Blog, Culture, Entrepreneurship

Spotlight on Africa: Christa Preston on life there & her organization that will impact the world

Christa Preston is the Executive Director of embraceKulture, an organization working in developing countries to create a world where children with intellectual disabilities are embraced for what makes them unique.  We spoke with her a few days before she returned to Africa.

“If the goals are famous they won’t be forgotten”
Christa Prestion for Kamila Dmowska Blog

Preston wearing Kamila Dmowska Caroline White Top, African skirt made from “shouting” fabrics, photographed by Nicolas Gutierrez.

What is embraceKulture…

embraceKulture (www.embracekulture.org) works in developing countries to serve the most vulnerable children, children with intellectual disabilities.  We believe education is the key to a better future for these children. Using international standards with local adaptations embraceKulture has created a system to provide quality education, vocational training and outreach to help persons with disabilities prove disability is not inability. embraceKulture is proud to serve as the international arm of KultureCity, a registered 501c3 based in Alabama.

What inspired you to found embraceKulture…

 Several years ago I made the decision to travel to Africa and volunteer for a year as a special needs teacher. I went in pursuit of adventure and experience but I stumbled into passion. Passion was a word I’d known by definition alone, but in the classroom with these children it took on a whole new meaning. I had fallen in love with the kids. When I understood the bleak future that waited for them I had no choice but to start embraceKulture.

What is the most surprising thing you’ve learned in Africa…

Africa is a remarkable place but what is most surprising about it is how quickly it is changing. Yes in the deep country we still struggle without power or electricity, but internet is just about everywhere! In the city the middle class is emerging rapidly. We have more entrepreneurs in Uganda than in Silicon Valley. Plus we are starting to see a huge revolution in art, music and fashion

Describe fashion in Africa…

Fashion in Africa is bright! They call it “shouting,” and when you see how vibrant the colors are you understand why. The fabric is typically hand tie-dyed or Kitende, a Dutch wax print fabric.  What’s incredible is every dress is hand-made so it always fits perfectly and no two are the same. For weddings women wear a gomesi, which has fabric that sticks out in a cone shape on the shoulders, a massive belt and some padding in the rump. But with the artistic movement you can see significant changes in fashion towards more form-fitting looks with a pairing of shouting and solid fabric.

What are the Global Goals…

 I would be remise if I didn’t use this opportunity to talk about the Global Goals, also called the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) Global leaders have committed to 17 Goals that will define policy and spending for the next 15 years. This was a momentous win for the global disabilities movement as the previous set of  Global Goals, the Millennium Development Goals, that are set to expire this year, failed to directly address the needs of the targets majority, persons with disabilities, 1 billion people.

As the Global Goals are not legally binding, we need to spread awareness to hold leaders accountable. If the goals are famous they won’t be forgotten. For more information: www.embracekulture.org

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