Hanging on display in The Depot is a quilt that was made as a way of saying “thank you.”Located in Goshen, just off of Route 33, The Depot is a thrift shop that supports “the local and global relief, development and peace projects of Mennonite Central Committee,” according to their website.
One of those projects took place in Tanzania. In 2015, MCC worked with Albino Peacemakers to provide 91 students who have albinism with education on how best to protect their skin and reminded them that they are loved by God.
Albinism is a congenital disorder where the pigmentation in a person’s skin, eyes and hair is either partially or completely absent. The absence of pigmentation makes those afflicted far more vulnerable to sunburn and, subsequently, skin cancers.
In Tanzania, the likelihood of being born with this disorder is 10 times higher than it is in the United States, Canada and all of Europe.
Tanzania is a place where albinism is stigmatized heavily, both by the afflicted people’s communities and their own families. Babies born with albinism are sometimes killed or left to die in the wilderness. There is also speculation that the body parts of those stricken with it offer special properties to those who acquire them, such as great wealth. This has led to mutilations and grave robberies of many.
The partnership traveled to the Mara region in Tanzania, the northwestern-most region that lies on the banks of Lake Victoria, where albinism is highly prevalent. In surveying the afflicted in the area, number one on their list of needs was having those in their community address them as people, just as they were.
In addition to skin care, the workshops that occurred focused on educating those in the area about the cause of albinism. Commonly believed to be the result of infidelity between parents or some other inexplicable cause, participants learned that the condition is inherited by those who carry the recessive gene. Both those who suffered from albinism and those who were not learned of the source of the condition.
Martha Mganga, the founder of Albino Peacemakers, has spent the last 25 years of her life teaching and working to change these commonly held beliefs of albinism. She teaches from her own experiences, as she has lived her life with the condition.
Women living with albinism from the area created a quilt that they sent to MCC in response to the workshops. The 91 children who participated in workshops on how to care for their skin made their own additions to the quilt as well: drawings in each of the squares.
The public is invited to view the quilt, which is currently on display at The Depot. The quilt will be on display, along with literature, stories and other information, in the atrium of The Depot (1013 Division Street) in Goshen through Mar. 18. Hours are 9-5 on Monday through Friday, and 9-4 on Saturday.
Students who would be interested in volunteering to help in the Thrift Shop or Material Resource Center are welcome. If so, contact Richard Wineland, volunteer coordinator, at (574) 202-6957.