An Exciting Update
Sept 4, 2005
I returned to my journey about two months ago, starting in Cambodia where PeaceCraft (www.peacecraft.org) recently began importing from a new trading partner. Before I discuss the new trading partner, I want to present a context in which to understand the importance of PeaceCraft's recent addition. As most of you know, Cambodia is a very poor country with limited economic development. The situation is only compacted with rampant corruption which plagues this struggling democracy with a very fragile infrastructure. Additionally the land is littered with landmines and unexploded ordinance from the "we were never there" secret American bombing missions and raids, and the left overs from the Pol Pot Regime.
Landmines of Yesterday
PeaceCraft’s newest trading partner is Rehab Craft, a non-profit organization in Phnom Penh. They offer physically disabled men and women an opportunity to get skills training, and stable work . I went to their workshop to photograph and conduct interviews with both the staff of Rehab Craft and the members. I was encouraged by the positive atmosphere I found at Rehab Craft, and I think that PeaceCraft has done well in selecting an organization that has such a positive impact serving a socially marginalized group. While I was there, they proudly showed me the products they were making for PeaceCraft’s first order, due to arrive in time for the holidays.
While I was meeting with the sewers and craftsmen, one woman was curious to know if PeaceCraft replaced the Rehab Craft tags in the t-shirts and scarves with their own tags. I had heard of this practice in factories in the free trade zones, and I was surprised that this was a suspicion here. I assured her that the Rehab Craft tags were not only left inside their products, but were a selling point as people who shop in PeaceCraft wanted to know where it was made and who made it. She appeared happy to hear this and returned to her sewing after my answer was translated. It felt good to be the bearer of good news and to see her pride in knowing the products she made were attributed to her handiwork.
If you are interested in learning more about Rehab Craft, seeing their products at PeaceCraft, or assisting them into a fair trade market near you, check out their website linked above.
Getting Involved Directly in Vietnam
Oxfam Quebec is funding and managing the project while HRPC trains the women in both the making of high quality traditional handicrafts and in the necessary administration skills to make the group self-sufficient. The immediate need is for an export market where they can get a fair price because the training and the financial assistance from Oxfam are nearing an end. I have extended my stay in Hanoi in order to assist WIN in their marketing strategy, website development, and in the formation of WIN's long-term goals and objectives. Once the management is trained, Oxfam, HRPC and I will step aside and provide guidance for WIN, and I will move on with my Journey for Fair Trade. However, this is the first time I am directly involved with such a project and I intend to stay involved for the long-term. I will continue to keep you informed of WIN's direction and development. Currently we are developing the website, so once it is up, I will let you know. I must say that this journey of mine has definitely brought about unforeseeable and important changes both for, and within me.
Happy Holidays from SE Asia
Dec 25, 2005
Overcoming the Odds