When groups of artisans are formed in villages, they not only begin receiving a fair wage for their work, but they have an opportunity to choose sustainable development goals for their entire community! We believe that they should set goals that are important to them, whether it is for clean water, building a school, investing in items they need to make their business grow, farm needs for food production, etc.
Groups are encouraged to set a small goal first so that they may see the results of their work quickly. Then they may set long term goals as well. While in the long term we hope that each project will be funded solely with profits from the sale of their crafts, we realize that some needs are so great that these may need to be met much more quickly. Donations towards projects will help build healthy communities faster, and help them to focus on building a sustainable business.
Here are some of the projects we have funded to date, and some of the goals our groups are working towards. We hope you will help them by purchasing their fair trade products.
When the women in Indonesia began their small business sewing scarves, many lived in huts made of bamboo with dirt floors. They often had just one meal a day and could not afford to send their children to school. Shortly after we began selling their scarves in the U.S., we were able to purchase a sewing machine for them so that they could expand their product line. And by the end of the first year, the women had concrete walls, tile floors, regular meals, all the children were in school, and they had medical care! They now make scarves, placemat and napkin sets, table runners, aprons, make up bags and laptop cases!
The group in Vietnam is unique. Minority women work to make the crafts so that they can take care of their families. The profits from the sale of the crafts support Friends for Street Children, an organization in Ho Chi Minh City that rescues street children. It is estimated that 11,000 children live on the streets there, and some are as young as five years old. Ninety-two percent end up in sex trafficking. FFSC provides food, clothing, shelter and education to the children. In our first year in partnership with FFSC, 425 children had been rescued. By the end of our second year in partnership, 1200 have been rescued!
We have five different groups in Kenya, ranging from the slums of Makuru and Deep Sea in Nairobi, to the Maasai of Narok and Suswa, and the Pokot on Mt. Paka. Because communication with our group leaders proved to be difficult with little to no connectivity, we purchased smart phones. Our group coordinator, who helps all of the groups in Kenya, needed a computer to keep track of all the work and to attend University. We are so proud of him! Now they can take pictures of their progress and keep in touch with us while we are in the U.S.
The Maasai group chose the name "Emayanata" for their business. The women in the group are living in extreme poverty. Some are widows. They chose short term goals that have already been achieved through the sale of their crafts, such as farm animals and a water tower that will help them conserve water during the rainy season and supply them during the dry season. The women would gather to work, sitting on the ground in the hot sun. They wanted to have a work shop where they could come together to work on products, and a place to sell to visitors who regularly pass through their village on the way to Maasai Mara. These goals have already been met!
The Deep Sea slum group now have their products in two stores in the U.S. and are working towards a goal of building a pre school. Since there are no schools in the slums, this is very important to them. Since many of the women are widows, we also want to help them to build widows homes. When their husbands passed, the families came and took all the belongings, leaving the women to move into what is essentially a garbage dump. There is no sewer system, no clean water, no electricity. And yet they are required to pay rent to live there. We hope to help them move towards independence and home ownership.
The Pokot had little contact with the outside world. They are illiterate, and survive on goats milk and goat blood for nutrition. Infant mortality is 80%. Before their business began, we brought them clothing and underwear, much needed items. We raised money to purchase corn for planting, and some for grinding to make a corn pudding called Ugali. We also helped raise money for a mill to grind corn once they harvest. Although we have received their first crafts, we are still working on helping them to improve design and quality. This is a group where help was necessary before they could even begin to make crafts. The tribe still practices early forced marriage and female circumcision. It was a big first step for the women to earn money. They were overjoyed to begin their journey out of poverty. They hope to build a school one day.
We are currently working in two regions in Peru. One is a village in the Andes mountains, and the other is a village in the Amazon jungle. Although we are still working on forming a group of women in the Andes who make blankets and socks from llama wool, we witnessed a tremendous need for food and milk for the village. Many of the children have poor eyesight due to poor nutrition, and some in the village are literally starving to death. We raised money to purchase cows, pigs, and chickens so that there will be milk, eggs, and meat for those in need. We are looking forward to their crafts.
The village in the jungle has already shipped and sold a number of their crafts, made from sustainable materials found in the jungle. These include baskets, bracelets and carvings. Their village has acquired a water filtration system and well. They have no cell phone coverage or electricity. Although they have yet to choose their goal, the village only has a preschool, so older children have no chance for an education.