It’s hard not to grieve over the streets of Pattaya, Thailand, with the exploitation and other tragic stories usually written there. The business ‘booming’ on its streets is largely sex work: a massive industry which provides a means of survival for an estimated 35,000 women and men. Not all want this kind of work. Some are pushed into it by the financial need of their parents, even their own spouses, in order to pay the bills. With the arrival of Covid, though, the bars closed and, suddenly, thousands were destitute without access to some of the official safety nets.

One of Crossroads’ partners, Tamar Centre, was established to reach out to sex workers. “It’s devastating,” they told us. “Thousands of people lost their jobs when the bars needed to close during lockdown. Now the bars have re-opened but many have been bankrupted already because they don’t have enough customers. Every day we hear about more bars, shops and restaurants closing. Every day more people are on the streets without jobs. Those who have the least are just left with no one caring for them. The situation will continue to get worse,” they said. “All we can do is help.”

When we spoke with Tamar staff, they were in the middle of an intensive food package campaign, trying to meet some of the urgent immediate needs of those they care for.

Their work goes far deeper than daily bread, though. They teach new skills to women who want to break out of the sex industry, and employ many in their cafe, shop, salon and other projects. They even visit the home villages of women to help educate families there about the risks of trafficking and falling into prostitution when seeking a new life in the city.

We’ve partnered with Tamar for many years, selling their handmade cards in our Handicrafts shop, produced by women transitioning out of the sex industry. When their business was crippled by Covid, they reached out to us with a suggestion: what if Tamar‘s workshop were to create Crossroads’ 2020 Christmas cards? “If you would place this order, it would give us the opportunity to employ many women for this, and would give the women a job and an income,” they said.

So, we placed our order! The ball is rolling, and they have already started employing some of the women in their projects to begin work on our 2020 cards (pictured above), ready in time to spread much-needed joy to the world at Christmas.

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For the 150,000 people with hearing disabilities in Kazkhstan, it can, indeed, be a silent, lonely existence.  Services for the deaf and understanding of support are still a challenge in many areas, particularly those living in poverty. Some grow up never learning any formal sign language because their families are unable to access support. Our Christmas cards in 2016 were made by deaf and hearing impaired young adults. They carefully crafted the cards’ hand-made components, drawing on cultural elements traditional to the region and even the humour with which, despite life’s difficulties, they wonderfully embed in their craft.

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War can leave a deadly legacy long after its ‘finish’. Guatemala’s civil war ended in the 90’s but the country still hovers at the top of the charts for violent crimes, drug cartels and pedophile rings. Daily life can, then, still feel somewhat like a battle zone

The town of La Ezperanza is translated ‘Hope’. Women in that town gathered to bring change. They chose to do so in its infamous ‘Red Zone’:  a part so dangerous that tourists are warned not to visit. Hope, though, drove these women on.

They formed a FairTrade group UPAVIM, a Spanish acronym which, in translation, means “United for a better life’. Together they are literally and figuratively ‘crafting’ a different future.

 

“The beautiful colors, the conversations shared over cups of coffee, the sound of children’s laughter, and the collective force of empowered women make [it] an inspirational and joyful place to live and work,” say staff.

“By earning a fair wage we have been able to pull ourselves out of poverty, improve our living conditions, feed and care for our families, and send our children to school.”

It’s difficult to reconcile the beautiful, joyful products with the grief that some of their creators have endured, raising their children on the front lines of fear and violence. We’re glad to walk with them in bringing their story of courage and their handiwork to a global audience.

Our Global Handicrafts shop now sells their products.

It’s difficult to reconcile the beautiful, joyful products with the grief that some of their creators have endured, raising their children on the front lines of fear and violence. We’re glad to walk with them in bringing their story of courage and their handiwork to a global audience.

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The Yamuna river, in Northern India, battles pollution on a tragic scale. Although its waters are clear in the early stages of its journey, when it flows through New Delhi, that drastically changes. Up to 80% of its pollution is gathered in the 22 km stretch within the city.

Entrepreneur Vimlendu Jha sought to make a difference. Targeting young Indian students, the leaders of tomorrow’s generation, he sought to gather change-makers. He soon found, though, that there were more environmental issues to be addressed and, in time, began a very successful scheme they call “Green the Gap.” It was started as a way to give waste another life by upcycling old materials. They purchase materials from rag-pickers and waste markets, transforming old tyres, juice cartons and waste fabrics into beautifully designed products.

We now stock trendy satchels and bags in our Global Handicrafts store. These products ‘do a double good’. They are good in brilliantly re-purposing trash and, being a Fair Trade organisation, good for employment opportunity. Many ‘Green the Gap’ workers have come from low income backgrounds and, by working there, have seen not only their environment improve, but their personal lives as well.

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Lei Mei was 25 when she suddenly lost her hearing. It was a devastating blow. She knew that being deaf would mean the loss of her job as a salesperson.

Her future looked bleak. She did, indeed, lose her job and learned that the only way she could hear again would be a cochlear implant, costing her US$30,000. She had been earning approx. US$200 per month and paying all her costs out of that. This purchase, then, was impossible. She tried selling goods on the street at night but, with her hearing challenge, this was harder for her than others in the noisy marketplace and she struggled. With just two years’ schooling, she had nothing else to fall back on.

In time, she was introduced to ‘Hearts and Hands’, an organisation which had, amazingly, been set up in her area to employ people with hearing difficulties. They taught her how to make handicrafts and, today, she has done so well she is in charge of the stock and fabric rooms. When our Global Handicrafts team visited, they told us, “She said that normally, in her local community, deaf people are treated as second rate and very often cheated. Here, though, she is genuinely respected and valued and nobody cheats anyone. It is truly run on a Fair Trade basis. She loves this work.”

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“Chile is losing its artisan culture,” says Alvador, a 58-year-old copper craftsman who makes beautiful jewellery stamped with traditional designs. Thanks to the gap between Chile’s rich and poor – one of the widest in the world – Alvador is one of a dying number of Chilean artists who can still make money from their handiwork.

Fair trade is more than just an idea for Alvador. It’s literally the only reason he can afford to make his jewellery passion a business. He works with Pueblos del Sur, a fair trade cooperative that helps Chilean craftspeople find international customers for their work, where they will get a fair price, be paid on time, and network with other artists to share ideas.

Our marketplace, Global Handicrafts, sells clay ocarinas and pendants from Pueblo del Sur artists, along with their exquisite glass jewellery .

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When female unemployment in Zimbabwe was at 97%, a bunch of smart women got together and created a knitting cooperative. Knitting, they explained, is easy and can be done anywhere! They called their group Gogo Olive: ‘Gogo’ means ‘granny’ and olive branch represents peace.

They knit stuffed animal toys which are as funky as their name and they call them ‘shamwari’, which means ‘friends.’ These little creatures are among our best sellers in our Global Handicrafts’ shop.

00Gogo Olive Handicrafts

IMG_7256When we buy products from Gogo Olive (and many others) for our Global Handicrafts store, Crossroads not only pays the ‘fair trade’ minimum. We pay an additional sum which the women use to invest back into their community and families. The Gogo Olive ‘grannies’ told us they had recently bought eyeglasses for some of their workers with this ‘premium’ payment. It was a joy to see photos of the proud faces of these middle-aged craftswomen wearing their new glasses, for some the first glasses they had owned.

Buy now!

You can support the craftswomen of Zimbabwe’s Gogo Olive by buying their ‘shamwari’ toys in our online store here! Or, visit our real life store at Crossroads’ Village for a wider range.

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“Those were the years of violence,” said Juliana, a Peruvian woman who works with craft collective Kuyanakuy. She reflected on the bloody internal conflict that raged in parts of Peru in the early 1990s, leaving at least 70,000 people dead. At the height of the violence, Juliana was sheltering 12 families who were forced out of their homes to flee the terror.

Although the conflict has now settled in Juliana’s community, it left deep scars. Women who lived through that time lost husbands, children and beloved neighbours. Many found themselves impoverished without their breadwinner or another steady source of income.

Out of these ashes, a group of women banded together to form Kuyanakuy, a name that means ‘Let us love’: a place where today women survivors of the conflict can meet, support each other, cry together, and work together to create beautiful handicrafts drawing on rich Peruvian artistic traditions and imagery. All the craftswomen are from low-income families and most are illiterate when they join, with little chance of a decent, steady job. Through Kuyanakuy, though, they are now learning to read and write alongside their new-found handicraft skills. As well, of course, this work generates income for them as they care, single-handed, for their families.

Shop Now!

Browse Global Handicrafts’ full online range here or visit our shop at Crossroads Village to walk through our colourful global marketplace, with even more handmade delights from around the world, all of which care for the people who made them.

SHOP

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The beautiful crafts for sale through Pueblos Del Sur are made by craftspeople in Chile who are disadvantaged for various reasons.  Their help is especially important for as Chile has the highest income inequality of any nation in Latin America!

Pueblos Del Sur is a non-profit organisation whose mission is to help Chilean people, families and groups who try to overcome poverty and improve their quality of life by producing handicrafts in their own workshops and micro businesses. Thank you for helping to change the lives of these craftspeople through your purchase!

Pueblos del sur (9)

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