On a visit to Tanzania in 2013, Indiana University alumna Haley Loechel made an unplanned trip to Maasailand and fell in love with the people and the culture.
Loechel’s study-abroad trip was coming to an end, and the hospital she was working at no longer needed her time. A local guide offered to take her to his village in Maasailand, an area in northern Tanzania and Southern Kenya where tribes have lived for centuries. She struck out on her own, and in just two weeks, Loechel created strong bonds with the families of Monduli Juu.
This community is a place where “you never know if you’ll see a lion walking in front of you or not,” Loechel says. The culture is rich, and the traditions are strong. Still, the villagers needed her help.
The people of Monduli Juu lack clean water and schooling for their children. Loechel “felt so deep in [her] heart” that she needed to do something, so when she returned to Indianapolis, she started a fair-trade organization called Emayan (the Maasai word for “blessed”).
Two years later, Emayan has changed the lives of villagers seeking livable wages. It pays 69 women and one man to continue the traditional practice of making jewelry. Loechel sells the products in Tanzania and Indianapolis, and 100 percent of the proceeds go toward improving the lives of artisans in Monduli Juu and Arusha, Tanzania.
Emayan strives to help the entire community. Loechel works alongside village elders, artisans, and interpreters to determine the community’s immediate and long-term needs and travels to Tanzania several times a year. Emayan installs water tanks as a part of the Maasailand Water Project, and hopes to designate local bodies of water for human or cattle use. Other projects include providing LED lighting and access to education. “It just feels like that’s why I’m meant to be on this earth,” Loechel says.
The Emayan Collection is bright, beaded, and socially conscious. Products include multi-strand statement necklaces and soft blue-and-red–checkered blankets, representing the Maasai’s tribal colors. To find the line, look for a trunk show on Emayan’s website, emayan.org, or check Boomerang BTQ on Mass Ave.