Unsung Hero: Rachel Matson, treasure finder

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YARMOUTH — To meet Rachel Matson is to feel hope for the future. She finds treasure wherever she looks, shares light wherever she goes.

Rachel’s connection with Kandahar Treasure conveys the warmth and humanity of this North Yarmouth Academy senior.

Kandahar Treasure employs woman artisans from the Kandahar area of Afghanistan to create items for home decor – pillows and tablecloths – as well as clothing and accessories embellished with a uniquely Afghan style of embroidery.

“Last year, I saw Paula Lerner, a professional photographer, talk about Kandahar Treasure at the Frontier Cafe in Brunswick,” Matson said, “and I was inspired to do something.”

And do something she did.

This enterprising young woman contacted the administrative office of Kandahar Treasure in Virginia, asking how she could help. Receptive to her overture, the organization sent a shipment of goods (scarves, bags, pillows and jewelry) for Rachel to sell at the NYA Holiday Craft Fair.

Although she had no official booth a year ago, Matson sold more than $2,000 in goods, which she returned to the Kandahar Treasure. She anticipated even larger sales the second year.

“Kandahar Treasure makes gorgeous things,” she said. “You can’t find anything like them here. And you just know how much work went into making what they sell. Buying their goods is a small thing, but it makes such a big impact by contributing to the stability of these women’s lives.”

Matson specializes in helping others. She’s captain of NYA’s KIVA Lending Club, which makes loans to small businesses in Third World Countries. KIVA’s website refers to the group members as “bleeding-heart capitalists.” When Matson talks about KIVA’s work, you begin to sense a common theme:

“What we do makes such a big impact. I love changing peoples lives.”

A top student, Matson fills her not-so-spare time with many other activities. An avid reader and writer, she helped start and now edits Emerge, the School’s virtual literary magazine; she sings alto for the Trebles, an all-girl singing group, and for the Varsity Choir; and she’s been involved in drama productions since the sixth grade. (“Theater is so much fun because you get to take on a different personality,” she said).

True to her can-do spirit, Matson stays very busy during her summer “vacations,” working at the Six River Farm, an organic farm in Bowdoinham. “I do everything: picking, seeding, weeding,” she said, “and the owners are such nice people.”

The owners of Six River Farm, Nate Drummond and Gabrielle Gosselin, return the compliment: “Rachel is terrific.”

As to her future plans, Matson hopes to attend Mount Holyoke College. She intends to major in international relations, continue her involvement with Kandahar Treasure, keep up with her singing, and perhaps do some farming.

Down the line, she said she might work for an NGO (“non-governmental organization”) or she might go into teaching. Fifty years from now, she hopes to be known as someone who helped others live better lives.

“That’s our responsibility,” Matson said.

As those fortunate enough to know her will tell you, she doesn’t just find treasures. She is one.

Sidebar Elements

Rachel Matson, a senior at North Yarmouth Academy, with products made by woman artisans in the Kandahar region of Afghanistan, during the NYA Holiday Craft Fair in Yarmouth on Dec. 3.

Unsung Heroes

One in a series of profiles by Brunswick writer David Treadwell about people who quietly contribute to the quality of life in greater Portland. Do you know an Unsung Hero? Tell us: heroes@theforecaster.net.