Story and photo by Carrie Hedderwick
A very rich and diverse history – this applies to both Amie and the amazing African textiles, artefacts
and clothing that she sells in her shop on the corner of Idsworth Road.
The African fabric industry dates back to 5,000BC when Egyptians began cultivating flax and weaving it into linen. Amie is not that old! But a very colourful eventful life unfolds as she talks about determination and the many life changing decisions she has had to make.
Amie originates from Sierra Leone in West Africa but came to the UK in 2015 from the Netherlands, where she had lived since 2001. There, she had worked with a charity, which promoted schemes to support agriculture in Zimbabwe.
In 2014 Amie returned to Africa. She went to neighbouring Ghana with her daughters and thought to set up a branch of the charity there. However, when the Ebola virus swept through Guinea Amie decided it was unsafe for her family to remain in West Africa – she returned to Europe, and settled in Sheffield.
Amie’s three priorities in 2015 were to find a house, get a job, and to integrate with British society. She found a home in Woodhouse. Finding employment agencies unhelpful, she applied directly for NHS jobs online, and found a job in orthopaedics at the Northern General. She also signed up as a volunteer with South Yorkshire police. Amie had achieved her three priorities!
Amie told me her spirited persistence came from her upbringing in Sierra Leone. She was the eldest girl, born to parents living in poverty. She had to work to raise money to pay her own school fees and then trained and worked as a nurse. When she went to the Netherlands, Amie had to retrain in order to work in a hospital there. Then, in the UK, she worked as a support worker on the Huntsman ward, but staff recognised her experience, and she was encouraged to apply for a university nursing course. Unfortunately a serious injury at work forced her to give up her hospital job and the possibility of gaining a UK nursing qualification.
What to do next? As Amie has years of sales experience, she decided to put her skills into opening a shop selling fabrics, bags, accessories and African artefacts. So here she is – in Burngreave in her shop ‘Afro Mama’.
Amie is keen to talk about the ‘Inspiring Youth’ programme she volunteers for with South Yorkshire Police. The programme provides teenagers with opportunities to work on different projects to improve their personal performance in school, at home and in the community.
Amie’s 16 year old daughter has gone through the programme and is, like her Mum, a mentor for other teenagers. Participants identify their responsibilities and map out their hopes and plans, focussing on positives and helping them follow their dreams.
One hour and some customers later, we were still talking. Amazing what you can find in your local shop. Go along – colourful and diverse – it’s all there!