Every year on April 22nd we celebrate Earth Day. We talk about environmental concerns like global warming, maybe participate in cleaning up a nearby park or waterway, or at the very least think twice as we toss something that could be recycled. But coming up with solutions to environmental concerns, particularly garbage, is becoming a much more proactive activity in developing countries.
A popular T-shirt of returned Peace Corps volunteers says “Some see the glass half full, others half empty. A PCV sees a shower.” It’s safe to say this unusual outlook on the world helps explain why RPCVs are often drawn to Fair Trade. You might not be able to pick them out at the Fair Trade Federation conference because of their Birkenstocks and bad haircuts, but the desire to help people in the country where they served and others who are challenged with poverty stays with them for a lifetime and fits amazingly well with the Fair Trade principles.
“Zooties®.” Is it just me or is the word almost as fun to say as these cute baby booties must be to wear? Artisans and craftspeople in Kyrgyzstan have a talent for producing felt from wool and turning it into much-coveted carpets – why not make something else that takes up the space between one’s foot and the floor, even if it’s a tiny little foot? Each time I think there can’t be another animal, vegetable, or mineral turned into a baby bootie, there it is! Zootie lasagna!
The artisans of Tecalpulco, Mexico have long been known for their silver and stone jewelry. Art Camp, short for Artesanas Campesinas (or rural female artisans), is a women-owned cooperative that continues this tradition. The group constantly introduces new methods, materials, and machinery to compete in the highly competitive jewelry market, even surviving a collapse in the marketability of their pieces in the 1990’s after jewelry from other countries flooded the US market.
If you believe that things happen serendipitously, then Gifts With Humanity is certainly one of those things. The co-founders met in the principal’s office of Kisumu Polytechnic in 1999 – I was a Peace Corps volunteer and Kevin was a VSO volunteer; both were assigned to teach computing.
The Bartel Arts Trust, or the BAT Shop, is an urban-based community art center that is a venue and facility for skills training, promotion and exposure of disadvantaged and emergent artists in South Africa. The focus of the center is local arts, culture, crafts and entertainment that reflects the Zulu, Indian and Western heritage of KwaZulu-Natal. The difference at BAT is the grassroots, the experimental, the cross-arts trends and the innovation that is promoted at the center.
Ilala Weavers is situated at Hluhluwe within the province of KwaZulu Natal, South Africa. The organizations was established some 30 years ago, with a clear vision and objective of revitalizing and enhancing the age-old Zulu tradition of handcrafts, which at the time were in danger of being lost forever.
Today, Ilala Weavers helps over 2000 Zulu men and women, to attain self sufficiency, by working from their homes and therefore retaining their lifestyle and rich heritage of basket weaving and bead work, which has been passed down through the generations by Zulu crafters. Their modern counterparts today produce stunning works of art, sought after the world over. Each basket is completely unique, and an artisan may spend up to six months weaving a single piece!