When Saskia Rechsteiner reworked her children's old marbles, beads and pieces of cloth into necklaces to sell at a Christmas fair, she had no idea how much her life was about to change.
Four years later, the Tanzania-based entrepreneur sells jewellery, ornaments and glasswear to clients around the world – all made by the 34 deaf and blind people employed by her company, Shanga.
"I can't bear the idea some people have, that the only thing we can do in Africa is hold our hands out for money," says Rechsteiner, who was born in Malawi to a Dutch family and educated in Holland, Paris and London before returning to Africa.
"What we want to do is make good quality product that people want to buy, and which helps so many deaf people earn a salary who would otherwise have nothing."
The project uses recycled materials such as local bottles melted down for beads, and all profits go back into expanding the company, which is run from one of Tanzania's oldest and prettiest coffee estates, in Arusha.
The project also runs a restaurant called the River House and offers tours of the workshops, which have become a popular stop-off for tourists visiting the Serengeti and climbers bound for Kilimanjaro.
Best of all? The products are gorgeous. As well as beaded jewellery, lines include chiffon- and silk-covered necklaces, Masai-beaded Christmas stars, candles and tealight holders.
If you want to help make Shanga's fourth Christmas a bumper year and bag some unique gifts into the bargain, visit www.theafricahouse.com. For more information about Shanga visit www.shanga.org.