Caroline Meets the People in Nepal

In March, Caroline and Kate from Traidcraft’s Digital Marketing and Product Development teams joined our Meet the People tour to the Himalayan Kingdom of Nepal. Here, Caroline tells us a little bit about the special places she visited, and the people she met…

I haven’t travelled all that much really. I’ve been around Europe and the US, but I’d never ventured across to Asia or Africa, and I’d always regretted not travelling more when I was younger and had fewer commitments. Though everything always seems easier in hindsight!

When the opportunity came up to go along on a Meet the People tour I was initially a little bit nervous. I didn’t really know what to expect on an organised tour – would I like it? What would my fellow travellers be like? The world is a huge place, and the range of countries and tours was mind-blowing – there’s so much to see and do!

But when I read the Nepal itinerary, something clicked. Starting in magical and vibrant Kathmandu, we’d travel west to relaxing Pokhara, south to the forested Chitwan National Park, and then east to watch the sunrise over the mountains from Dhulikhel, before returning again to Kathmandu. Everything would already be organised, and a local Newa: guide would be there to meet us and show us the real Nepal. I signed up, and before I knew it, I was on my way!

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Nepal is a country of colour, spirituality, and warm welcomes. Hardly a moment passed by when I didn’t have my camera in my hand, ready to take a quick snap of a golden temple, pagoda, or palace – not to mention the distant glint from snow-capped mountains, and the otherworldly lavender mist each morning at dawn. From feeding elephants and crocodile-spotting to listening to traditional folk musicians and seeing living heritage in action in old Bhaktipur – I can hardly believe all the different sights, experiences, and flavours I encountered.

Rice FieldsDuring the tour our group got to meet a range of traditional artisans, from paper-crafters and ceramicists to expert weavers and knitters. My job requires me to write about Traidcraft producers a lot, but it’s a completely different experience to visit them in person. The first group we visited was the Women’s Skills Development Organization in Pokhara. We were given a tour around the site and the chance to watch the artisans at work, from the spinning and dyeing to weaving and finishing. Since 1975, this not-for-profit programme has been supporting women facing significant social and economic hardships, offering them free training and employment opportunities in a social and safe environment.

Meeting PeopleNext, we visited Kumbeshwar Technical School (KTS), an inspirational organisation offering training and employment to craftspeople in Kathmandu. Since starting out, Kumbeshwar have set up a primary school to educate local disadvantaged children, and even an orphanage! It was incredibly moving to see how happy the children were and to hear stories about the craftspeople who started out with very little and ended up working for Kumbeshwar long-term, supporting families of their own with their income. We’ll be selling a few woven products from Kumbeshwar in our Autumn collection, so you can look forward to hearing lots more about this organisation.

GPI SchoolAnd of course, a trip to Nepal wouldn’t have been complete without a visit to Get Paper Industries! Fair Traders and Retailers who’ve been with Traidcraft for even a little while will have heard of GPI – a handmade paper products co-operative which uses waste cotton, paper, and agricultural materials like banana fibre, straw, and water hyacinth to craft home accessories, gifts, cards, and packaging. We visited the artisans at work and visited the Anita Milan International Academy – set up with GPI’s aid to educate local children. Our welcome at GPI was phenomenal! I won’t spoil the surprise for any of you who visit in the future, but I’ll just say that it was an experience I’ll never forget.

PapermakingAnd finally, we visited the HQ of Mahaguthi, who market a range of handcrafted Nepalese wonders to the world. From weavers and embroiders to leather-workers and jewellery-makers, Mahaguthi offer traditional artisans a global audience for their heritage crafts. A highlight of the visit was meeting some of the traditional potters in their workshop on the outskirts of Kathmandu.

I returned to the UK at the end of March, and I’m still remembering all the places I went and the emotions I felt. Taking part on an organised tour meant I saw so much more than I would have going it alone, and I didn’t have to worry about the logistics of transport or finding somewhere to eat. It was wonderful to share the experience with so many different fellow travellers too, hearing different perspectives and stories along the way. Some of my group had been on lots of Meet the People Tours before – a sure sign that the tours all have something different to offer. I know if I get the opportunity to go on another tour I will. But the question now is, where to next…?

You can find more information on our tour to Nepal by downloading the tour dossier here. The tour dossier contains a day by day itinerary and more travel advice on the holiday.

MTP NepalTo browse the full range of Meet the People holidays have a look on our website www.meetthepeopletours.co.uk or order your copy of our brochure by clicking here. You can also call Hannah in the office on 0191 2651110 or email us at info@skedaddle.com if you have any questions or want to check availability on any of our departures.

Discovering fair trade in Sri Lanka

Following their tour earlier this year, David and Ann share with us their experiences of meeting the people in Sri Lanka 

What does fair trade look like at the sharp end where tea is picked, toys manufactured, and fabric woven? Who are the people who create the fair trade products we buy in our local fair trade shop and sell on the Saturday morning fair trade stall in our Church? What would it be like to meet them face to face and see their country through their eyes rather than through the eyes of the tourist?

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These were some of the questions which prompted us to book for a Traidcraft ‘Meet the People’ Tour. We decided on the one to Sri Lanka because David had for many years wanted to find out about the land where his grandfather had been a missionary a hundred years ago. It proved to be absolutely the right decision as we explored this beautiful island meeting the people as well as visiting some of the places any visitor must see such as the ancient cities of Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa and the Temple of the Tooth in Kandy. We even spent half a day on a beach!

But for us fair trade was the priority. What did we learn about the process of producing the fair trade products we buy in the UK? We learned first of all, of course, that it is about work! We were familiar with the pictures of smiling workers standing in flourishing fields; and we found that they do smile! But they also have to work very hard, as we discovered when we visited the Greenfield Tea Estate where Ann tried her hand at tea picking. She says: “I was left full of admiration for the women working in quite difficult conditions on steep hillsides using their skill and knowledge and accepting the intruders we were with such grace”.

Ann picking tea

At the top of the hill where the tea bushes grow is the factory where the tea is processed, from the drying of the green leaves to getting the tea ready for dispatch. This estate is certified organic and fair trade and has recently created its own ‘Organic Life’ brand for sale in London and on the internet (http://www.organiclifeteas.com). Compared with the huge tea estates which cover the Sri Lankan hillsides as far as the eye can see, fair trade is only 2% of the Sri Lankan tea market, but this farm is a sign and symbol of what can be achieved when workers and management work together.

We had the privilege of meeting the ‘Joint Body’, which is elected by the workers and is made up of some twenty people, women and men, young and more mature, some well-educated and some who have had little educational opportunity. After they had greeted us with singing, dancing, and cake, we sat with them to hear about their life and achievements. We noted at the time that this is a ‘well-focused and thoughtful group of people’. They are certainly enterprising: with the fair trade premium (that bit extra we pay when we buy a fair trade item) they have built a substantial community centre, they support the community’s children in their education, and they plan to buy a bus which will run on the route to Colombo, some eight hours away, thus improving the bus service for the community whilst at the same time making a useful profit.

Continuing the theme of work, we made a number of factory visits where we were able to see how fair trade products are made and talk with leading people in each company.

At Selyn (www.selyn.lk) we were stunned by their beautiful colourful fabrics and toys – we bought table mats and David bought a shirt. Equally stunning is their close attention to caring for the environment (great care taken to render non-toxic the waste product of their dying plant) and their care of the workers (we saw the nursery where the children of the weavers are cared for and shared their excellent meal). We visited a huge warehouse now full of people working hard making toys, cushion covers, and much more. It was stifling and conditions seemed poor, but we learned that fair trade accreditation encourages firms constantly to improve their working practices and conditions will be transformed when they shortly move into a purpose-built air-conditioned factory.

Sri Lanka 01We could go on the write about: the compost coir block factory where the waste husks of coconuts are transformed into peat-free compost for UK gardens; the Maximus elephant dung factory where elephant dung comes in at one end and beautiful paper products come out of the other; and Ma’s Spice Factory where we saw the production process and sampled the end product when they served us lunch. They even persuaded us to try our hand at cooking!

So are we still fair trade enthusiasts? We certainly are! But of course there is a lot more to it than the brief explanation of the back of a packet of fair trade tea. We became aware of how much there is still to do to bring working and living standards to the level those of us who buy their products enjoy, and of the importance of the standards set by organisations like the World Fair Trade Organisation and Traidcraft in encouraging organisations to achieve their standards.

Sri Lanka 02Perhaps most of all, we became aware of the hard daily work done by thousands of people so that we can enjoy products so well-designed, well-made, and beautifully packaged that they are attractive to us in the West who have such a wide range of goods to choose from. It is certainly worth paying that bit extra to buy fair trade!

Our many thanks to David and Ann for sharing with us this article which was originally published in the Methodist Recorder

For more photos, information and a day by day itinerary on our tour to Sri Lanka visit our website at www.meetthepeopletours.co.uk/srilanka, call us in the office on 0191 2651110 or email us at info@skedaddle.com

Meet Get Paper Industries, our friends in Nepal

Following the fascinating journey along Kathmandu’s crowded roads, and past temples and busy shops, we arrive to the warmest of welcomes from the team at GPI (Get Paper Industries). Coming from the bustle of Kathmandu, there’s a sense of calm at GPI, but what also comes across quickly is the strong work ethic, and a palpable sense of pride in producing only the best quality paper products.

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Established in 1985 as a family papermaking business, GPI’s aim is to provide decent, sustainable employment for people in the local area. We listen intently as Milan Bhattarai speaks plainly of the challenges they see around them in Nepal, and be it business, inequality or environmental, there are many. But Milan’s focus is not on the challenges, it’s on the solutions and it’s inspiring to hear the sense of fun and daring in some of the imaginative solutions they have pioneered.

GPI has been recognised with several environmental performance, social achievement and business excellence awards. They provide a very friendly and comfortable working environment, with a meal provided at lunchtime, and with tea and tiffin facilities for breaks. Approximately 50% of the employees are women, wages are above the national average and around double the government’s legal minimum wage. There is also a profit sharing scheme, production bonuses, and workers have access to advances and interest free loans from GPI. As we walk through the production rooms we see the skill and speed at which the beautiful coloured paper is made and finished, and meet the amazing people behind it all.Brushing_the_paper_26301

And it’s not just about the people, GPI embraces an environmentally friendly approach to producing handmade paper and paper products using waste materials like cotton rags, paper, banana fibre, straw and water hyacinth. The paper is dried in the sun and there is a waste water treatment plant in place.Drying_paper_26294

As well as the Body Shop being a supportive buyer of paper for many years, Anita Roddick herself had an enormous influence on GPI and her presence is still felt throughout the organisation. The school closest to GPI is named the ‘Anita Milan school’ after her and the founder of GPI. One of the highlights of our visit is meeting the teachers and children, learning about the scholarships provided for local families and celebrating the successes GPI has achieved in supporting access for girls in the community to a good education.Pupils_at_Anita_Milan_International_School_26261

In 1993 GPI formed General Welfare Pratisthan (GWP) to deliver development activities such as girls’ education, HIV / AIDS awareness, and environmental projects. Human trafficking, particularly of young women, is a major problem in Nepal where up to 15,000 people are trafficked each year. GWP has a number of successful projects giving women and their families alternative income generation schemes in the most affected areas and continues to raise awareness of the issues.

DSC_8929_44444Rather than allocating a percentage of profits, GPI dedicate 4% of the total of all their invoices to GWP to ensure a higher level of financial support even in years where profit is low.

On Traidcraft’s website you can find giftwrap, cards, gift bags and writing sets from GPI and learn more about their product development support which has enabled them to work with other buyers and diversify into new areas like felt-making.

GPI are one of the amazing producer groups we meet as we discover Nepal. For more details of our visits the you can find lots more on our Nepal Holiday Page or by contacting us in the office on 0191 2651110 or info@skedaddle.com

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Southern India: An Insider’s View

Rachael and Simon enjoy a Taste of Southern India!

Traidcraft’s Product Manager Rachael Colquhoun and Key Account Manager Simon Pickersgill set off on our Meet the People Tour of Southern India in January. Rachael reports on the first week of their tour, revealing just how much of an adventure they are having…

When I was first asked if I’d like to be part of the India Meet the People tour I didn’t hesitate in saying yes and Simon was exactly the same. Meeting the people behind products is something we’ve both wanted to do since joining Traidcraft and we couldn’t wait to be on our way. When writing this at the end of our first week, the trip has been everything we hoped it would be and more.

After a long journey of 26 hours we finally arrived in Kalpetta which is a town in Wayanad district in the Indian state of Kerala and since then it’s been full steam ahead. It’s still quite surreal that we are actually here and experiencing this whole new vibrant culture and I am loving what each new day brings. Curry at every meal time is talking a bit of getting used to, but when in Rome!

On our second day we visited coffee farmers from Fair Trade Alliance Kerala (FTAK) who produce our classic blend coffee. The two hour drive up the mountains flew by as I gazed out of the window taking in the breath taking scenery. I was surprised to see that you don’t go far in India without coming across a village decorated with brightly coloured houses and shops selling an array of items – everything from fruit, mostly bananas, to sheets of shiny roof metal!

We visited three farmers at FTAK who were incredibly friendly and welcoming. Whilst coffee is their main crop they also have others on their land including pepper, oranges, coconut, pineapple, tapioca and rubber to name but a few.

It was interesting to find out that a number of the farmers are moving into organic coffee as pesticides are expensive and they receive more for organic beans. The majority of the beans grown by FTAK are Robusta, as it is more suited to the land and yields higher crops for the farmers. It was great to see that all of the farmers that we visited had electricity and their own well.

FTAK is clearly an innovator in the fair trade movement, going above and beyond fair trade by developing a strategy called ‘fair trade plus three’. The strategy focuses on biodiversity, food security and gender equality. In three years their goal is to go from 4,000 farmers to 10,000 – for farmers to become more self-sufficient and bring women to the front line and empower them. They are also encouraging biodiversity which is encouraging.

After a busy morning FTAK were very kind and hosted us for lunch which was welcomed after a busy morning in the farms and we were not disappointed. Lunch was served up on a banana leaf, a good way to save on washing up! It was beautifully presented and tasted delicious with a stark contrast of fresh and crisp coconut and spicy peppercorn. All finished off with some cardamom water. It certainly beat my usual lunch of soup at Traidcraft HQ hands down!

 

IMG_3835 (2)On Tuesday we met a cashew nut farmer and some members of his family. Like many farmers they have diversified and are now growing rubber trees, although it will take 7 years before a harvest. Simon made lots of new friends when a group of children from the neighbourhood took a shine to him, amazingly they are now adding Simon on Facebook!

In the afternoon we visited the coconut processing factory which was something I was really looking forward to and I was not disappointed! We saw how they make dried coconut, coconut oil and virgin coconut oil which was a very long, hot and noisy process! We also met Tommy Matthews, founder of FTAK, a truly inspirational leader and fair trade pioneer that described fair trade as ‘an iceberg in a sea of poverty’. A definite highlight of my trip so far!

Today we’ve visited a church and synagogue and museum and have a free afternoon to have a look around Kochi, an old port which is very different to our last destination and is far more catered to tourists and back packers. I quite liked being off the beaten track but it’s nice to have cold water again and pancakes for breakfast!

An incredible first week in India and if this week is anything to go by I have high hopes for the rest of the trip!

For more details on our A Taste of Southern India Tour then you can click here to view the holiday page or you can request a tour dossier here.

For more photos from Rachael and Simon and from all of our Southern India Tours you can browse our Flickr Gallery here.

For more information about any of our tours and to ask questions please contact Lizzie or Paul at Skedaddle on 0191 2651110 or email us at info@skedaddle.co.uk

Western India: A sneak peek…

Alison Marsh headed off to Asia to explore our Western India tour. We caught up with her to find out how she got on:

Few are strangers to the pearly white majesty of the Taj Mahal, just one of the amazing features you can discover during our Western India Tour. Whilst one of India’s most impressive historical gems awaits in Western India, even greater national treasures can be discovered here as we explore some of the country’s best crafts, as well as the people behind these exquisite creations.

Having heard of the amazing experiences up for grabs and with the exotic sights of India on her travel bucket list, Alison headed off on our Indian adventure to soak up the sights for herself. Here’s what she thought of our tour:

The best bits…
India has always held a fascination for me so I was delighted when I had the opportunity to accompany the Western India tour. It was amazing! We visited Traidcraft producers including Creative Handicrafts, Aravali block printers and Tara stone works was truly inspirational, and possibly the most heart-warming highlight of the tour for me was St Mary’s. We also visited other projects, which included Shrujan and Qasab, where exquisite hand embroidery and textiles are produced using traditional techniques. I was totally captivated by the skill and commitment of the women in the villages, who produce the finest embroidery I have ever seen.

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Other highlights…
We also visited Agrocel to learn about their organic farming methods and the Vivekananda Research & Training Institute where we were treated to a delightful cultural show by the school children. Let’s not forget about the tourist visits which included spectacular temples, historic buildings, the amazing Amber Fort at Jaipur (my personal favourite), the Red Fort at Agra and of course the Taj Mahal, which needs no introduction!

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Food for thought…
Everyone loves food and no-one more than me! The choice in India was amazing and simply delicious, especially the lunchtime buffets that were prepared for us by the producers. The options were mainly vegetarian, particularly in the more rural areas we visited, with meat and fish more widely available in the bigger cities. Full of spices, of course, but there was always a choice from mild to really spicy, and, if you wanted a break, then pasta, noodles and pizza were usually available too.

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My top tips
Hey I could wax lyrical all day, but you have to see it for yourself to truly appreciate it. Having sampled the delights of this extraordinary country I have two pieces of wisdom that I think could help make your experiences that little bit better:

  1. Travel with an open mind
  2. Allow yourself to be immersed in the sights, sounds and chaos that makes India truly unique.

I’m sold and I’m sure you will be too.

Whilst away Alison managed to lend her hand to some videography and for a real flavour of this tour, check out our first ever Meet the People video below:

Alison took on our Crafts and Cotton of Western India tour. For more information about this tour click here, call us in the office on 0191 2651110 or email us at info@skedaddle.com.

Producer Highlight: St Mary’s Embroidery and Tailoring

Where: India
Trip: Crafts and Cotton of Western India

How did the project start?
This embroidery project was set up up in 1970 in the slum area of Gomtipur, Ahmedabad. It grew from work of the Spanish Dominican sisters who arrived in Ahmedabad in 1954. The sisters of St Mary’s are therefore both Indian and Spanish.

How does it work?
Production began, leading to the sewing and embroidery centre, where women use traditional skills to make beautiful handicrafts. Today there are 400 women embroidering in their own homes and 50 working at St Mary’s.

How does this benefit the community?
St Mary’s employs disadvantaged local women and provides income and social support in an area where opportunities are scarce and women can be disempowered. Work also gives the women a sense of identity and helps the break -down of cultural rivalries.

St Mary’s also has an associated clinic, maternity unit and nursing home – with a mother and child care programme. In addition it has a social programme based in the surrounding area. Based in a mixed Hindu, Muslim and Christian area has provided a tough history in the past with riots forcing many to leave their homes. St Mary’s was a place of refuge during troubles and has worked with other agencies on re-housing and rehabilitation for the future.

An example of their amazing work…
Traidcraft contributes to approximately 10% of the company’s sales and St Mary’s crafts can be found on their website. Click here to see an example of their products which you can purchase.

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Feeling inspired? If you’d like to meet the inspiring women behind this project join us on our Western India tour where you get the chance to visit St Mary’s and watch the creation of these incredible crafts. For more information click here.

Celebrating Women around the World

In celebration of World Fair Trade Day we wanted to share the stories of some of the most amazing women behind the products you’ll visit with us. So, time then to check out our top 4 fairtrade products and the women behind them:

  1. Vietnam – Crafts. We visit Mai handicrafts, an organisation set up in 1990 by two women, which aims to help poor, disadvantaged women in Vietnam by helping to sell their local handicrafts both internationally and locally. The women’s work here is incredibly diverse, ranging from lovely fabric purses to the popular crochet items.
  2. Peru – Alpaca knits. The women of the Collosuyo communities in the high Andes always provide a fantastically warm welcome when we visit! Having been mastering this dramatic landscape for years, they know a thing or two about spinning a fine fabric from the Alpacas that they live alongside!
  3. Thailand – Hand-made silk products. Travellers to Northern Thailand will have the pleasure of meeting the inspiring women from the Panmai cooperative, who have masterfully developed and shared their traditional silk-spinning, natural dyeing and weaving skills. This is an inspirational effort ensuring their rural community can help support their young people.
  4. Swaziland – Chillis. One of our new tours for 2017 is an incredibly exciting tour in Africa, visiting the chilli grandmothers of Swaziland! For the past five years, these ladies have been growing chillis for Black Mamba’s range of sauces and pestos. Keep your eyes peeled for more information!

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Thailand: A Postcard

A Fairtrader for over twenty years, Julie Miles often found herself reading about other people’s Meet The People holidays. She and her husband David longed to sign up for a tour, and after years of aspiring- they finally did it! Here she shares her unforgettable memories of our Thailand tour. 

Visiting silk producers in Ban No Pho:
Including spending the night in a chalet in the grounds of their enterprise. The project was led by an energetic and inspirational lade who is passionate about providing work for women in the area. Watching the women work as they prepared orders was fascinating.

silkAn evening visit to a temple:
It was magnificent and looked particularly beautiful in the evening sunlight. A peaceful time allowing us to reflect on the amazing things we had seen and experienced.

templeThe day spent with Tui & Brian on their organic rice farm:

Here we experienced working in the paddy fields and collecting giant snails which hold protect the rice plants. Fortunately, we didn’t eat snails! We also spent some time with local school children who showed us how to make table decorations from flowers and fruit.

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Our day with elephants:
Such an exhilarating experience being so close to these magnificent, clever animals with their amazing trunks. David also enjoyed learning how to make paper from elephant dung… an amazingly non-smelly process!

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“We visited so many places which ordinary tourists would not have even known existed. We feel really privileged to have been able to have such wonderful experiences and now feel we’re in a better position to talk about the ins and outs of fair trade.”

You can find out more information about our tour to Thailand on our holiday page by clicking here.

For any questions and to check availability you can call Hannah in the office on 0191 2651110 or you can email us at info@skedaddle.com.

Vietnam: A behind-the-scenes look

Gateway World Shop’s Manager, and member of the BAFTS Board, Hazel Dobson, signed up for a Traidcraft Meet the People Tour to Vietnam last Autumn. She had previously visited Peru and Kathmandu on producer trips and thought her gallivanting days were over! She opted for Vietnam as it was a challenge for her to find out about a country which she had only ever associated with a horrific war in the 1960s, when she was a teenager. It was somewhere she would otherwise never had thought of visiting.

The visit was almost three weeks in total, with internal flights, two long road journeys, and two by river. The tour covered almost the entire country in that space of time (the bright orange country on the map). Vietnam is a long thin country with its Eastern coast bordering what the Vietnamese call the Indo-China Sea. It was a French colony from the middle of the 1800s and the people suffered a lot under the French. Vietnam is now a Communist Country -this was the reason for the Americans entering the war in the 1960s. Hazel was rarely aware of this fact on her visit, as visitors are very well catered for. Half the current population of 90 million is under the age of 25. Vietnam aspires to be a first-world country, and has good trade relations with Australia, but Russia is never mentioned. It seems to have a mixture of Hinduism, Buddhism, and veneration of dead relatives as its main religions.

Her tour embraced many stops, including Hanoi (North), the capital City, Hoi An (about halfway down the country) and Saigon (in the South). Vietnam was very green and agriculture appeared good, with an abundance of fish and prawns. Livestock at local markets was still “on the hoof” alongside a never-ending array of noodles!

In terms of suppliers, the visitors went to see “Craft Link“, one of Traidcraft‘s suppliers, with over 40 artisan groups and around 5,000 artisans in the North of Vietnam. They work with many minority groups, (about 12% of the population) and a few traditional tribes who have been left behind as the economy improved. Typical crafts include lacquer works involving crushed egg shells, from designs created from the artisans’ own imagination or memory, or carving mother-of-pearl shells for the inlay.  This long process is repeated many times, dipped in lacquer, dried then rubbed smooth.

Some entire villages make furniture from bamboo, and smoke the wood first to harden it. Craft Link supports this industry by giving training in marketing their products, which are for local markets, not for export.

There were also visits to a social enterprise in the city of Hue, in which Traidcraft has had some input. It provides work opportunities for disabled and disadvantaged young people. One particular project stood out in Hoi, a fair trade project called “Reaching Out” for severely disabled young adults, many of whom were deaf-mute, and a silent tea room. This project has concentrated on marketing themselves locally and with great success. They produce bedding, tableware, woven and metal goods and more.

The tour included Mai Handicrafts, a Traidcraft supplier, and visiting some crocheting projects, in Central and Southern Vietnam. They saw workers packaging items and doing quality checks at Mai Handicrafts, as well as creating recycled paper products, although there was some doubt as to whether this project would be sustainable in the long-term.  All in all, there were some excellent social enterprises and fair trade businesses doing their best to keep traditional skills alive and work with some of the most vulnerable and marginalised members of their society.

Our next tour to Vietnam will be departing next November. Click here for more details or contact us in the office for more information and to check availability. You can call Hannah on 0191 2651110 or email us at info@skedaddle.com

Postcards from Western India

Penny and Dan joined a Meet the People Tour to Western India in February 2014, calling in at Mumbai, Kutch, Jaipur, and Delhi to name just a few! 

Here’s their five most memorable moments of the trip:

1. Lunch with a cotton farmer and his extended family on their farm in rural Kutch. We were greeted with music and flowers and treated as honoured guests, which made us feel humble.

Visiting St Mary's producers2. The opportunity and privilege to be welcomed by women embroiderers into their own homes in the poorer districts of Ahmedabad and Bhuj. It was a unique chance to compare our lives with theirs, to find out what is different in the way they live, and what is the same.

3. The holiday included not only the world famous tourist sights of the Taj Mahal and Jaipur’s Amber Fort, but also guided tours well off the well-worn tourist trail, along the back streets and slums of Mumbai, Agra and Ahmedabad. An endless supply of temples and monuments, cities and villages.

Group at Taj Mahal

4. Travelling by train, auto-rickshaw, and elephant through the most spectacular and diverse country in the world. Every second was spent gazing out of the window at something new and amazing (note, the elephant did not have windows!)

Painted elephant at amber fort nr Jaidpur

5. The many new friends we were reluctant to leave behind, and the new friends we brought back with us.

On their return, Dan and Penny created this short piece with video and images from their trip. We hope you will enjoy watching it as much as we did!

Find more details about our tour of Western India click here. Alternately contact Hannah in the office on 0191 2651110 or email info@skedaddle.com for an update on availability and more information.