An Improbable Entrepreneur

by Barbara Livieratos, Living Water Children's Fund BOD Member

Albinism is a relatively rare genetic condition caused by recessive genes inherited from both parents. Estimates are that in the United States between one in 17,000 and one in 20,000 have the condition, while in Tanzania one in 1400 have albinism. Although it is more common in Tanzania, persons with albinism are not more accepted. In fact, they are shunned and often denied education. Witch doctors say that persons with albinism are ghosts and that they have special powers. The witch doctors prey on people’s poor understanding of genetics, and they use albino body parts to make special potions to bring luck or wealth. Yes, even today, witch doctors (who may be in three-piece suits) can hold great sway in some communities. Because of these beliefs, there is a lucrative market for albino body parts and persons with albinism are in danger of being maimed or killed.
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In 2008, Miriamu Staford, a 28-year-old woman in a rural village in Tanzania, was sleeping with her two-year-old son beside her. Suddenly men armed with machetes burst into her hut and cut off her arms. Her son was unharmed. After her attackers fled, it took six hours for Miriamu to get medical treatment. Weeks in the hospital followed. She attended a vocational boarding school and learned how to knit on a loom. The charity Under the Same Sun helped Miriamu and has built a home with a workshop for her outside of Moshi. Her home is situated between Mt. Kilimanjaro (the highest mountain in Africa) and Mt. Meru (the fourth highest mountain in Africa). In this beautiful spot she has become adept at operating the loom and has been making sweaters to sell.

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It is Miriamu’s fervent wish to be economically independent and to raise her son in a secure environment. Living Water Children’s Fund board members met Miriamu on a trip in 2022. They were impressed with her spirit, persistent optimism, and the quality of her work. Her brightly colored sweaters seem to match her upbeat attitude. LWCF has ordered over three dozen sweaters from Miriamu. They will be available for purchase at the April fundraiser in Columbia, Maryland, and later on our website.

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