This is the hat that gives back.
The Benji Hat, first created by a teenage Kenyan student, age 13 at the time, Benji, who attended the Life is a Hat Party workshop in December 2015. The charity Friends of Shangilia of Lund Sweden asked my filmmaker friend and I if we would teach six young teenagers (13–15 years of age) how to use video to tell their life stories and teach them how to make hats. These children, most of whom had been homeless street children since infancy, have lived and attended school at the Tumshangilieni Mtoto/Shangilia, Kenya, for most of their lives. This hat embodies what it means to give back. Benji created this hat whilst working for the very first time with one of my favorite materials, crinoline. I was so impressed by the design that I asked him the following day if he could repeat the hat design. With the focus of the straightest arrow despite his classmates joking and movement around the classroom, Benji managed to reconstruct the hat with only a little help from me. It revealed exactly what I had suspected: it is I who had learnt from Benji and his classmates. Benji is so grateful for all of the opportunities that these charities gave him. He and the other students honored the opportunity to explore their talents using all the tools that I and Ewan Bush, my friend and filmmaker, taught them. They inspired me to re-evaluate why I make hats and how I could give back. I have perfected the hat and I am committed to hand-sew each and everyone of them.
So if you see someone wearing this hat, please know that they have made a conscious decision to be part of a change in charity. They are allowing me to share my hat-making skills and they are joining Benji, who with only his imagination and concentration, created this design, which by sharing the profits aim to make a difference in children’s lives around the world.