Turning string art into a social venture that helps the community

A little more than a year ago, 18-year-old Fatbardh Kabashi found out that of 149 visually impaired people in his Municipality, Rahovec, only one of them knew how to read and write in braille. To help find a solution to this, Fatbardh made use of his skills in an art form that is rarely seen these days.

A collection of WoodenEyes’ artwork

Fatbardh has a rather peculiar interest: string art.  It’s an art form popularized in the 20th century which involves winding thread, wire or string around nails attached on wooden boards. Being extremely adept and proficient at the art form, Fatbardh applied to UPSHIFT: Social Impact Workshop to seek help in turning his art crafting into a real social venture that could benefit the community.

UPSHIFT is a social innovation initiative which supports young people to become social innovators, and build and lead solutions to social challenges which they feel passionate about, enabling them to reach community members with various interventions in the form of products or services. At UPSHIFT, Fatbardh and his friends received transferable 21st century skills such as communication and leadership skills, collaboration, team-work, and problem solving. They were also empowered in financial literacy as an important skill they would need to navigate in the modern financial world. UPSHIFT helped them develop the necessary soft skills and entrepreneurial competencies to establish a grass-roots youth-led social venture which, they later named “Wooden Eyes”.

Fast forward a year, Wooden Eyes’ sales are booming, with people all over Kosovo expressing interest in buying their products. Each of the art pieces is unique with different motifs, is tailored by hand, and tells a beautiful story. But what makes Fatbardh’s project special is its social component: Fatbardh and his team are using a large percentage of their sales to finance and organize workshops together with the Association of the Blind and Visually Impaired of Rahovec, where they teach the braille alphabet to visually impaired persons. Wooden eyes is now directly contributing in decreasing braille illiteracy in Rahovec by providing much-needed voluntary work and some financial support. Their social impact in the community is recognized by many stakeholders in the Municipality! Good luck to Fatbardh and the WoodenEyes team.

 

*All references to Kosovo are made in the context of UN Security Council Resolution 1244 (1999)