More than a decade ago, a potter created his first Nativity set based on one he had seen in a larger town, hoping to sell them to tourists who stumble upon the traveling market that comes to his lakeside village every five days. Displayed on bamboo tables spread with trinkets to attract souvenir shoppers, his simple clay figures so intrigued one foreigner that she set out to uncover the story behind their production. Surprisingly, she found the family of artisans knew little about the story of the figures they mold. From their first encounter, a relationship has grown, as well as a partnership, in which she links the artisans to larger markets for their product. Now through Inle Clay, his family is able to provide the health care required by each of its generations living within the same thatched walls, as well as bring economic and spiritual hope to their community!
Kanzi offers handmade, fair-trade jewelry and crafts from artisans across East Africa. Not only does Kanzi help develop a market for these artisans, it also donates a portion of sales to support orphans and children at risk in Uganda, enabling them to get much needed food, clothing, shelter, education, and spiritual care. These children are otherwise at risk of being forced into sexual exploitation or heavy manual labor in the fields or rock quarries.
Dire poverty has struck many families in Cambodia, leaving them hopeless. Many women even sell their young daughters for a certain amount of time until they can find a way to make more money. However, an artisan group called Kingdom Creations gives the women a chance to keep their daughters and earn cash by making beautiful hand-sewn products. Now, they joyfully work on their projects in their bamboo huts, knowing they can provide a future for their daughters.
In the mountains of North Africa, the Berber artisans of the Leather Project skillfully craft leather scraps from a furniture and upholstery company into smooth purses, book covers, and book marks. This time-honored tradition helps them to earn money that supplements their jobs as subsistence farmers and shepherds. More and more, Berbers are forced to move to the city to look for business jobs, but this artisan group allows them to stay with their families in the mountains and provide for their needs.
Slowly and steadily, the Indonesia women weave their threads through felt circles onto pieces of felt that will eventually house children’s fingers as puppets. Since many of their husbands work jobs that don’t pay well, the women must earn additional income. That used to mean rolling cigarettes for pennies a day, Now, the women have teamed with Lifetouch Artistry to create finger puppets of all nationalities, which helps them afford groceries and schooling for their children.
Light of Hope
The thin, dirty girl sits dejectedly on the curb as pedestrians filter past her. Ten-year-old Farjana is tired and does not feel well, but she knows she must earn more money before she can go home for the day. “When I was very young, my father died,” Farjana says. “My mom was unable to manage our family by providing food and other needs for us. . . . The last 6 years I have been going to [a major intersection] for begging and earning money for my family.”
Farjana does not go to school and cannot read or write. She wants to go to school someday because “without education, there is no significance in life,” she said.
She is just one of Bangladesh’s estimated 700,000 beggars. Girls from low-income families like Farjana face many obstacles and dangers in their life—including potentially being trafficked and exploited, says worker Geri Hennerman. “They are seen as nobodies and only good for cleaning, cooking, sex, and child-bearing,” she says. “They are often beaten verbally and physically. They have little—if any—encouragement, love, correct discipline, or teaching. They do not have good female role models to follow. Many are given for marriage at extremely young ages. They are seen as objects instead of real people.”
But the Light of Hope Learning Center, which Geri started more than 6 years ago, helps prevent impoverished girls from having this dark future. The center is a day shelter that gives girls education, life skills, health care, and moral training. They are taught they are special and have great potential for living a transformed life. “They spend their days learning and growing in all areas—intellectually, morally, spiritually, physically, emotionally, and socially—instead of spending their days (and nights) out in their very dangerous and open areas, learning the ways of the world and getting into dangerous and trouble-type situations,” Geri says.
Love Calcutta Arts
The scarring influence of the sex trade does not affect just one generation in India. Despairing mothers often leave a legacy of poverty and prostitution to their daughters, who in turn carry on because they know no other lifestyle. Enter Love Calcutta Arts. Their handicrafts unit enables young women to support themselves with dignity and help their mothers leave the sex industry. These hardworking women make high-quality handmade paper products, including journals and cards, in a loving environment where they learn of their heavenly Father’s love for them.
The cultural and artistic traditions of Central Asia have been preserved through the generations was women work together with their mothers and grandmothers creating masterful crafts. These felt and wool items are as varied as the women who make them, with products reflecting the unique designs and stiles of individual crafters. Master’s Handicrafts and WorldCrafts are honored to offer these fair trade treasures to you on behalf of the indigenous artisans in the cities of Kyrgyzstan.
A native of Myanmar’s infamous mining town began Mogok Inklings. Like most children, she played in the dirt, but unlike most, among the rocks and pebbles in her yard, the earth yielded fragments of rubies and semi-precious stones. Ironically, Mogok's underground riches, do not afford hopeful livelihoods or opportunities for its inhabitants. Consequently, the town's young population has been drawn away by the empty, better-life promises beckoning from the Thai and Chinese borders. Fueled by faith that has grown since her childhood, the now grown-up little girl acted on the idea of creating homegrown jobs using the smaller gemstones cast aside in the greed of the mining industry. Mogok Inklings now employs young people striving to finish school, and seeks to share hope with the artisans.
More Than Sparrows
More than Sparrows artisans in Kigali, Rwanda, are growing in strength of spirit as well as new-found respect and dignity because they have worked together to leave their old lives behind. Discovering that they can learn new handcrafts which are valued by others has offered the artisans hope and the opportunity to prosper. In 2013, a benefactor shared a reading from Matthew 10:31 with the artisans: "Fear not, therefore, you are of more value than many sparrows." These women were sex workers and street vendors, isolated women who were considered the lowest of the low, but this reading assured them that they had great value. Knowing their own worth brought them comfort and hope. Through their struggles they have discovered a sense of identity. The artisans support each other, look after each other, listen to each other and take pride in what they do. They have become resilient and because of that, they now stand up and say, "We are More than Sparrows."