Deaf artisan Lei Mei enjoys steady employment with Hearts and Hands.

Deaf artisan Lei Mei enjoys steady employment with Hearts and Hands.

Lei Mei, of China, was 25 when she suddenly lost her hearing. She’s not sure exactly how it happened, but it seems likely that a complication from tuberculosis medication was to blame. Whatever the cause, it was a devastating blow to Lei Mei, who had been working as a salesperson. She knew that being deaf would cost her her job.

She was right. Her future looked bleak. She was told 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 hated her family’s suggestion that she go to the family’s farm where she would do menial work and earn a pittance. Instead, 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. With just two years’ schooling, her options looked miserable.

Global Handicrafts staff meet Lei Mei and other artisans on a trip to China.

Global Handicrafts staff meet Lei Mei and other artisans on a field visit to China.

Thankfully, Lei Mei met Hearts and Hands, a handicrafts enterprise set up to employ people with hearing difficulties and other disabilities. They taught her how to make handicrafts and, today, she has done so well she is in charge of the stock and fabric rooms. Crossroads’ Global Handicrafts team met Hearts and Hands staff and employees on a recent site visit. They told us, “She said that normally, in her 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.”

Our Global Handicrafts shop sells some of the products that Lei Mei and her colleagues make, like table runners, toys and home accessories.

Crossroads Foundation Hong Kong

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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.

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China Snapshot

Population: 1.35 billion

Capital: Beijing

Population below international poverty line of US$1.25 per day: 11%, or 157 million people

China is experiencing rapid economic growth, but the benefits have not reached millions of people in rural areas. People who are already poor are the most vulnerable to death, injury and loss of livelihood when floods and earthquakes hit.

Natural disasters in China affect more than 200 million people every year.

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Cui Li grew up in a world of silence. Born deaf, Cui Li lived with her family in an impoverished region of China where nobody was able to teach her sign language and her parents had no money to send her to school.

China_sewing_lady-DEAFIt was a lonely, friendless existence until, at age 13, Cui Li discovered a group of people who were deaf like her. One new friend taught Cui Li sign language and how to read and write. It was an opportunity that suddenly opened the world to the teenager. She could now communicate, her relationships with her family improved and she began to meet more and more deaf people, including one young man who then became her husband!

“The deaf population of China numbers around 72 million,” says Hearts and Hands.  “Since the majority of deaf young people are unable to find adequate employment, many turn to gangs, theft, and drugs.”

We’re privileged to work with groups like Hearts and Hands across the world giving new hope to people with so many different needs. When you purchase a Hearts and Hands product through Crossroads’ Global Handicrafts store, you’re supporting people like Cui Li and her husband to build a life for themselves with dignity and honour.

(Cui Li’s story and images courtesy of Hearts and Hands China.)

Crossroads Foundation Hong Kong

Want to shop for more fair trade handicrafts?

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

China Snapshot

Population: 1.35 billion

Capital: Beijing

Population below international poverty line of US$1.25 per day: 11%, or 157 million people

China is experiencing rapid economic growth, but the benefits have not reached millions of people in rural areas. People who are already poor are the most vulnerable to death, injury and loss of livelihood when floods and earthquakes hit.

Natural disasters in China affect more than 200 million people every year.

China_S1359U_6

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Every day, 3,600 tonnes of food waste are sent to landfill in Hong Kong, according to Feeding Hong Kong. Meanwhile, people...

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When Sri Lankan artist Sagara Ranga Liyanage decided to start a handicrafts business, he had to think outside the box. "I...

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“I don’t want to throw this stuff out. I want it to go to someone who needs it. If only there...

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