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!

MTP women

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.

Tui Brian

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!

elephants

“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

Malawi making waves

Our tour Magical Malawi is a fantastic chance for travellers to discover this beautiful South East African country. Whilst we’ve known about this regions’s amazing Fairtrade organisations for some time, it’s great to see the world also wisening up to this destination too. Cue our latest media mention from the folks at the Independent, who have featured our tour to Malawi in their top ‘Adventure holidays’. Here’s what they had to say…

Tour operators are increasingly offering visitors the chance to meet local people and give something back during their trip […] Saddle Skedaddle is known for cycling holidays but new for 2016 is a bike-free, 13-day tour of Malawi visiting Fairtrade producers. The Malawi Meet the People tour (0191 265 1110;meetthepeople.skedaddle.co.uk) runs from 4-16 June and gives you the chance to meet Fairtrade coffee farmers and rice producers in their homes and see the real impacts of Fairtrade, as well as visiting national parks. The price of £2,445pp includes 12 nights’ half-board accommodation in locally owned guesthouses, guiding, transfers and donations to the producers visited. Flights not included.

Want to read the Independent article in full? Click here.

For more information about our holiday in Malawi, click here.

Mzuzu coffee in Malawi

Malawi is a little known gem in the heart of Africa, a small country of diverse beauty, friendly people and amazing wildlife. We spend our time in Northern Malawi viewing game and relaxing in one of the country’s incredible national parks before visiting smallholder farmers growing coffee, rice and peanuts. 

Mzuzu - Tenson_Mwenechanya_43550

Our first fair trade visit will be to the farmers who produce the delicious coffee from Traidcraft’s single origin Malawi coffee and we’ll enjoy a cup of coffee while learning about coffee production and the benefits Fairtrade has brought to the cooperative. Moving on to Karonga, we visit rice farmers who have been working with Just Trading Scotland and we’ll visit a school involved in the 90kg of rice ‘send a child to school’ project. We then spend a few days on the shores of magical lake Malawi before our tour draws to a close with a visit to Liberation’s peanut producers close to the border with Zambia.

Malawi (60) LiberationWe work with local partners in Malawi who help us develop our itineraries and provide local guides and logistics for all of our tours. Alongside keeping all of our travellers safe and comfortable, our priority is also to support the local tourism initiatives and businesses, and as we travel and we will visit communities engaged and benefiting from these projects. Our holidays run in June each year during the coffee harvest – the perfect season for travelling as temperatures are warm but not too hot and there is little chance of rain. Malawi is often known as ‘the warm heart of Africa’ and on this tour we can expect beaming smiles and welcoming handshakes everywhere we go!

Click here for more information about our Malawi Holiday and click here to request a tour dossier with a day by day itinerary.

Alternatively contact Lizzie for more information:
Email: lizzie@skedaddle.com or Call: 0191 2651110

A Wanderlust Win

Efrain Valles heads up a team of fantastic guides who lead our Meet the People Tours to Peru and we were delighted to hear Bill Bryson announce him as the overall winner of Wanderlust’s 2014 Tour Guide of the Year Awards.

AwardsWhether it’s the producers you visit or the guides themselves, we know that it’s the people that you meet on our tours that make our trips such a special experience and we’re always delighted for any excuse to celebrate just how fantastic they all are. Wanderlust are the only travel awards to focus specifically on recognising the contribution of tour guides and with the judging being made on the testimonials from previous travellers, this award means so very much to Efrain.

Efrain at Chicuchas Wasi(2)

Efrain guided our very first Traidcraft Meet the People Tour to Peru in August 2008 and has just completed his 12th tour with us this year. In 2012 Efrain came to the UK to run the London Marathon, a lifelong dream and a fantastic opportunity to raise over £5,000 for Traidcraft Exchange and a further £6,500 for Chicuchas Wasi in Peru.

Huge thanks must go to everyone who sent in testimonials about their tours to Peru with us and for those who were able to join us in celebrating with Efrain at the Awards ceremony at the Royal Geographical Society last month. He’s been overwhelmed by the level of support from Traidcraft supporters and we’ll all remember the massive cheer when his name was first announced at the ceremony!

Efrain wins a bursary of £5,000 which will be going to Chicuchas Wasi, a school providing an education for young girls in the Cusco region. It’s a charity really close to Efrain’s heart and we always make a visit to Ruth and the girls at Chicuchas Wasi during our tours and we are looking forward to hearing how they plan to spend the bursary money next year. You can find out more about Chicuchas Wasi on their website by clicking here and for further information about how to stay in touch with the charity and donate through the UK based Friends of Chicuchas Wasi then do get in touch with Lizzie at Skedaddle.

Although Efrain’s trip to the UK was short, he had a great time celebrating with many old friends and even had a little time to enjoy some of the sights of London:

Chased by a train!(1)

For more photos from Efrain’s Adventures in London you can visit our Facebook album here.

We’ve been delighted to see lots of coverage of Efrain and his award all over the British and Peruvian press. For those interested in seeing some of the articles, you can find more on our Facebook page or click the following links:

Wanderlust
The Guardian
The Telegraph

And for those looking to improve their spanish…
La Republica
Canal N

Frecuencia Latina

You can find out more about our tours to Peru by clicking here and to join our tours to Peru with Efrain and the team, chat to 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.

Shop till you drop in Vietnam

Our tour in Vietnam is packed full of character and charm, so it’s great to see this tour featured  in a double page spread in The Guardian, thanks to journalist Liz Boulter. Didn’t manage to grab yourself a copy? Here’s a preview below…

Mai Chau paddy fields

It started with a tiny ceramic teapot and that led to a lacquered bamboo dish in a bright abstract pattern, then a hand-woven scarf. It was just the start of my tour of Vietnam, and I was already hooked.

I am not usually a shopaholic, but here not only did the prices appeal to my Yorkshire sensibilities – none of the above items cost more than £2 – but I could convince myself that this retail therapy was doing some good. There’s all sorts of tat on sale to tourists in Vietnam, much of it made in China. But I knew my spending would make a difference to local lives because I was on holiday with an organisation which makes that its mission.

Traidcraft, the people behind the British catalogues and gift shops, has teamed up with cycling-holiday operator Saddle Skedaddle (one of its founders used to work for Traidcraft) to offer trips to the developing countries the charity sources its wares from. The idea of Traidcraft’s “Meet the People” holidays (there’s no cycling on this particular trip) was to give people who were already part of the fair-trade movement – volunteering in shops, running stalls – the chance to see where products originated.

Even for those who’ve never been near a fairly traded fruit bowl, the tours offer a unique perspective, on people and cultures as well as sightseeing. (They also run trips in other Asian countries, and in Africa and Latin America.) Plus you get to shop till you drop, and feel good about it.

My teapot and dish came from a showroom in Hanoi run by Craft Link, a non-profit organisation that works with 60 artisan groups in northern Vietnam. Over tea and little cakes upstairs, we heard from manager Ms Tran and younger Ms Thuy all about its work finding markets for handicrafts as a way of keeping traditions alive and alleviating poverty. It’s not charity: they help groups for a couple of years, with training and financial support. And they always work with women.

Then we were let loose in the shop: our group of 15 Brits snapped up silk purses and scarves, bags, ceramics and jewellery. There was still more than two weeks of the tour left, but hey, a gorgeous little brooch won’t take up much room…

Want to find out more? Click here to read Liz’s article in full.

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Meet our fantastic guides!

All of our guides are fantastic ambassadors for their countries, keen to share their love and enthusiasm for their culture and history and always making sure you enjoy the very best trip possible.

Name: Efrain
Destination: Peru

Day 6 (4)

So proud of his country and heritage, Efrain recently brought a little bit of Peruvian culture to us when he joined us in the UK in April 2012 to run the London Marathon in full Inca Chaski dress. Running in the traditional dress of his ancestors, Efrain completed the marathon in 5 hours, 3 minutes and 32 seconds, raising just over £5,000 for Traidcraft Exchange.

You can see photos of Efrain’s journey to the UK to run in the London Marathon on our website by clicking here.

Click here for more information on our tours in Peru.

Name: Ranjith Henry 
Destination: India

Ranjith & Rani - cropped

Ranjith and his wife Rani, run Kolam Tours from their home in Chennai. Ranjith has been running tours with Traidcraft since 1990 and is a firm favourite and friend of so many who have travelled with him.

Ranjith is no ordinary tour guide. Happy to discuss and debate any and all subjects, and often leading the discussion about all that we see and do on the tours, Ranjith is determined to make sure that you make the most of your time discovering India, learning from the producers themselves about realities of life in modern day India. Prompting with the questions you didn’t even know you wanted to ask, Ranjith helps to challenge perceptions of India and every day occurences making every trip with him unforgettable.

You can join Ranjith on any of the following tours:
Southern India click here for more information
Western India click here for more information
Northern India click here for more information

Guide: Stephen, Suwadee, and Rosalind Salmon
Destination: Thailand

Suwade - cropped

Stephen, originally from the UK, first went to Thailand in 1972 as a volunteer and married Suwadee (pictured above) in Chiang Mai in 1975. They have lived in Thailand continuously for over 25 years, working and living in several different parts of the country. In 1992 they both helped start the ThaiCraft Association which they now manage alongside their daughter Rosalind and son Mark. ThaiCraft is a fair trade organisation partnering with nearly 100 craft communities in all regions of the country and their long-term relationships with the groups that we visit allows an insight into life in Thailand that few tourists will ever get to experience.

You can join the ThaiCraft family on our tour of Northern Thailand click here for more information.

Guide: Shamim
Destination: Bangladesh

Shamim - cropped

A fantastic ambassador for his country, Shamim facilitates and guides all of our tours in Bangladesh as we visit a variety of fantastic fair trade groups and communities.

With such a long and close relationship with Traidcraft, the producers and projects welcome all our groups as friends and Shamim’s welcome and approach is no different as he warmly welcomes us to enjoy and love Bangladesh as he does. Himself a fabric designer, Shamim has long been involved in the development and fair trade networks in Bangladesh and is a senior member of the National Crafts Council. As well as guiding us round the producers, projects and main sites of our visit, Shamim welcomes us for an unforgettable stay in a rural community of weavers and organic farmers very close to his heart.

Meet Shamim and enjoy Bangladesh on our tours in March click here for more information.

To check availability on any of the tours mentioned above click here.

For more information about any of our tours, or to chat through any questions please feel free to call Hannah in the office on 0191 2651110 or you can email us at info@skedaddle.com