Today we began the first of several visits to cotton mills. Sourcing is such a critical issue for us. On one end, it’s about finding really high quality materials so we can produce a really amazing blankie. But on the other end, we need to know how the cotton was made and who it was made by. We can’t enable freedom on one end and facilitate oppression on the other.
We were driven by the owner of the company to the outskirts of Kolkata and took a thorough tour of the plant. It’s pretty amazing to see the entire cycle: from processing the raw cotton to weaving the fabric to finishing the product. It gave us a very comprehensive view of the manufacturing process.
As we mulled over different fabric samples we had a really interesting conversation with the owner about the overall work environment in West Bengal. He shared that the communist party has been in power for over 30 years (Indian states are independently governed by different political parties, one of which includes the communist party) and their staunch commitment to socialism has left the state and its people in poor shape. Hard work is rarely rewarded and city development has been severely limited.
The owner also shared about how Bengali’s are very resistant to change and that relationships need to be cultivated over many years before you can make any type of progress. But once you have their trust you have it for life.
Even though we won’t be working in Kolkata, we were reminded that there are larger issues to deal with than just “making a blanket” – we’re here to both empower people and develop communities. Because of this, our road ahead may be a little longer than others. But our hope is to see lives changed and for this we’ll walk the longer, less traveled route.