work opportunity is breaking rocks at the local quarry for substantially lower pay. The company is non-profit, with all proceeds being reinvested in the knitters’ community. And, because no two scarves turn out the same, each one can be considered a work of art in its own right.