Bangladesh Artisans

IMG_4605In my role as Executive Director of MCC Canada, I’m fortunate to travel to many of the places where we’re involved in development work. Last month, my Executive Director colleague at MCC U.S. and I were on a trip to visit MCC projects in India and Bangladesh. Wherever we went, we made a point of visiting an artisan partner of Ten Thousand Villages. It’s important and valuable because, although our artisan communications are now usually done through email, face-to-face meetings continue to provide us with insight that you simply can’t get any other way.

IMG_4546IMG_4607We met Irani Sen, Director of the Craft Resource Centre (CRC) in Kolkata in mid-April. Ron and I spent a delightful Friday afternoon with the leader of this impressive Fair Trade organization that works with 36 different workshops. CRC exports their artisan products worldwide from their hub in Kolkata, enabling a living wage for artisans to sustain their households.

We asked Irani what message we could bring back to Ten Thousand Villages. Her reply: “Just keep doing what you’re doing! Don’t change the way you are and the way you work.”

When we asked her to elaborate, Irani said, “Generate as much work as possible for the artisans. Find more markets.”

We were thrilled to hear this. At present, 21% of CRC’s total sales come from Ten Thousand Villages in both Canada and the U.S., and we continue to grow our business to enable artisan groups like CRC to grow theirs. Ten Thousand Villages has undergone many changes recently, so it’s encouraging to hear that our artisan partners feel the opportunities and market access we provide have never wavered. Through all the changes, our mission remains the same.

Irani, the CRC staff, my colleague and I took pictures and drank tea together. When we left later that day, we felt encouraged by CRC’s mission to provide meaningful work and valuable income for individuals and small artisan groups. It was a wonderful reminder of what makes Ten Thousand Villages so special. By putting producers and artisans first, we make a safe and sustainable livelihood possible for everyone involved.

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