September 1, 2020 // 3:23 PM

Art with Purpose

Written by Rachel Hungerford

From June 2015 to June 2016, Evie Hershey lived in Nairobi, Kenya as a hostess at Amani Gardens Inn, a guest house for mission workers and business travelers. But one of the most significant parts of her time was the relationship she formed with a local potter, Zedekiah Miyare.

Evie herself is a potter. “It’s therapeutic for me,” she says of the pottery process. “It’s relaxing and gratifying to see something come out of a hunk of mud.”

In Kenya, Evie picked up some new pottery skills. She learned how to make her own clay from scratch—by digging the dirt from the ground, adding water, and letting it dry in the sun to get the right consistency. Zed taught her how to make African pottery, particularly African cooking and fishing pots, which look subtle and smooth but start out as coil pottery. Zed also provides work and income to Kenyan women; Evie worked with some of the women during her time in Kenya.

2015 was not Evie’s first trip to Africa. In 2011, her daughter Rhonda was working as a teacher in the Congo and had a young child. Evie flew over to help with childcare and ended up visiting Zambia. She was impressed with the art, design and music of the different culture—it was the start of a pull that she couldn’t ignore. In June 2015, she was looking for a change of pace after the death of her husband, Larry, and she connected with Eastern Mennonite Missions (now Everyone Moving in Missions). They needed a hostess at a guest house in Nairobi, Kenya. Evie decided to take the opportunity, and the rest is history.

Since then, she’s found reasons to return to Africa each year—working with a Mennonite Central Committee education representative, leading peer mediation training, and taking a textile tour with a friend. In 2020, she traveled to Kenya with Garden Spot team members Marvin and Marian Harnish, experiencing a week with CURE International’s mobile health clinic.

Before she moved to Garden Spot, Evie was living in Intercourse, Pennsylvania, and she was tired of being a landowner and a homeowner. She was invited to dinner by a friend who lived at Garden Spot. Looking at the friend’s apartment, taking in the atmosphere, she thought, “Wow, I could live here.”

Garden Spot was close to her church, Ridgeview Mennonite, and Evie knew other friends who lived in the community. “Those connections made it attractive,” she said. In August 2019, she made the move.

Evie hopes to visit Africa again sometime in 2021. In the meantime, she still creates her own pottery at Garden Spot Village, making everything from mugs to African cooking pots.

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