Artisans and Producers
One of the few Guatemalan artisan groups still using natural dyes, the Adimat women's cooperative is known for its dedication to maintaining traditional weaving practices. This group of 25 women in the community of San Juan la Laguna produces popular goods such as scarves, yoga mat bags, hammocks, and placemats. Women collect the berries, bark and other materials they use to dye their products from the mountains overlooking Lake Atitlan, on the shores near their community.
The Adimat cooperative has been recognized by various area organizations and government representatives for its support of local development initiatives. In particular, the group uses profits from its sales through Good Gifts Naturally to fund a scholarship program for orphans and other local children who would otherwise not be able to attend school. With the help of these scholarship recipients, the cooperative also organizes a monthly litter removal campaign in the community and along the shores of the lake.
Cooperative members: 25
Indirect beneficiaries (family members): 142
The Pana Jewelry cooperative provides employment to single mothers in the town of Panajachel. The cooperative offers home employment opportunity in a region where single mothers experience difficulty providing for their families while caring for their children. The cooperative is part of AUDA, an association of artisan groups promoting sustainable development in the Lake Atitlan region. Since its founding two years ago, the Pana cooperative has funded 5 year-long scholarships for local children who would otherwise not be able to attend school. Your purchase from Good Gifts Naturally, will also fund these scholarships.
Most women in the community of Zaput are widows from the violence of Guatemala's civil war. Economic hardship forced many mothers to leave their farming community and seek temporary work on coastal coffee and cotton plantations.
During the early 1990s, these women formed the Ajquema K'aslemal cooperative to create a support network of women artisans. Their artisan cooperative also allows mothers to provide for their children while still living in their native highlands community and maintaining Mayan weaving traditions. The Ajquema cooperative has initiated various local development programs in their community including building a community center and running a basic medicinal plants health project.
Due to the economic and psychological stress this community has exprienced, most women in the Ajquema cooperative never attended school. Without the benefit of bilingual public school education, women in Zaput exclusively speak Cakchiquel, one of Guatemala's 24 indigenous languages. Through Good Gifts Naturally and Mercado Global's primary and middle school scholarships, mothers in the community have been able to send their children to school.
Cooperative members: 15
Indirect beneficiaries (family members): 80
The majority of men in the community of Chuacruz were assassinated during Guatemala's civil war. In the mid-1980s, the surviving women formed the Wajxaquib Kan weaving cooperative to provide income and support as they rebuilt their lives and community. Members of Wajxaquib Kan cooperative first used profits from the sale of their artisan products to purchase land for growing vegetables. In partnership with local NGOs, the Wajxaquib Kan cooperative has also provided mental health services for survivors of the local massacre.
While most members of their Wajxaquib Kan cooperative are unable to read or write, many of their daughters are now attending school through Good Gifts Naturally, and Mercado Global scholarships. Each year, cooperative members select scholarship recipients based on financial need, academic merit and community leadership potential. These girls would otherwise not be able to afford a primary or secondary school education.
Cooperative members: 20
Indirect beneficiaries (family members): 130
The artisan group that makes Good Gifts Naturally's, Kenyan beaded jewelry is located in the Kasarani area of Nairobi, with some of the group members living in the Mathare slums. These are some of the largest and poorest slums in Africa, and are home to about half a million adults and children. Over 70% are hardworking mothers and their children whose fathers died or abandoned their family. The group has given many men and women a new chance at life. JanetJanet, pictured to the right, is one such woman. She hails from a very remote area of Nyanza Province near the border of Kenya and Uganda. Both of her parents passed away in 2003. She was forced to drop out of school and was then taken by a relative to Nairobi with an aim of helping her continue her education. Unfortunately those promises were not fulfilled and the relative decided to use her as a house maid. Janet was required to work from very early in the morning until very late in the evening and was "paid" only with food and shelter. She was often subjected to beatings or denied food if she failed to accomplish her given tasks.
When she visited the local church, her story was told by a member and people were asked to assist the girl in any way. The founder of the artisan group, Issac and his partner Florence, volunteered to assist her with temporary shelter. It was during this time that the group realized that she had a talent for sewing and using her hands, so she was introduced to bead work.
After just a few months, she became very knowledgeable and has become one of the workshop designers. She can now meet some of her basic needs, and although her education was not continued, she is ensuring a better fate for her siblings by sending them to school.
High upon a beautiful pine-covered ridge live the women of the women's cooperative of El Cerro, Nicaragua who make the pine needle baskets. They harvest the pine needles then begin the long process of weaving the baskets by hand. It can take a woman a full week to complete one basket. A Dutch organization formed the women's cooperative several years ago and it continues to grow and mature. Your purchase of this decorative pine needle basket from Good Gifts Naturally, helps continue this art form, and provides a positive incentive to good forest management.
Coal KidsThe land of the small mining community of Morca, a four hour bus ride south of Bogota, Columbia, has degraded from years of mining. This situation has left few economic alternatives for its inhabitants. The people of Morca primarily rely on the revenue generated from their coal mines. Young men and boys work in the mine shafts that have only rudimentary support infrastructures and unsafe conditions. Many boys and adult heads of households have died from collapses and inhaling the buildup of poisonous gases. In 1995, the Columbian government established a workshop to train boys how to carve figurines and jewelry from coal, hoping that revenues generated from craft production would provide an alternative to working in the mines. In the morning the boys attend classes then go to the workshop to learn to carve coal and to work on their projects. Unfortunately, the workshop has not yet reduced the need to work in the mines. Although the boys are skilled in producing beautiful crafts, there are too few markets. Without income, and needing to support their families, the boys feel obliged to leave the school and workshop and return to the mines. While this is the current story of Morca, it is not the final chapter. One World Projects has recently joined forces with students at the National Pedagogical University in Bogota to open new opportunities for Morca's crafts. We hope that with your support, Good Gifts Naturally, can also help provide more consistent work for the boys at the workshop, so that they can continue their education and not return to the mines.
Our wonderful secret pencilbox was created by this group. Asha, which means "hope" in Sanskrit, was started in 1975 by a group of Christian businessmen. ASHA restructured in 1985 and today is successfully marketing handcrafts for 50 family workshops and individual artisans irrespective of creed, representing 1500 artisans from India. As a sign of its commitment to the artisans, ASHA welfare workers work closely with the families of the artisans, extending medical care and educational assistance by providing yearly scholarships to children attending primary school, supplying them with school fees, uniforms, and books. Other benefits include interest-free loans, face masks for artisans working with dust or powders, advances to purchase raw materials, and pure drinking water.
The kick bag in Good Gifts Naturally's, children's basket comes from this organization. Ruth and Nohemi, a program of the Methodist Church in Guatemala, was started in the 1980's to generate income for widows who had lost their husbands in the civil war. As Quichi-speaking Mayans, the people of Chichicastenango, a village of about 3,000 people in the central highlands, were targeted by the Guatemalan military. After the war, the widows organized themselves and began raising pigs, chickens, and sheep and sold their bright backstrap weavings. The program today also includes young men, many of them sons of these widows, who are helping themselves and their families by learning income-generting skills and receiving a basic education.
Ol Malo DesignsOl Malo Designs is a company owned and run by Julia Francombe that provides employment and help for the Samburu people in Kenya, and develops their talents through art. Julia employs more than 100 Samburu women who do the incredible beadwork, a native skill. These Kenyan beaded boxes are sold locally in the Ol Malo Designs shop, and internationally through distribution partners, and Good Gifts Naturally.
This bead work provides the Samburus with employment and income and encourages them to promote their timeless talents. During the severe drought in 2000, Ol Malo fed over 200 families through the sales of these products. These families had lost all their livestock - and were literally starving - through the sales of these products. To help address and prevent disasters like this, Julia created Ol Malo Trust which has grown into a pioneering community charity, building a bustling nursery school, protecting several water sources, and organizing mobile health clinics.
Mai Handicrafts was started by two social workers who were concerned about improving the lives of street children and single mothers in Ho Chi Minh City and ethnic minorities in mountain hamlets. Assistance is offered in the areas of quality control, marketing, and export procedures. The 300 artisans (80% are women) associated with Mai Handicrafts are earning between UD$50 and $70 a month in a country where the average monthly income is US $20 -30. Good Gifts Naturally's, red gift baskets and goldfish paperweights were made by this group.
Traditionally, tea has been grown on the steep slopes of the Himalayan foothills near Darjeeling, a city in northern India near the border with Nepal. The Nepali immigrants in that area supported their families by picking tea on large plantations. When the tea plantations closed in the 1950’s due to mismanagement, the workers lost their main source of income. Attempts at subsistence farming were unsuccessful because of the high altitude and poor soil quality. Tea cultivation was what they knew. With management, marketing, and technical assistance from a group of tea promoters in Darjeeling, the persistent group of small farmers have organized themselves into the Pashok Tea Cooperative and have initiated several community development projects. Sales of the certified-organic English Breakfast Tea that Good Gifts Naturally, offers in our gift basket, plus other varieties sold in Europe and the U.S. are offering hope to 448 families which belong to the cooperative.
Dambar International Silver in Kathmandu, Nepal has been in business since 1982 when Dambar and two apprentices worked in the basement of a building. Over time he increased his apprentices to six, when they worked in a living room. Today he has about 20 employees working in his own factory. Dambar believes in paying it forward. Early on he was given help by a Dutch sponsor to learn a trade and begin his own business despite the fact that he came from a lower caste. (Nepal has a caste system with many layers which often limits the options and opportunities for many of its people.) Dambar now helps to teach others the silversmith trade. He provides better than fair living wages for his employees, health care and educational opportunities, and safe working conditions. His factory is open each year for inspection by the World Shops. Additionally, he often travels to the smaller villages including the one he grew up in, to support the Beads for Life Nepal organization. Dambar brings the women beads to string and works to find a market for their finished pieces. This is how Good Gifts Naturally, has come to offer this pretty beaded jewelry on our website for you!