Supporting literacy in Laos: more village "book parties"

You've seen it on our home page: "For every piece you buy, we give a child in Laos their very first book, published by Big Brother Mouse."

Big Brother Mouse, a pioneering Lao-owned book publishing social enterprise, developed book parties to distribute books to kids in schools in rural Laos. Often lessons are only offered to these children on blackboards or with a few textbooks, so the opportunity to enter a world of books is new to most kids in Laos. Young staff visit each school with a box of books -- one for each child to choose -- along with their enthusiasm to excite the children about reading and to open the doors to new worlds and new ideas.

You can sponsor a book party of your own. Next time you have a birthday or other celebration, consider this -- give the gift of reading.

The latest book parties from our 2011 donation -- thanks to our customers' support -- are captured in these photos. Thank you!

Ban Pansom, Feb. 22, 2012: 216 books donated

Ban Kasuakua, May 4, 2012: 212 books donated

For more links to our stories about Big Brother Mouse, including our amazing bicycle trip to Northeast Laos, visit our website.

Fast Food and Slow Fashion

Article by TAMMACHAT co-founder Alleson Kase
First published in The Highland Heart Weekly, June 1, 2012

In the 20th century, corporations devised new ways to part consumers from their money. The fast food industry was designed to serve the most customers in the shortest time at the lowest cost. Fast foods have everything to do with impulse and almost nothing to do with satisfaction. This guarantees that customers keep coming back and those golden arches keep going up. .

Fast fashion is a lot like fast food. It delivers up-to-the minute styles at low prices. Consumers chase trends and, in the long run, spend more for less quality. The world’s resources get chewed up and spat out. And, of course, those fast fashions are made in sweatshops where workers’ health and safety are even worse than their pay.

Clearly, this is a race to the bottom so what’s a consumer to do?

Slow fashion, like the slow food movement, is offering consumers a better choice. Slow fashion means buy less, buy green, buy fair and buy quality. People buy less but get more. Skilled artisans use quality fibres to create authentic clothes that are healthier, more satisfying and longer lasting. The earth’s bounty is preserved and nurtured rather than poisoned and exploited.

TAMMACHAT Natural Textiles is a one of the foremothers of slow fashion, as Just Us! was a pioneer of fair trade coffee. TAMMACHAT, which means “natural” in Thai, is a social enterprise based on Nova Scotia’s South Shore. It is the work of Ellen Agger and Alleson Kase, women who are more interested in people and the planet than profit. They believe that fairly traded textiles can help sustain communities and traditions, while respecting and promoting women’s empowerment, economic justice and a healthy environment.

TAMMACHAT’s naturally dyed silks and cottons combine contemporary styling with traditional skills to create timeless fashion accessories and home d├ęcor. Best of all, their textiles are hand-made, fairly traded and environmentally sustainable. Fair trade means buying at a fair price directly from artisan groups that promote skill training and community development. It also means advance payment on orders and long-term commitment to democratic organizations that provide more than an income to their members.

Ellen and Alleson spend several months each year in Thailand and Laos, partnering with rural women’s weaving groups who share with them their indigenous knowledge and techniques. These visits provide them the opportunity to design products for the Canadian market, as well as to better understand the artisans themselves. Most of these women practice these traditional crafts to supplement their income as rice farmers.

Each year Ellen and Alleson also deliver a donation to Big Brother Mouse, a unique publishing venture that creates books by and for Lao students and young adults. For each textile they sell, TAMMACHAT gives a Lao child their first book.

For the stories behind these extraordinary textiles, visit or find them on Facebook or Twitter

TAMMACHAT’s textiles will be available in Antigonish on Saturday, June 16, 2012 from 10am to 5pm at St. James United Church Hall, 197 Main St., Antigonish.

For more great stories like this visit