Artisans from the Yi minorities in rural China live in remote villages, and often do not have access to the marketplace. Families struggle to survive on less than $40 a month. Many do not have electricity or running water. Some villages' only source of water may be the same one that their livestock bathe in and they wash their clothes in. At A Villager's Hand, we purchase their traditionally made crafts at a fair wage that is often 200% above their usual wage, and 400% above the poverty line. This will enable them to pay for education for their children, and provide food and healthcare for their families. Profits from the sale of their products will go into A Villager's Hand Foundation so that we can provide clean drinking water, and other community needs.
Products are not only handmade, they are a tradition that has passed from generation to generation. As one woman told me when asked how long their families have been making their items, "since my grandmother's grandmother's grandmother." Many of the items are made from natural and sustainable products including hemp. The artisans make their own threads and fabric from naturally occurring plants.
The level of poverty suffered by some in Indonesia is worse than any American could imagine. They suffer high rates of child malnutrition and maternal mortality. Inadequate access to education, clean water and sanitation is a persistent problem. Seventy percent of the population lives in rural areas and has little to no access to economic opportunity in urban areas. They are isolated from markets and financial assistance. In a country where half of the people live just above the poverty line, young mothers hear their children cry from hunger, and they cannot help. They struggle for enough to keep going. One young mother named Novi has three little girls to feed, and her family's income is less than $120 a month. They didn't have enough to meet their basic needs. And the women in her culture cannot leave the home to work. Studies show that throwing money at poverty doesn't help, it only keeps families in a financial bind and prevents them from becoming self-sufficient. So with the help of our in-country partner, Novi and women like her started learning to sew, and are finding their own way out of poverty, one stitch at a time. Their sewing project is called Ayu, which means "beautiful" in Javanese.
In Guatemala, domestic abuse and violence against women are widely accepted and rarely prosecuted. High levels of alcoholism among men, and the inability for women to provide financially for themselves and their families traps them in the cycle of violence. There are few options for women who find themselves in need of a safe haven, let alone an opportunity to rebuild their strength and gain a skill that will sustain their families. They need hope and a future. That's why A Villager's Hand is pleased to have El Refugio as a new partner.
El Refugio is located in a suburb of Guatemala City, and provides a safe haven for these women. The women they serve, and often their children, are survivors of physical, sexual, and emotional abuse. In addition to typical domestic violence scenarios, the women are often pushed into prostitution by extended family members. Sometimes the shelter sees pregnant teenagers who are homeless, teens molested by their fathers, and women and children facing death threats from local gangs.
Breaking free from a cycle of abuse takes time, so each woman may remain in the program for up to one year. The program provides weekly counseling sessions, legal assistance, medical care, and an opportunity to further their education. The shelter also has ample play area for the children, giving their mothers a chance to rest and heal.
In 2010, the shelter began a small business enterprise to market simple coffee bean jewelry the women had learned to make. Today, the women are making more elaborate designs made from locally mined jade and other stones, beads and seeds. The women are paid for their work, allowing them to save money to prepare for the day they will leave the program and begin independent lives.
Since 2008, the shelter has helped approximately 125 women. El Refugio is changing their futures, one woman at a time. A Villager's Hand is purchasing the jewelry from the women's business, called Weaving Hope Designs, to support the mission of the shelter and assist these women in earning an independent income. Profits from the sale of items in our store will further work of the shelter and similar programs that improve the villagers' communities.
There are more than 11,000 children growing up alone on the streets of Hanoi, Vietnam’s capital city, and Human Rights Watch estimates there are 23,000 in the country, many as young as six years old.Some of the children were poor, and came to the city hoping to find opportunity. They will often be seen selling gum or candy on the streets, or even begging in order to feed themselves. The life they found in the city is actually much worse than the life they left behind. Many go to bed hungry and hopeless. They learn not to sleep soundly, for if they do, the city's drug addicts will steal from them and beat them. Often they succumb to gang violence, child trafficking, or the drug trade. Others become forced child labor for the garment industry, often working 15-18 hour days, making only about $20 a year.
Even worse, a shocking 92% of these children have been victims of sexual assault. They are malnourished, uneducated, and have no medical care. A Villager's Hand has partnered with Friends for Street Children in Hanoi. FFSC has seven development centers around the city, each staffed by professional teachers, social workers and volunteers, who educate the children, teach them life skills, and help them become better equipped for a future in society. Older children receive career orientation and training, as well as work opportunities, all while the centers continue to provide them with support, advice, and friendship.
It takes $100 per day to serve the current 420 children living at the centers. In order to provide for these children, local women have made items you will find in our store. The profits all go to provide for the street children in Vietnam. No children work to make these items.
AVH is working in two distinct areas in Peru – villages in the northern part of the country, found in the Amazon rainforest, and in the center of the country in the mountains. Amazon Jungle –Villages along the rivers of the Amazon region are only accessible by boat. Many of the indigenous tribes found in the jungle are hunter-gatherers. During the rainy season, when the waters of the Amazon flood, these people have little to no access to food. They do not have access to medical care, and many of their children die due to a lack of clean water. With the help of AVH, the villagers will be able to reach the global market with their traditional crafts, made of sustainable materials they gather in the jungle. The profits from their crafts will help them with education, nutrition, medical care, and clean water.
Aramachay – The name literally means “the village that has nothing.” AVH is beginning work with a local partner in this village, located in the shadow the Andes mountains. Many of the people live in extreme poverty. They lack of access to clean water, sanitary living conditions and proper nutrition. They struggle to receive basic healthcare, and suffer from illness and diseases that could be prevented. Initial goals are to help local women develop a sustainable business to support their families, with profits going to support a home for abandoned women and children. We have already helped with the purchase of farm animals to provide milk, eggs, and food for this village.
AVH has several partnerships in Kenya and continues to grow throughout the country.
Makuru and Deepsea Slums – For many women in Kenya, when they are widowed, their late husband’s family takes his belongings. This has left many widows and their children living in what is considered some of the largest slums in Africa. Their children play in sewage, since there is no proper sanitation. They cannot send them to school. We are currently helping these women learn how to set up a sustainable business with the skills they have, making crafts that we can bring to the global market. Their first goal, they say, is to build a preschool for their children.
East Pokot – This remote tribe lives hours from civilization, is completely illiterate, and speaks a language that is only spoken by half a percent of people in Kenya. Their infant mortality rate is 80%. Without the help of AVH, they do not see a way to reach an outside market.
Maasai of Suswa and Narok – We work with a group of women in a Maasai village who are famous for their beautiful beadwork. Many of the women are widows with children to care for. Although this is a new partnership, the women have already had great success and met community goals of a workshop, a water tower, and farm animals.
A Villager’s Hand has partnered with the Katosi Women’s Development Trust in Uganda to help rural women build a sustainable craft business to support their families.
Women of Katosi traditionally earned a living processing fish. But the work disappeared due to pollution in Lake Victoria. Not only did they lose their livelihoods, but the food staple for their families. Increased competition for any other local jobs left many unemployed with no way to provide for their families. Men moved on to find work elsewhere and often took another wife.
Because the women were mostly illiterate and lacked any mobility, they sank deeper into poverty. By making crafts, the women are finding a way to generate an alternative income and thus find their own way out of poverty. Many of their products are made from recycled materials, thus helping the environment. The KWDT needed help to get the products to the global marketplace. AVH is pleased to offer them that opportunity.