Celebrating 30 years – Ngwenya Glass in Swaziland

It has been 30 years since the Prettejohn family came to Swaziland and brought life back to the Ngwenya Glass Factory. Today Ngwenya Glass is still run by the Prettejohn family, employs over 70 people and supplies customers with its creations worldwide.

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For Ngwenya Glass ‘green’ is a way of life. Environmental considerations are integral to its production values. All products are made from 100% recycled glass, old engine and KFC oil is purchased, purified and used to fuel the furnace, effectively disposing of used oil. Old newspaper is used for packaging and rainwater catchments are used within the production.

Ngwenya also donate a percentage of worldwide sales to wildlife conservation in the Mkhaya Game Reserve, as well as supporting numerous orphanages and charities in Swaziland and South Africa.

Ngwenya

We visit the Ngwenya factory on our Swaziland tour which gives us a great opportunity to watch the art of glassblowing from the overhead balcony above the roaring furnace. We’ll hear of the importance and the benefits of fair trade and in the gift shop we can appreciate the finished works of art that have passed through 11 sets of skilled hands belonging to craftsmen and quality control.

Watch this video of the Ngwenya story…

For more information on our tours in Swaziland click here for our website or contact Hannah in our office on info@skedaddle.com or 0191 2651110. 

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

Nepal Temple

Cocoa, Bananas and Palm Oil…

Meet the People travellers Arton and Christine tell us about their experiences during our wonderful tour in Ghana.

Ten degrees in Lancaster in mid November seems very cold a day after returning from Ghana where the midday maximum was over 30 degrees. We were part of a group of twelve people whose interest in fair trade had caused us all to use our holiday money on a Traidcraft  ‘Meet the People’ tour to Ghana visiting  growers of fair trade cocoa, palm oil and bananas.

Divine Chocolate

Within twenty four hours after landing in Manchester we were in the Parish Hall setting out the Traidcraft stall which sold cleaning products that used palm oil, and Divine chocolate made from the cocoa grown in the areas that we had just visited. The contrast in weather could be felt but the direct link between us and the producers also felt very strong.

The fortnight included visits to cultural centres and Kakum National Park, a cruise on Lake Volta, and an exposure to the barbarities of slavery – inland at Slave River, and on the coast at Elmina Castle where, branded and shackled, slaves were forcibly embarked on ships for their transatlantic voyage. These visits are all part of any tourist holiday in Ghana, but our main purpose was to meet people at work on their farms and processing plants, in towns and in villages to see how fair trade was helping them improve their quality of life.

Ghana Beach

The cocoa farmers we visited in Amankwaatia are all members of the Kuapa Kokoo cooperative which has over 80,000 members and produces some 6% of Ghana’s cocoa. The farmers’ smallholdings are about eight acres (3.24ha) in area with about half growing food crops for subsistence and local markets, and the other half growing cocoa trees. When asked what was the main benefit of belonging to a Fairtrade group the answer was that they had been able to build  a school in the village so the children did not have to walk a long way to school.

Serendipalm bags

In the different areas that we visited we saw other schools built from the Fairtrade Premium which is an additional sum of money on top of the minimum price of the product. It is the people themselves who decide how this premium will be spent. There were also new boreholes providing the clean water which was head-loaded in large metal bowls (wider than the shoulders of the teenager carrying them) from the pump back to their home. Improvements to clinics and health services in the villages were other areas chosen for communal benefit.

The palm oil producers farmed in a similar co-operative structure to Kuapa Kokoo and we saw the processing plant on a dark wet evening with smoke and steam from the wood-fired boilers providing scenes reminiscent of a stage-set for Hades.

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We also saw banana processing, and a secondary school built with Fairtrade premium funds. The Fairtade banana growing is large scale with four sites cultivating 600 acres (approx 250ha) of bananas and producing 5000 to 6000 tons of bananas a year. The growing and processing is meticulous with the workers even having pillows on their shoulders so as not to bruise the stems  of bananas as they carry them to the conveyor system.

Trashy Bags Sewing

Other producers we visited included Trashy Bags, who made all sorts of goods from plastic bags, Cedi beads making bangles and necklaces from local materials, and Global Mamas which sells beautiful printed materials and clothing produced by women in their own homes.

So back to the Autumn Sale where by buying fairly traded products from the Craft Aid or ESME stalls (over £700 was taken on the day) you will have helped people much less well off than we are. By continuing to use fair trade goods in your regular shopping throughout the year you can make a real difference to people’s lives.

For more information on our tour to Ghana click here, call Hannah 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.

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

Navigating Nepal…

Meet the People traveller Judy Dixey headed to Nepal to discover the rich treasures and fascinating local culture that await those who venture here…

Many people dream of going to Nepal – some were dreaming when they were actually there, on the hippie trail in the ‘60s; some dream about trekking in the magnificent Himalayas or even taking a flight over Everest; some dream of finding themselves, or their god – Buddha was born in this kingdom at the top of world.

I was privileged to try out a very different kind of Nepal on a trip organised by Saddle Skedaddle on behalf of Traidcraft. Traidcraft is an essentially Christian organisation whose mission is to reduce poverty through trade. It is active in various developing countries throughout the world, empowering people to take control of their lives through working to produce goods which can be traded in the West – whether it’s food, crafts, clothes or homeware. All are produced under at least as good conditions as those demanded under Fair Trade regulations.

Our visit was entitled ‘Meet the People’ who are involved with Fair Trade and Traidcraft; and so we did. We met an inspirational man who’s at the forefront of an organisation – Get Paper Industries – which has drawn disadvantaged women into employment, making hand-made paper, or felt objects. We visited as they were working on a line of paper containers for The Body Shop; so when you next buy items from there, do take note of the little boxes they are packed in – they will probably come from Nepal. He also had the heart and wisdom to see that girls’ education is essential (currently 34% of girls in Nepal do NOT go to school) and to devise schemes to ‘trick’ that caste-based society to ‘Send your daughter to school’. The scheme is to pay 100 rupees (approx 75p) a week to the lower-caste families when their daughter goes to school; this encourages other higher caste families to feel they might be missing out. The notion of ‘keeping up with the Jones’s’ works in Nepal too, so they send their daughters as well.

The company is also active in AIDS awareness, and it is also environmentally aware, so any machinery used is powered by solar energy.

Women at GWP

There is a major issue of young women being trafficked to India for the sex trade; GPI has initiated self-governing networks of girls to confront this issue – over 100 groups now exist of 15 girls, who can guard against the traffickers’ empty temptations of a better life elsewhere, through mutual support and information. They are also provided with the means of earning income and preventing their fathers or brothers from selling them to traffickers – they might be given a goat, which will have kids, and more kids; the goat is a speciality meat at festivals, so is highly valued. We met one such group in the back of beyond, up the most appalling track, which was only passable by jeep or on foot. The girls were meeting together, minuting their discussions and decisions and earning respect from the villagers round about.

GPI Anita Milan School

Our next visit in Pokhara was to the Women’s Skills Development Project, founded by Ram Kali Khadka in 1975. Over 11,000 women have benefitted from her energy and actions and the two shops on the Lake Side Road are packed with imaginative craft work from the 435 current members. They are learning skills such as dyeing, weaving and sewing; some of these are skills we lost 100, 150 or even 200 years ago; but they are useful skills in the context of the country as it is. How could you expect them to be learning IT skills, when there are constant power cuts, and the lighting is barely good enough to read by at night? Of the 435 women working for the Project, some are home workers; 35 are disabled, of whom 11 are blind.

We certainly filled our suitcases with masses of beautifully-made imaginative presents for home and families, very useful as we come up to Christmas.

But the trip wasn’t all serious visits to these projects. There was plenty of time to visit and admire a fraction of the temples and shrines for which Kathmandu has obtained the deserved soubriquet of City of Temples. We also described it as City of Chaos as the traffic is terrifying, there are no traffic lights and policemen in the middle of the road wave and blow whistles to gain some sort of order. Amazingly, we saw no accidents, and drivers squeeze their battered vehicles through tiny spaces, demonstrating significant skill and nerve. Everyone who is not in a battered vehicle is on a motorbike; usually the driver wears the helmet, while the pillion rider takes her life in her hands and doesn’t. Cows, dogs and chickens wander across the road with impunity and somehow survive. The potholes are such that I’ll never complain about those in Britain again!

We also travelled to the Chitwan National Park, where we saw rhino, elephants and deer; at one point a family of wild boar had an argument and charged across our path. We had a highly knowledgeable guide, Kumar, whose wild-life life had begun with 9 years in tiger conservation, and despite no formal education, had accumulated a wealth of knowledge to share.

Nagarkot

And of course, we did get up to see the sunrise. Rosy-fingered dawn did tip the peaks of the Himalayas in front of us, a few minutes before the sun itself actually appeared above the horizon. What an astounding experience.

Our guide, Prajol, had worked with Traidcraft and Skedaddle to ensure we had as rounded a view of Nepal as could be gained in the space of just under two weeks – and many of us have come back with a feeling of sensation- and emotion- overload which will take some time to unpack and process. There is no doubt that there is masses to do there, the infrastructure militates against swift improvement in living conditions, as does the Hindu acceptance of life as it is. But it is better to light a candle than rail against the darkness and that is what I did, in the Mahabuddha, the abode of a thousand Buddhas, in thanks for our visit and as a prayer for peace and enlightenment.

To see more photos visit ICN’s Facebook Page

Many thanks to Judy Dixey for this article and to the Independent Catholic News for allowing us to reproduce it here. To see the original article please click here

If you would like any further information about our tours to Nepal with Traidcraft then please click here. Alternatively, please call Hannah at Skedaddle on 0191 2651110 or email us at info@skedaddle.com.