Apr

29

Who makes EllieFunDay’s Baby Blankets?

Back posting from India! Monday, Feb 10th

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Today I got to meet the ladies that make our blankets. As we sat around in a circle on mats, they told me how hard it was to start making these baby blankets because this was an entirely new project. At many times they were almost ready to give up on the baby blankets, but they persisted. One lady finally shared with us how working at Flowering Desert has given her dignity in society and that she is proud of the work that she gets to do. My heart swelled and I started to feel my eyes well up with tears. After 6 months of R&D and production; our Stitched Wonder blankets has been worth the stress, the sleepless nights and the emotional roller coaster.

I got to sit with them during tea time and shared some goodies we brought. As I observe the bare bones sewing unit I knew that these blankets that they produced are a miracle in itself. These women are not factory workers that have been trained to produce at a high rate. They sit in clusters on the floor hand-stitching each blanket with care and they mingle amongst each other. One might help another out if there is a problem, another might tease her neighbor if she’s made a mistake. I get such a sense of sisterhood and warmth. This is true empowerment at it’s best. Slow fashion is NOT mass produced, it is made with intention and integrity while preserving the maker. This is what handcrafted for life means.

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Nov

21

POSSIBILITIES PROJECT // DAY 5 // COTTON MILL VISIT

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.

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Nov

14

Possibilities Project – Days 1 and 2 > Navigating Kolkata

Oh Kolkata…

After two days of Kolkata, I couldn’t help but feel overwhelmed. The chaos, the poverty, the amount of effort it takes just to get something done. I was reminded that we have a long road ahead filled with many challenges. I had to take a few deep breaths, relax myself, remind myself why we’re doing what we’re doing.

A few glimpses into our day:

We were trying to find bottled water to drink, but not all bottled water comes from a reliable source. Back home, I casually go to the tap or buy a reputably branded bottle from a large retailer. But we had trouble finding a store that even resembled a 7-11. And many of the bottles sold by street vendors seemed like that had already been used and just refilled with tap water. It took us a while, but we found a store and got our water rations for the week.

In our efforts to find the stores, we used addresses off Google and a random map we found at home. As we were roaming the streets looking for the stores, the map we had didn’t seem to have all the streets and the street names didn’t all match up. Later we read in a tour book that there are very few maps for Kolkata because most of the street names have changed [after British rule] and there are just too many little alleys to put on a map.

When we walked back last night, all the streets near our guest house were lined with people sprawled out on the side walk. They weren’t in line buying Harry Potter tickets or protesting the wealthy one percent. They were bathing in the gutter water, sleeping on thin straw mats and for a few, embracing the one whom they could call their own. It was sobering moment for everyone on our team.

Tomorrow we meet with Sari Bari who free women in the sex trade by making handbags and home textiles. We’re so encouraged by the work they’ve been doing and look forward to learning and observing. Companies like this remind us that though the challenge is great, there are courageous people willing to go into hard places to make a difference.

Thanks for following! More to come!

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