Do what you can, with what you have, where you are. ~Theodore Roosevelt
  • Posted on: 13 November 2013
  • By: Buy the change


In a recent blog post we asked a question about how much information concerning the lives of our artisans is interesting and motivating to you, our customers. The response was almost unanimous in saying that you DO want to know the stories of struggle and survival concerning specific women who make the products offered by Buy The Change.

This week we are starting a series focusing on our artisans and the countries where they live.

Our first artisan story is about Ms. Srey Oun from Cambodia. 

Cambodia is a country still working to overcome years of war and genocide under the Khmer Rouge regime during the 1970’s.  All of the women we work with in Cambodia are disabled in some way. They each own their own, small, home based business and rely on the organization Craftworks Cambodia in Phnom Penh to help them find wholesale customers. Buy The Change buys products, through Craftworks Cambodia, at a wholesale price set by each woman artisan. This is our “trade over aid” way of being part of the solution.

Ms. Srey Oun is 33 years old with one 4 year old daughter. She survived one of the most brutal times in Cambodian history and then encountered a personal disaster.

She was the victim of an acid attack in Jan 1999. Her husband left her when she was 4 months pregnant, due to pressure from his family. Being unemployed and with no income to support her daughter, living in a country with no system of caring for the poor, even those with disabilities, she used her skill of crochet to make craft items, bags, wallets, coasters, cushion covers, friendship bracelets, hair bows and more, hoping to be able to sell them in the local markets; it was not easy to sell her products.

Thanks to her association with Craftworks Cambodia, she now sells to international companies, including Buy The Change. Prior to this she had few customers. It was impossible for her to find customers outside of Cambodia because of the language barrier and her blindness.

Ms. Srey Oun always encourages herself to remain optimistic as she struggles to provide her daughter with food and an education as well as supporting her elderly mother. Discrimination is an ongoing issue as many neighbors are unaccepting of disabilities, including blindness.

Srey Oun states that she really enjoys knitting bags, wallets and other products. “This work makes my life full of pleasure, dignity and helps my daughter gain life changing education in the future.”

We hope to meet Ms. Srey Oun during our visit to Cambodia in January 2014. We will carry with us messages of respect and encouragement from the women of the United States. 

You can purchase handbags made by Ms. Srey Oun on the Buy The Change webstore.  Each is slightly different due to being handmade.

Each and every bag sold gives us the opportunity to purchase additional bags from Srey Oun. By shopping at Buy The Change you are directly contributing to the lively hood and wellbeing of women around the world, including the 3 generations of women in Ms. Srey Oun’s family.

In Gratitude,

Kari and Shanan

P.S. Join us on our journey! We want every woman to have a happy, peaceful and empowered life. You can join us and support our cause in many ways: host a trunk show, spread the word about our mission and the importance of buying fairly-traded products, become an affiliate, follow Buy The Change on Facebook and Twitter, sign up for our mailing list, subscribe to our blog, and shop online!

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