Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Mae Sot Landfill Visit

Izara Arts works with several Thai, Burmese and Laotian minority groups promoting Fair Trade work. The organization is always looking for ways to increase its producer group and quality product range by providing fair wages for handicraft work. You can read more about our other producer groups here.

Last month, we took a trip to Mae Sot, Thailand, a town on the Burma/Thai border where tens of thousands of Burmese refugees live in the community, trying to make a life for themselves and their children. While there, we met with three different Burmese groups and commissioned them to start a few new projects for us. Izara Arts recently went on a little road trip to Mae Sot to catch up with some of our prospective producers.

A newfound producer and her daughter standing next to their 
wonderful display of rugs made from scraps at the dump.
Our biggest surprise came from a woman who is currently living at the Mae Sot landfill. She is a mother of four who fled to Thailand for a better life for her children - even if that means living on a landfill. She and her daughter collect plastic bags and bottles out of the landfill, making only 70 baht per day. Two weeks ago Izara Arts showed a Burmese women in the local community an instructional video about making rugs from rags. IA supplied the materials and tools needed to make the first trial rugs. Then our 'new trainer' showed the women in the landfill how to weave rugs from fabric scraps easily found at the dump. We left her to see what she could do with no interference.  When we visited her, she had not only completed 10 rag rugs, but we could see a great product emerging.

Taking a look at the bag of fabric scraps.
Our next task was to talk business! We know she can find the scraps from the dump, but were made aware that local textile companies throw huge bags of scraps away weekly she could use, rather than having to dig through the landfill for them. She showed us her bag and she had tons of great colors to work with so we explained to her some different color options and styles of rugs. We bought 10 rugs from her upfront, to encourage a trusting relationship and asked her to make a couple more for the next day - using the information we told her about the colors and styles.

Explaining a color wheel and how some 
colors work together better than others.
Now that we've confirmed a producer, we have to find the market. We've been in contact with a few of the Fair Trade Shops in Mae Sot, the local market is going to be the best bet for selling them. We're also asking the local restaurants and guesthouses if they'd buy them for decor, as well as stock them in their establishment. Setting up a market for our new producer and making sure she'll have a viable income source from the rugs, she'll be able to get her and her family off the landfill and into a much safer and healthier lifestyle.

No comments:

Post a Comment