Ani Ayvazian-Hancock (pictured left with her proud mother) is a junior at St. George's School and was part of the group that volunteered with UP in South Africa in March 2018. While in South Africa, Ani saw for herself that the UP mission of education for all is thriving. All our programs, which respect the local culture by honoring home-based and school-based empowerment, resonated with Ani. This compassionate, determined, young woman inherently and instantly understood the power of sustainability. At the same time, Ani also understood something equally significant: out of respect for those who welcomed us into their world of ubuntu, we must continue to connect with our South African friends long after our return home.
While in South Africa, Ani taught the Ilizwe EmPOWERment crafters how to knit. Within one hour, Ani and all of Ilizwe, including Nothemba, Linduxolo, Nombulelo, and Ntombinzanele, pictured above, were casting on like pros and enlarging the scarves stitch-by-stitch. Two days later, with the scarves completed, Ani taught the group how to cast off, and, because of Ani, Ilizwe crafters had learned yet another skill that will lead them to financial independence. But that was not enough for Ani.
Upon her return to the USA, Ani immediately proposed to the St. George's community that she spend her afternoons knitting products to sell to her teachers and fellow students, with the profits to return to Ilizwe. Then she got to work. Hour-after-hour and day-after-day, Ani demonstrated through her actions and her time that she had not forgotten. Then, on May 18th, Ani presented the fruits of her labors at a school gathering (left), at which she shared memories of her experiences in South Africa and displayed her beautiful creations - colorful and numerous scarves and hats - which sold out in one hour. Ani, in turn, donated the entirety of the proceeds and the unused yarn to the Ilizwe EmPOWERment initiative.
UP is repeatedly heartened by the compassion and foresight of those who are determined to forge a more connected and empathetic world. All of that takes time, however, and perseverance, and Ani exhibited both those qualities in South Africa and back on American soil. Ani, on behalf of the Ilizwe members, UP expresses its heartfelt gratitude to you for your devotion to the crafters, their families, and their pursuit of the opportunities that lead to justice, civility, and hope.