Homeland Handicrafts of ARMENIA is creating JOBS for women, JOBS in the regions..
...maybe a winter coat or a month of gas heating for a household was paid for today --not through charity, but through the skills of these hard-working women. A small, yet significant victory.
The knitting women came in and presented their wares --over 100 snowflake coasters in a range of colors. Al had ordered a bunch of them, and paid the women then and there. Their faces were precious as they saw the cash lay on the table. Smiles ear to ear. They had earned money for the first time in a long time --hard earned and sorely needed money.
They do not believe in sympathy purchases -a 'poor them' purchase. They want people to buy Homeland Handicraft's products because they are exciting, new, interesting, quality products, good products for the money.
You don't need a million dollars to make a difference. You need only to have a passion for what you do, and the guts to take action. and I do! Homeland Handicrafts is a grass root, non-profit organization dedicated to the creation of jobs for women in the regions of Armenia, using traditional techniques and materials.
A little over a year ago someone asked me why I didn't have a project in Armenia for the creation of jobs through handicrafts, like I work on in Sri Lanka a couple months out of each year. It was the kick in the pants I needed to start Homeland Handicrafts(HH). One year and a bit later, we have had volunteers from the USA, Brazil, and Australia working for us, have participated in a half dozen different fairs, and most importantly of all, have about 40 jobs created. This blog is intended to let you follow us as we make out trips to places like Chinchin, Nerkin Karmiraghbyur and Berd in Shamshadin and Goris and Kapan in Zangezeur, Syunik, Gyumri, Vardenis, Talin and... Hang on tight, it's a bumpy ride!
Why Homeland Handicrafts of Armenia?
Because there are talented artisans throughout Armenia who can't find a market for their products
Because handicrafts can provide a stable income for hundreds if not thousands of individuals in Armenia
Because we believe in the future of Armenia
I want this blog to be a window into the villages, the people, the stories behind the goods that Homeland Handicrafts designs and promotes, not just a string of pictures of nice-looking products.
Armenia doesn't need big bucks projects, it needs lots of small ones. And it doesn't need brilliant new ideas, it needs bodies on the ground to implement them.
Soon I will be going up to Chinchin and help them create a revolving materials fund. They buy yarn and knitting needles and such with the money, make the product, sell the product, and then pay the material cost back into the revolving fund, perhaps with a small interest paid so the fund grows. This will not be a subsidy, it will be a seed that helps the Chinchin group grow. With this generous contribution and a bunch of hard work, we will soon see a growing, sustainable, thriving handicrafts organization in Chinchin.
To think that a year ago we had just started. Homeland Handicrafts was in its infancy (and in many ways, still is!). Still, when I think of the fact that we went to a handful of employed women at this time last year to perhaps up towards 60 today, we have to be happy with the results. The teddy bears from Berd are almost about to be IPOed(just kidding, but big plans are sailing up!), and the crocheted animals from Goris are in more demand than they can produce. Chinchin, a village almost nobody every heard of just a couple months back is now on the map- the home of three wonderful things: Fab handcrafted coasters with a gaggle of determined women behind them, an incredible view out over the mountain tops from the edge of town, and a young determined woman by the name of Mariam Yesayan, whom without we never would have set foot in Chinchin. The House of Hope and Faith in Kapan is churning out those cute little santas and snowmen this year, too, and has added a dragon, next year's Chinese symbol.
The commercial contacts are starting to come. A major telephone company has asked us to locate producers for items they will use in marketing- -by the thousands. An exporter has asked me to put them in contact with talented crocheters and knitters for her clothing collection, so the ladies of Noyemberian and Chinchin have a positive challenge in front of them for next year. Diasporan visitors to Armenia have asked me to take them to our producer groups to see if they can have their product ideas developed her, in Armenia. Good friends in Philadelphia, Boston and LA are clamoring for more products. The ball is starting to roll, and roll quickly.
There is no lack of women wanting to work. We just need to keep plugging away at getting the word out. The bags are packed, let's go create some jobs!
Just yesterday it struck me that perhaps it was time to re-launch a series of exquisitely embroidered cushion covers from the villages of Vayots Dzor. We worked intensively last year on the development of these items after being told a story that borders on modern day slavery. The women in these villages are known for the high quality of their embroidery, their accuracy. And, the women have only a garden and perhaps a beehive from which to create income. That is why Turks in the business of high priced cushion covers and wall hangings regularly send their Armenian representatives to these particular villages and ask the women to fully embroider large pieces of cloth- -because the quality is good, and the women have no other choice. For a piece of cloth the size of a table runner taking two months to embroider, they receive about USD 50, much less than minimum wage in Armenia. The finished pieces are shipped to Turkey and sold at exorbitant prices.
This is not about the Armenian-Turkish relationship. This is about paying a woman a fair wage for a fair day's work.
So we set about asking the women to embroider a much smaller swatch of cloth, and framing it in a nice piece of fabric to match a rich looking cushion cover. They made a few of them, but the market didn't want them for some reason. Expectations were not fulfilled, so we put these products to the side for a year.
Then yesterday I brought them out again. And tonight I have orders for nine cushions from warm-hearted people who know a quality product when they see one.
So tomorrow morning I start breathing new life into those products--because these women deserve it.
In Vardenis (a village near the southern end of Lake Sevan), the need for a new sewing machine was crystal clear. I remember my Mom sewing on an old Singer like they have up there when I was a kid in the 60s, and even then that was a clunker. So I posted a photo and told the story on Facebook- -and it took off. The Norwegian Armenian community circled around the idea of raising money for a new machine first, giving first USD 200, and then another USD 100. Then a U.S. diaspora kicked in with another 500. Within about 6 hours of me posting the request, I had enough to buy them a good, solid machine. Is that not simply amazing?
Making potholders in Verdenis:
WELL! What are you waiting for!http://homeland-handicrafts.blogspot.com/