Welcome to Rug Aid In late 2004, internationally renowned rug maker and
teacher, Heather Ritchie, visited Zanzibar in east Africa.
Local women and children who she lived with were fascinated
when she demonstrated the very simple and safe technique of
rug making - using recycled local material, clothes, yarn
and plastic bags - and quickly picked it up.
Providing Opportunities On her return to the UK, Heather Ritchie developed
her idea. After a great deal of discussion, she and two friends
set up Rug Aid cic (a not-for-profit social enterprise). Heather's
goal was to make a difference to some of the poorest communities
in Africa by providing people with the opportunity to bring
about change in their lives 'from the bottom up'.
Rug Aid's first project started in The Gambia in February
2007. Heather heard that begging had recently been outlawed
there, a move which deprived many blind Gambian adults of
their only source of income: very few of them had been able
to go to school as children so they did not have the skills
needed to hold down a job. After learning of the new problem
this already underprivileged group faced, Heather specifically
chose to work with people with visual impairments. She thought
she would be almost exclusively teaching women and children
but, when she arrived for her first workshop session, she
found to her delight that the students were a mixed group
of men and women. Heather felt an immediately empathy with
these people, all of whom have a degree of visual impairment
or are the sighted members of the family of someone with a
visual impairment, because her father became blind when she
project is based at the GOVI School in Serrekunde, and some
of the best rug makers there are men with visual impairments.
In addition, some of the children from the GOVI School attend
workshop sessions and, in an exciting development, rug-making
is now on the art curriculum for older children.
Aid trainees in The Gambia make rugs and wall hangings which
they are encouraged to sell direct and locally: Rug Aid itself
does not currently export trainees' work for sale.
Every Rug Tells A Story Rug Aid encourages people to draw on the stories of
their lives - families, animals, friends, transport, homes,
schools - as well as the colours, patterns and textures of their
environments, both rural and urban, to produce beautiful and
very saleable works of art which will bring pleasure to both
the creator and the purchaser. The project harnesses the artistic
skills people already have and inspires people who are not sure
that they have any artistic talent to express themselves through
colours and patterns.
Hooks and Eyes Watch Michael Gough's fascinating
twelve-minute film about Rug Aid's work in The Gambia
The film allows you to hear Heather's voice and to see
something of her home, her studio and the beautiful
landscape around Reeth. It also includes footage of
the Rug Aid cic workshop at the GOVI School.
available online as
Life article, February 2015
December 2011 visit to the Rug Aid workshop - illustrated
Aid in The Gambia See photos from Heather's December
2011 visit to the workshop here
See video from the Trade Fair in December 2011 here