Dahn Gandell and The Twenty Potholders


Dahn Gandell in my studio with the stack of potholders behind her.
Dahn Gandell in my studio with the stack of potholders behind her.

“How many potholders do you have,” Dahn asked, “I want to buy them and  take them with me to Tanzania.”  I didn’t have any, but  knew I could make about twenty in the couple of days before she left.

Jon and I met Dahn last year when we thought we might lose our house in the bankruptcy.  We were considering moving to Pompanuck Farms where we could bring the animals and rent a house.  Dahn and her husband David are co-owers of Pompanuck along with Lisa and Scott Carrino and another couple.

That didn’t come to be, but we did become friends with Dahn and David and their children.   So this year when they came to visit Pompanuck for the week we got together.

Dahn is an Episcopal Minister at The Church of Ascension in Rochester NY.  But her ministry isn’t limited to the building or even her neighborhood.  Twice a year Dahn goes to Africa and India to work on specific projects she has helped to develop.  In Tanzania, she helps provide schooling for children and clean, accessible water for villages.  In India she has helped develop housing and work for women who have escaped sex trafficking.

Every year since she became involved in this work, she goes back to visit the people who benefit from it and tries to help work out the unforseen problems that come up.  The programs continue to grow and change, getting better all the time.

In Tanzania,  the Mamalishes, (the women who cook for the village)  spend their days cooking over hot open fires.  They always need potholders Dahn told me.   As she explained how they cook, spinning the bowls of food from long metal rods, I could see my potholders being used.

I thought about what it meant to have something I made, being used by women on another continent, in such a different culture.  That now there would be a connection between me and them, even if it’s as small as a potholder.

Yesterday, as  I tied one of my tags on the each potholder, I drew a small heart on the back of each one.  I wanted to make sure a little of my love went with each potholder.  A tiny kiss, across the ocean and over the land,  from me to the woman who receive and use it.

Dahn is the kind of person who brings people together and makes things happen. Her faith is a powerful and impressive force.   As is her love.   And she tough and down to earth.   She takes on what ever comes her way, and often it’s something she’d rather not do, but trusts that it came to her for a reason.

Since meeting Dahn, I’ve found that I’m drawn to the kind of work she does.  So I’m exploring the idea of going to India with her through the organization The Village Experience.  But I’ll write about that more later.  Right now, I’m picturing my potholders in the hands of Mamalishes in Tanzania.



5 thoughts on “Dahn Gandell and The Twenty Potholders

  1. Maria,
    This sounds like a wonderful project. How cool to be included. I’ve worked with a woman who makes washable menstrual kits for African girls and women. The number of girls who drop out of school because of monthly periods is astonishing. As an Episcopalian I’m proud to know some of our Church leaders are carrying the Matthew 28 message into the world.

  2. Maria, this is such a great opportunity to do good for those so much less fortunate. We don’t often think about the rest of the world and the suffering that exists there.

    Your pot holders will help the women, but the greater issue is the pollution from the open fires. An initiative to replace them with Sun Ovens would be of such dramatic benefit. Can you imagine breathing that smoke to cook?! Sun ovens are resource-free too. No need to walk miles to collect wood and deplete the landscape of trees. Just a thought to put in the minds of the higher ups in the movement to help. Always look at the bigger picture.

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