What would you do if disaster struck your family twice in the same year? That was Sarala Shai’s reality a couple of years ago.
Shai, a maker working in the felting department for the Association for Craft Producers (ACP) in Nepal, was already struggling with the death of her father when the violent 7.8-magnitude earthquake struck the country – followed shortly by a 7.3-magnitude aftershock – killing 9,000 people, injuring over 22,000 and leveling approximately 800,000 homes.
In Canada, it’s nearly impossible to imagine that level of destruction and human suffering. When we travelled to Nepal and met Shai on our visit to ACP at the end of 2015, she was still living in a shelter with other residents who had lost their homes. Her story was hardly unique. According to reports, more than 600,000 Nepalese people were still homeless, a year after the earthquake.
Luckily, Shai had the good fortune to work with ACP, a Ten Thousand Villages artisan partner and not-for-profit fair trade organization. ACP provides design, marketing, management and technical services to low-income artisans. Launched in 1984 with just 38 makers, the organization has grown to work with over 1,000 makers (90 per cent women), employs 60 full-time staff members and creates crafts in 20 different categories.
Most importantly, ACP has given makers like Shai paying work, even in the aftermath of the earthquake disaster. To make the felt pieces, women can work from home (or wherever they live at the time), so they can look after children and contribute to their family’s income.
“What ACP has done, I will never forget for the rest of my life,” Shai told us.
It’s a sentiment that Meera Bhattarai, ACP executive director, hears often. ACP also provides benefits to workers that range from a retirement pension program and a shorter-term savings program, to paid maternity and paternity, medical allowance and education support for workers’ girls. ACP also pays cash on delivery of finished goods.
“Workers are very loyal to us because they know we are loyal to them,” said Bhattarai.
ACP also gives women access to jobs that are traditionally reserved for men including copper work and hammering. In short, ACP opens up new worlds of employment.
These are just some of the reasons why Ten Thousand Villages is proud to partner with ACP and give its makers access to the Canadian market. You’ve likely seen their felted products (handcrafted the traditional way without the use of chemicals) and their popular nativity sets.