The Près Creative Story
Près Creative was developed as an outlet for me to invest in two passions of mine: making jewelry and the Africa Foundation (USA) and the work they do in South Africa.
I have been making jewelry as a hobby for more than 5 years now, and as my daughters have grown older and more independent I felt that I needed to focus on something new. But I didn't necessarily want to go back to work outside the home (I was a Clinical Social Worker in life before kids!) - teenagers need parents around! But I felt I needed to use my gifts to give back, to make a difference in the world somehow! That's where the Africa Foundation comes in. I have had the priviledge of serving on the Advisory Board of the Africa Foundation (USA) for several years now, and I thought that giving the profits of the sales of my jewelry to an organization that is near and dear to my heart was the perfect thing to do!
I was first introduced to Africa Foundation in 2008, when my husband, actor Eric Close, and I were invited to do an article for CBS television's Watch! magazine in South Africa. In addition to experiencing safari and taking photographs for the magazine, Eric was to shoot several Public Service announcements for the Africa Foundation. We travelled to the communities that surrounded the Ngala Game Reserve to film the PSAs. While there, a representative from the organization asked if we'd like to see some of the projects that had been done in the community. He took us to several completed projects - an elementary school and a medical clinic. The work that had been done was truly fantastic and piqued our interest. Having seen what could be done - for so little US dollars - I asked to see a project that was in need of funding. They took us to the Nhalala Crèche - a tiny preschool that was in great need.
The Nhalala Crèche 2008
I was overwhelmed by the conditions of the preschool - no roof, dirt floors, no toys or books. Almost seventy children ages 6 months to 5 years (many living with HIV) would spend up to 8 hours a day here. The two caregivers did they best the could with what they had - but clearly, these children deserved so much more.
So when Eric and I returned to Los Angeles, we decided we wanted to take on this project - to find a way to fund it.
Several months later, we threw a party for our friends at our home - we told them about Africa Foundation and our experience in South Africa. We shared photos and video and then asked them to help us raise the $40,000 that would be needed to outfit the Nhalala Crèche with two classrooms, enviroloos (bathrooms) and a kitchen. The response was overwhelming - we raised $55,000 that night!
I had the privilege of returning to the Nhalala Crèche in January 2014 - and I didn't even recognize it! A thriving community stood where there had once only been dust and desolation. A beautiful school with a garden and a large tree for shade greeted me. The children were learning in a nurturing and cheerful enviroment. My heart swelled. (to see more about this experience check out my BLOG )
From a roofless one room building to this!
From a roofless one room building to this!
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During this trip to South Africa my goals were to see the completed Crèche project and find another project to fund. I travelled to the KwaZulu-Natal region and visited the community of Mduku. Africa Foundation took me to a quaint little church, where six women have been gathering to take care of the orphans and vulnerable children in their community. Many of the youth in this region are left orphaned by AIDS destined to raise themselves or be cared for by a distant relative or neighbor. These women approached the foundation and requested a building of their own - with a kitchen - where they can care for these children after school and make sure they've had a good meal. This became our next project - the Hambanathi Orphans and Vulnerable Children's Center (OVC). For more information about this project please visit my BLOG or the Hambanathi Orphans and Vulnerable Children's Center page on Facebook.
Again, we threw a party at our home for our friends and were able to raise the funds for this very important project. Below is the video we shared at our event.
I am happy to report that we raised $60,000 and the OVC is almost completed. My husband Eric and I and our two daughters will be visiting this project in June. Please follow my BLOG to see pictures and posts from our trip!
My involvement with Africa Foundation (USA) has forever changed me for the better - and I feel privileged to be able to continue to give to this extraordinary organization. Hopefully, my stories here and the jewelry I make will inspire you to give back as well. All net profits from the sales of jewelry from Près Creative will go to continued support of these two projects and all projects we serve in the future!
Please visit Africa Foundation's website to learn more! Thank you for your support!