Mark: I have played the piano since I was 6 years old and did a BA in Jazz at Middlesex University, yes you can do a degree in Jazz. I love the outdoors, hiking is one of my great joys which is awesome in the Peak District, not so good in Enfield! I have been on the staff at Jubilee Church London for the last 4 years. During my time there I feel I have grown a huge amount in my faith and walk with God and am more and more persuaded of his good plan for my life and my call to walk in simple obedience to him.
Lydia: I am 26 years old, brought up in the south of England. Art has been my favourite subject throughout education and I did a BA in Jewellery and Accessories at Middlesex University graduating in 2012. I have always been more drawn to oversized sculptural jewellery than the mainstream glitzy jewellery. I know I’m called to use my artistic talents to show God’s love and compassion to others.
How did you find out about Craft Aid International? And what led to your decision to work in Ecuador?
Mark: I’ll let Lydia handle this one….
Lydia: In the work placement year of my Jewellery degree I volunteered for a few months at Neema Crafts Centre in Tanzania, having visited the project the previous summer on a 3 week mission trip with Soap Box. Volunteering at Neema is the closest I’ve ever got to doing a dream job so, having worked for Costa Coffee for the last 5 years, I decided it was time for a change. I longed to use my creative gifts again but I have always known I want to use them for more than just myself.
I contacted Susie and found out about the Peru project and the possible project in Ecuador, which needed someone willing to go out and set it up. With this being a voluntary overseas position, Mark and I thought and prayed long and hard about it and we finally decided that this was such a wonderful opportunity that we couldn’t miss. We strongly feel called by God to this project as he has given us the skills and gifts for such a work, although we’re still really praying to learn Spanish quicker!
What will you be doing? How long will you be going for?
Mark: In a nut shell, we will be setting up a craft-based social enterprise employing people with physical disabilities and providing them with training and a living wage. People with physical disabilities in South America are often unemployed, undervalued and on the fringes of society. This project will aim to enable and empower physical disabled people and demonstrate their worth to the community and themselves.
My role will be very fluid, doing basically what ever needs to be done on that day. I’ll look after our social media stuff, finances and record-keeping and any general handiwork that needs doing. I’m semi proficient with a drill but I do have an unfortunate tendency to stick sharp blades into my hands so Lydia might be doing some first aid! As I am not the arty one I will leave Lydia to explain what we’ll actually be producing….
Lydia: As Mark said it will be a craft-based project and we will hopefully start by producing our own handmade paper, as all the resources needed will be available and it is a great product to get started with. We will also look to produce things like earrings, bracelets and other small jewellery items and a lot will depend on what is available in the local area. It’s an interesting prospect to have to design craft products based on the resources available and on the abilities of the employees who will be making them and I’m really excited about this challenge. We have committed to 1 year but by the time we’re settled and the project has started I can see us staying for 18 months at least!
Mark: I’m looking forward to so many aspects but my main thing is that I can’t wait to see Lydia out there, in her element, and all the amazing things I know God is going to do though her and the project. I’m also very excited to travel to a new place (never been to South America before) meet lots of new people and see all the incredible scenery and wildlife that Ecuador has to offer.
Lydia: I’m really looking forward to travelling to a new place, experiencing a new culture and of course eating new food! I’m so excited to be submersed in creative thinking again and to use creative work to help transform the lives of those who we are working with and I’m delighted to be able to do this with Mark. I know this year is going to be full of many ups and downs and plenty of challenges but I’m so looking forward to seeing how God will work in those situations, bringing us out the other side better and stronger for the experience.
If you would like to support the valuable work of Mark and Lydia, you can donate here. Thank you!