Let us tell you a story from Ten Thousand Villages, the high quality products produced, and the impact this venture has on the dignity and self-support of families living in poverty far and wide.
India is a colourful, varied and vast land of culture, arts, and many skills - a virtual feast for all the senses. This is all in the midst of tremendous poverty with one quarter of India's one billion people quite below the poverty level. Not many are even able to make a baseline income of one dollar a day. It gained independence from Great Britian in 1947, and has seen amazing growth in every sector, including agriculture, mining, manufacturing information technologies, and handcrafts.
It is through handcrafts that some of the poorest women are able to make a living and experience the dignity of supporting their families.
An artisan group was formed in the Indian city of Ahmedabad, by some Dominican nuns who had come to start a hospital. This city had flourished because of its mechanized textile mills. But they were shut down in the 1980s, and many families thrown into dire poverty.
In 1970 the nuns started a sewing and embroidery centre called, St. Mary's Mahila Shikshan Kendra. Here the women could shine with their natural talents for arts and creative work. They applied their special regional patterns in embroidery and mirror-work, and their work began to sell well. Things really took off when they formed an agreement with Ten Thousand Villages.
Now they have about 400 full-time women working with this group, and probably another 100 who work part-time. The women work from home, in fact, but come to the centre twice a week to pick up supplies and deliver the items they have created. The centre has grown to include clinics for medical help, cooking classes, and everything is open to a mix of Christian, Hindu and Muslim women.
The fact that around 80% of the crafts produced are sold abroad contributes to the success of the centre and the woman and their families. This success has a cascading, rippling effect, helping far more than one woman at a time.
There are certain areas of India that are especially known for unique embroidery patterns, and needlework styles. Two areas, Gujarat and Rajasthan, in western regions of India, are especially famous for their needlework patterns and techniques. These apply to a range of stitching, or beadwork and applique, and patchwork. Certain motifs, such as geometric patterns, floral designs, and mirror work, are unique to peculiar villages and castes. They are truly beautiful!
Even the threads for the women with St. Mary's, are created and dyed by a woman and her son.
The fine needlework pieces are then put into useful things like clothing, handbags, wall-hangings, and cushions, etc.
Although her husband had a factory job, her family could hardly meet their living expenses. To help out Vasumati became an embroiderer with the above St. Mary's group. Each week she picked up her bundles of stenciled cloth and coloured threads. She could embroider them at home, and be there to care for her family and mother-in-law.
Then, a while later, within a short period, both her mother-in-law and her husband passed away. So Vasumati began to work full-time at the centre, now in charge of handing out the bundles of cloth to other women. This job provided her with such a stable income that she was able to get a loan for her own home, and has already paid off the loan. This allows her to take in her needy nieces and nephews. Vasumati loves her work and the women of the St. Mary's group and hopes to stay there indefinitely.
This is the kind of things that are accomplished when Canadians shop at a Ten Thousand Villages store in their community. We are thrilled to have a number of them in Saskatchewan! We celebrate the great success of this venture this April 2014!
Back to MCCS's 50th Anniversary - index Or; Jan: IVEP | Feb: Thrift Shop Movement | Mar: Canadian Foodgrains Bank| Apr: Ten Thousand Villages | May: Restorative Justice | June: Relief Sale | July: Refugee Assistance