Julia Veenstra went to Africa to make a difference and she certainly met her goal.
An award-winning painter with an international client base, she developed a thriving micro-industry called the Wild Hope Artisan Project. Veenstra works with women artisans in East Africa to create high-quality, fair-trade handicrafts for sale in Canada.
The project began with six artisans and now involves 150 Maasai women. Today, these artisans are respected leaders in their communities as they build homes, raise herds, educate their children and give generously to community development.
“This project has transformed the lives of both the women involved as well as their extended families,” says Veenstra. “Everyone has their creative gifts. I am honoured to have this opportunity to share mine with these skilled artists.”
Veenstra and her family spent five years in Africa. Since returning to Canada from Tanzania in 2011, she has continued to oversee Wild Hope with partner Tammy Russell from her Hamilton, Ontario studio.
The products are sold mainly online and in select GTA stores. Among Wild Hope’s customers is Brett Wilson, former dragon on CBC’s Dragons’ Den, who ordered 300 angels as Christmas gifts in 2013.
Learn more about Sheridan’s Bachelor of Illustration program.