At this moment I am sitting on a flight from Marrakech to Paris. Our team of 3 is returning from a 12 day excursion to Morocco. I am glad to have this time as there is so much to process and so many plans to make as we bring 2019 to a close and look forward to 2020.
I am often asked how I find the artisans Buy The Change partners with. It happens it a variety of ways.
Occasionally I have met someone who lives, or has lived, in a developing country and has contacts there. This is the case with our products from Kenya. I met Leslie from Suprised by Hope at an International Women’s event and she has been our friend and buyer in Kenya and Uganda for over 5 years. She hosted us on a visit in 2018 and did all the leg work for setting up visits with new and established artisan groups.
Other times I have seen a product I love and been able to track down the artisan group using information from the tag. This was the case with Connexions in India. For 6 years the women there have handmade all of our Kantha Bags.
I have utilized the website of the World Fair Trade Organization looking for NGOs (non profits) around the world who are committed to the mission of connecting small artisan groups with a worldwide market. This was how we found CraftWorks Cambodia. They have connected us to multiple artisan groups including Thearney who makes our Bombshell Brass Jewelry, Srey Kim and Srey Jun who make our recycled Feedbag bags and Srey Oun, a blind acid attack victim who crochets beautiful bags for us.
Sometimes I have to take a boots on the ground approach. This means going to a country, asking around, visiting markets, looking for locals who may know of women’s cooperatives and home-based women artisans in the area.
That was the situation with this trip to Morocco. It definitely would not have been possible without the help of Jessica and Will at WorldTowning Voyages. They went above and beyond in helping us connect with anyone and everyone they know in Morocco who could possibly be helpful.
They also showed us Moroccan culture from the inside and set up numerous one of a kind adventures for us and the 16 other people we joined when we arrived. Who could visit Morocco and not experience a camel trek in the Sahara Desert? Not us.
We met Samia, a wonderful young Moroccan woman who is a university student and the librarian at the Children’s Library in Fes. Samia’s mother knows a woman with a small shop selling hand embroidered tablecloths and napkins. Perfect!
We met Syad, an entrepreneurial young man who is helping his mother earn an income by setting up authentic bread making demonstrations in her home in the Atlas Mountains. Syad also introduced us to a women’s rug weaving cooperative and will be our representative in getting future orders shipped to us in the U.S. Perfect again!
Rural women have little access to tourist business. As we walked away from their workshop with a total of 5 rugs purchased, and plans for future orders, their relief and happiness was clear. It was smiles all around. Everyone would have a good dinner that night.
This is why Buy The Change was founded and why we work so hard to make these connections.