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Gem Legacy’s Summer of Aid in East Africa

Kenya Tanzania Africa Uganda map
Kenya Tanzania Africa Uganda map

In recent years, there’s been an increased focus in the jewelry and gemstone industries on corporate responsibility and transparency, largely driven by consumer demand—but also prompted by professionals inside the industry who want to see their personal values reflected by their employers.


Gem Legacy, a nonprofit based in Michigan founded by gem dealer and cutter Roger Dery and his family in 2018, is among the industry entities defining a more value-driven future for the gem industry. 


The Michigan-based nonprofit was created to aid miners in East Africa, who work under physically ­demanding conditions. Though Gem Legacy is a nonprofit and not a corporation, it was founded by a gem dealer, and as an organization shows what’s possible when professionals band together to better communities within the supply chain.


The organization has had a huge impact in just three years, led by the Dery family in collaboration with a robust board of directors and its advisory council partners, jewelry brands Omi and Parle.


Gem Legacy has raised funds for mining equipment (to make work easier and safer for miners), has provided thousands of meals and safety supplies for communities devastated by COVID-19 and its closures, and has secured donations for tuition and school supplies for gem-cutting students, and children in mining communities. 


The nonprofit’s been busier than ever this summer. Gem Legacy helped award eight students of the Gemology and Gem Faceting School, all of which attended the program with support by the JCK Industry Fund, in Arusha, Tanzania, then welcomed the next seven new students starting their studies. The nonprofit also delivered two more new faceting machines to the school, purchased with donated funds. Gem Legacy donors have been slowly replacing all the school’s older machines and tools with modern equipment, while also working to update the curriculum.


Gem Legacy Mining Kits
Gem Legacy recently delivered 68 Miner Tool Kits across Tanzania and Kenya


The team also visited communities and schools in East African mining regions; the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in a decrease in global trade, which negatively affected many miners’ livelihoods. Gem Legacy has been directly delivering meals (it’s supplied nearly 120,000 meals to families since COVID-19 began) along with masks, water, and soap to families in these communities. Funds supporting this program also come from the JCK Industry Fund grant.


The nonprofit has also been providing breakfast and lunch to 800 children attending the Kitarini Primary School, most of whom are the children of ruby miners. Rachel Dery, director of communication and outreach for Gem Legacy, said in a prepared statement, “A $21 donation pays for a year of meals for each child. We know that the breakfast and lunch program is key to keeping students in school in a place where there are many disincentives to attendance, such as the demands of family farms. The food also keeps the kids alert during class, and we’ve seen national exam passing rates increase from 10% to 100% when the children are not hungry.”


Gem graduates Gem Legacy
Graduates of the Gemology and Gem Faceting School in Arusha, Tanzania, whose education in gem cutting was funded with Gem Legacy scholarships, made possible by a 2021 grant from the JCK Industry Fund


Kitarini Primary School
With the cessation of government-sponsored lunches at schools due to the COVID crisis, Gem Legacy has taken on the responsibility of providing breakfast and lunch to 800 children attending the Kitarini Primary School, most of whom are the children of ruby miners


Lastly, Gem Legacy delivered 68 miner tool kits across Tanzania and Kenya this summer. The kits, which are underwritten at a cost of $125 each, “are customized to the needs of specific miners, based on the gem type and style of mining they are doing,” Rachel said, and explained, “Tools are absolutely essential to small gem miners’ success. We know that over 90% of East African miners are or were farmers first. Once they found gems on their property, they began gem mining, but most of them use farming implements to mine, which are mostly ineffective. The toolkit provides them with more efficient set-ups that will allow them to be more productive in their mining.”


Top photo: Map showing Kenya,Tanzania and Uganda, where Gem Legacy centers its efforts (all photos courtesy of Gem Legacy)


For more information about Gem Legacy or to donate, email [email protected] or visit gemlegacy.org


Follow the Zing Report on Instagram: @thezingreport


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