(ROYAL OAK, Mich.) – Gem Legacy, a 501c3 nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting education, vocational training, and local economies in small, artisanal, African gem mining communities, is on the ground in East Africa this summer supporting a variety of its initiatives.
First stop for the team was the Gemology and Gem Faceting School in Arusha, Tanzania, to award graduation certificates to eight of the 15 scholars whose education in gem cutting is being funded thanks to a 2021 grant from the JCK Industry Fund. They also welcomed the next seven new students who are beginning their studies. “I wanted to take this course so that I could help my family, and also the community,” said one of the graduating scholars, 20-year-old Jubleth.
The scholarship students are selected based on their financial situation and their interview. The school looks for students to display the kinds of skills that are helpful for successfully learning gem faceting, as well as a desire to learn a trade that is growing in East Africa and will provide a career for them.
While at the school, Gem Legacy also delivered two more new faceting machines, purchased with donated funds. Over the past few years, donors have enabled the non-profit to replace all the school’s older machines and tools with modern equipment, while also working to update the curriculum.
The Gem Legacy team additionally visited communities and schools in East African gem mining regions that have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Because so much trade has ceased, miners’ livelihoods have been impacted greatly. Since last year, the non-profit has supplied nearly 120,000 meals to families, plus safety supplies such as masks, water, and soap, via industry donations. Part of the grant awarded to Gem Legacy by the JCK Industry Fund is helping to fund these ongoing efforts.
With the cessation of government-sponsored lunches at schools due to the crisis, Gem Legacy has also taken on the responsibility of providing breakfast and lunch to 800 children attending the Kitarini Primary School, most of whom are the children of ruby miners. “A $21 donation pays for a year of meals for each child,” says Rachel Dery, director of communication and outreach for Gem Legacy. “We know that the breakfast and lunch program is key to keeping students in school in a place where there are many disincentives to attendance, such as the demands of family farms. The food also keeps the kids alert during class, and we’ve seen national exam passing rates increase from 10% to 100% when the children are not hungry.”
Miner Tool Kits
Finally, Gem Legacy delivered 68 Miner Tool Kits across Tanzania and Kenya, made possible by other industry donations. The kits, which are underwritten at a cost of $125 each, are customized to the needs of specific miners, based on the gem type and style of mining they are doing.
“Tools are absolutely essential to small gem miners’ success,” says Dery. “We know that over 90% of East African miners are or were farmers first. Once they found gems on their property, they began gem mining, but most of them simply use farming implements to mine, which are mostly ineffective. The Gem Legacy Miner Toolkit provides them with more efficient set-ups that will allow them to be more productive in their mining.”
The Gem Legacy Miner Toolkit was created in partnership with local governments, which surveyed miners to ensure the kit of supplies was tailored to meet the greatest need. Among the kinds of supplies provided are shovels, chisels, hammers, pickaxes, hand drills, blasting tools, helmets, head lights, gloves, and sieves.