Water is an everyday necessity that developed areas of the world may take for granted. But two Long Beach residents say that isn't the case in other countries, and they are hoping to use their resources to make a small, but positive, difference.

Susie and Trisha Ridgeway said that they weren't aware of how unavailable clean water is for some people until a trip to Africa showed them just how blessed they have been.

The sister-in-laws visited the country of Kenya with their families last summer and said that they were stunned at the conditions of the Maasai tribe villages they visited.

Susie said that the Maasai tribe opened their doors to her and her family and showed them what their day-to-day life looks like, which was a struggle for the Ridgeway family to comprehend.

"...Africa is in a seven- or eight-year drought," Susie said. "You can walk for miles for water, and it isn't always clean. It's muddy and contaminated."

Trisha added that clean water is something many of us grew up with, but take it for granted. She said that the pair wanted to do something to help, but it was a matter of finding out how.

While visiting with the tribe, the Maasai women shared with the sister-in-laws their jewelry-making processes, which involves careful and meticulous beading.

"Jewelry can tell a lot about a person," Trisha said, pointing out that each piece of Maasai jewelry serves a purpose. "You can tell if a girl is married or single, for example."

And then it clicked — the pair would partner with the Maasai tribe to raise money for a clean water tank, Susie said.

But their efforts will reach beyond clean water, she added.

"Women live a more difficult life in the tribe," Susie said. "We noticed that women do 90% of the work, and men don't do as much."

Work, she added, includes collecting water, taking care of children and making enough money to feed their families.

Based on the experience acquired during their travels, the two started Global Ridge Artisans, a start-up company dedicated to improving the economies of Maasai women in Eastern Kenya.

Trisha said taking steps toward a better economy starts with introducing Maasai beadwork to Long Beach shoppers.

The online start-up shop sells jewelry hand-made by Maasai women, imported directly to Global Ridge Artisans. A portion of all sales goes directly back to the village, with the primary goal to earn enough money for the purchase and installation of a clean water tank for the entire village.

The sisters-in-law say they hope to eventually help the village improve their education.

"One (Maasai) woman wants to send her children to school so they can read her the Bible," Susie said, adding that the village is currently lacking in educational resources, but the pair hopes to be able to raise money for Maasai education through Global Ridge Artisans.

To introduce the startup to the community, the pair is teaming up with Yasemin Altuner, owner of Antica Olive Oil, Balsamic Vinegars and Spices of Los Alamitos for a dual pop-up shop, and 15% of all proceeds sold will go towards clean water tanks for the Maasai village.

"We weren't expecting Yasemin to participate," Susie said. "But she was on board before we even asked."

The event will be from 4 to 8 p.m. on Thursday, May 4, at the Antica Olive Oil, Balsamic Vinegars and Spices shop, 11110 Los Alamitos Blvd. Suite 103, Los Alamitos. Light refreshments will be served. 

For more information about Global Ridge Artisans, or to inquire about the event, visit GlobalRidge.org.

For more information about Antica Olive Oil, Balsamic Vinegars and Spices, visit AnticaOliveOil.com.

Stephanie Stutzman can be reached at sstutzman@gazettes.com.

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