The artisan groups that create our products are also social enterprises. They provide more than income to their participants. Many were formed in the era of empowering women through self‑help groups. They often provide environmental awareness through training in natural dyes and composting methods, numeracy skills and micro-credit, consciousness raising and Tleadership opportunities.
|A village-based Eri silk rearing and weaving group in Central Thailand|
From the beginning, the weaving groups with whom we partner have told us that to continue their work they need to expand their sales, especially into markets they otherwise could not access. They want trade, not aid. Our chance meeting with the first artisan group led us to understand their achievements and barriers, which in turn prompted us to create a fair trade business to help them achieve their goals.
|A "train-the-trainer" workshop with Prae Pan Group in NE Thailand|
By paying fair prices, shouldering the cost (and risk) of credit and applying our skill sets to their marketing problems, we are empowering women to sustain their families, communities and environments. Just as important to us, is the fact that we are assisting women to continue their beautiful weaving traditions. We view our work as a passion project; our passion drives us on, in spite of the challenging economic realities that we, too, face in the marketplace.
|A weaver at the Houey Hong Vocational Training Centre in Laos|
At the same time, we recognize the value of charitable giving – both to mitigate disasters and to give those in need a hand up. Understandably, we make donations to organizations that share our values and inspire our generosity. These include:
- Books for kids in Laos:
We support the work of Big Brother Mouse, a vibrant book publishing venture in Laos that brings highly illustrated books to children to make literacy fun. For each textile we sell, we donate a book to a child in Laos through this project. More about Big Brother Mouse in our blog post of Jan. 4, 2012.
- Flood relief to help women in Thailand:
Following this year’s devastating floods in Thailand (the worst in 50 years), we decided to donate 10% of our sales from our November 2011 shows to help women affected by the floods. This donation went to Homenet Thailand (now known as Foundation for Labour and Employment Promotion), which supports home-based women workers and others in the informal sector. (More on this in a coming blog post.)
- Alice Housing silent auction and other fundraising events:
We regularly donate a handwoven textile to the annual fundraising event to support abused women and children in Alice Housing, a transition house in Halifax, Nova Scotia. We also support various other organizations in our community with similar donations.
- Assisting displaced peoples from Burma:
Many displaced peoples – whose villages have been destroyed by the Burmese Army – suffer from inadequate housing during the cold weather months. This year we realized that we could use our checked luggage allowance to address this need. With help from neighbours and friends in Nova Scotia, we gathered donations of blankets and warm clothing. These went in early December to those in need, including many children, through a relief organization, the Displaced Persons Response Network, we met that works in the borderlands of Burma and Thailand.
Ellen and Alleson