It takes a village

Posted on: May 21st, 2015 by Lucia No Comments

One of the most important parts of our annual trip to Cambodia is taking the time to meet with our different producer groups. Of course we have a huge “to-do” list that includes finalizing print designs and color choices, approving and ordering samples and learning about future expansion or new training programs that our co-ops are planning. All of the groups we work with are independent businesses—Malia Designs is their customer and our role is to create relevant, fashion forward designs and to serve as the bridge to the Western market.

fairtradevillage

After visiting our most remote village co-op and spending time with the artisans there (and some of their adorable children), I got to thinking about the familiar saying, “It takes a Village.” It’s usually used in relation to raising children, to emphasize the importance that many different individuals can have in their upbringing. I think it also perfectly describes our fair trade artisan partners and all of the individuals that come together to make the Malia Designs business model work.

There are many different roles and positions within our artisan groups and they are all integral in producing a Malia Designs handbag, so it’s pretty easy to draw this correlation. These cut and sew artisans, weavers, pattern makers, book keepers, production managers, sourcing experts and customer relations managers are much more than their respective job titles. They are mothers, fathers, daughters, sons, husbands, wives, survivors, students and community members. And the co-op provides much more than economic opportunity for them.

fairtradevillage

The best part about the time spent with our artisan partners isn’t actually checking the numerous items off of our “to-do” list, but getting to experience the special relationships and familial environment that is fostered among the artisans. They are actively involved in one another’s lives. There are several mentors within the group that offer advice and a caring ear to listen to both work and personal challenges. They work together and celebrate together—laugh together and cry together.

Some individuals entering the co-op are facing significant obstacles, often times this is in the form of an illness or disability. Their employment provides not only a secure and reliable income, but a support system. Their role within the co-op is a natural way for their self esteem and sense of pride to grow. A source of hope. . . that is made possible by your willingness to “carry a cause.”

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