Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Valentine's Day Sale gives you FREE chocolate with your purchases!

We've got a large assortment of unique and beautifully made bags and purses and naturally dyed scarves to help make your friend smile this Valentine's Day.

And even some great Fair Trade chocolate and coffee to go with it!

Like in many countries, V-day is also treated like a friendship day to share and appreciate everyone. Take a step forward and help us support women empowerment around the world through your everyday purchases.

for a friend, a loved one or mother, I know you'll find something special at our online shop!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Amazing 5 minute video on MESH, Bethany Woven Cotton Bags

We trade with MESH, known as Maximizing Employment to Serve the Handicapped, who serves as a trading partner for over 40 disabled or former leprosy affected artisan groups in India. MESH started working with communities of leprosy affected and their dependents in the 1960s to help them start earning and stand on their own. The stigma is too strong in India and many can not return home to their villages; their dignity is lost. They develop their own self sustaining communities with income generating activitites and also recieve pensions and medical care from the government. Craft work is a form of rehabilitation that has been taught in these communities, where weaving, block printing, wood work, pottery and other trades are taught.

I've had the opportunity to visit many of the groups MESH trades with to experience their work and the beautiful products they make. We are proud to sell their products to help bring dignity and respect to disabled people in India. Your purchases do make a difference.

Watch this amazing video below that captures their work and who they work with well done by volunteer film maker, Matthew Robinson.

MESH works with a wide variety of artisan groups who specialize in weaving, painting, card making, ceramics and various crafts. We carry a colorful collection of Handwoven Cotton Handbags, Purses and Shoulder Bags from Bethany's Leprosy Colony in South India, a rehabilitational unit to support women and wives of leprosy affected. The bags they make are bright, colorful and great quality, just like the one featured to the left.

Click here to view all the MESH bags, woven table linens, soft toys and more we sell on our website!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Reflections on the year

So the holiday season is quickly coming to an end and while I’m already gearing up for next year’s agenda, I’ve been enjoying the time embracing the successes of this year and all that was brought my way. Building ties with friends and family and cultivating community, locally and across borders, has provided strength and comfort to a restless soul. It’s been a long year, continuing to build the structure for our business and how we can work together to affect change. The learning progressed and we managed to launch our online retail site to help people shop regularly and read the stories behind the work we do. We helped lead many community initiatives to educate people about Fair Trade, through a newly formed local Fair Trade Coalition and even participated in the San Fransisco Green Festival to make a statement. I guess I can say that I had a good year :)

My passion for humanitarian work and social change developed during college and it’s taken me to various places to experience and learn from. Five years being an activist in college in Kansas, led me to a year and half of service in India and a pilgrimage back to my hometown of Portland, Oregon. Now I am here establishing my roots, finding community and learning so much more. I’m happy to finally be back in Portland, where I was born, and am feeling more connected than ever.

The North West has so much to offer in the form of nature, culture and community that makes it so easy to want to be here and practice conscious and ethical living. Organic farms down the road, farm fresh eggs at my door, local bakeries, public transportation options – all within reach in my back yard. Portland is an environmental and progressive city, yet there is little big talk about Fair Trade. I’ve found many Fair Trade products in stores in towns and communities I never would have thought – so I know there is support and interest. It just needs to be pulled out to be seen in the same conversation as Buy Local. Eco-friendly and yes, Fair Trade.

Equal Exchange recently moved their West Coast office from Hood River to Portland and Global Exchange too, opened up their wholesale warehouse in SE. With help from the amazing Economic Justice Action Group at the Unitarian Church downtown and other faith organizations promoting Fair Trade, we even managed to have our First Fair Trade Holiday Bazaar in Portland. I think we are right on the way to making Portland a Fair Trade city! (FYI: Portland is already a Sweat Free city thanks to the folks behind the Sweat Free Campaign)

From the beginning, it was about being a Voice, a Voice for young girls, children and women from poor communities in India. To help inspire, bring their issues to the table and to be a resource for the organizations trying to help them. It’s still about that, as we continue to help be a voice for marginalized people in the market so they can earn a fair living to support their families and help consumers in the West see how voting with their dollars can make a difference. There are things one can do in their own community that would create positive change such as simply buying or asking for Fair Trade coffee and making the switch to a more ethical alternative. It’s important that people see their connection to every day living and helping create social equity around the world.

This year I went back to India for two months, inshallah, where I spent my time reconnecting, learning and exploring more. We brought a design consultant to provide support to the artisans we work with, helped write funding proposals for helping organizations plan and secure resources and set up service sites at local non profit organizations for a Volunteer Program we’re hosting. From environmental organizations helping teach organic farming methods to mountain communities, to village training centers for young girls and women and large Leprosy Colonies where formerly disabled and lepers are earning and being rehabilitated – these are the kinds of projects that help people learn skills, be more confident and have a Voice in their community.

I’ve managed to create many relationships with organizations and artisan groups in India, with the aim of helping them develop their programs and capacity. With the model of a Fair Trade company that we started in 2008, it’s been the goal of mine to use it as a tool to create change in many ways - to change consumption in the West, provide job security and training for women, but to also fundraise for development projects in India. I’ve invested a few years using my business background to set AWAZ up and now I think it’s time to focus on the social side of things: exposure trips for the women to see how other groups work, management and job trainings or even helping Sunny Singh’s Young Girl English and Computer program – these are needs that need your support. My background is in non profit development and I’d love to find a beneficial way to raise money and resources for these projects and others around the world.

What do you think? Do you wanna partner?

We move forward into the new year with this thought and the hopes for stronger partnerships, healthy and focused service.

Pay it forward,