Somehow, impossibly, I travelled around the world one year ago!
I am deeply grateful to have taken a trip to Bangladesh when I did. I was at a stage of my life & business when the adrenaline had long worn off, and I was a getting a bit stuck in a cultural mindset trap: "I don't feel like doing this every day."
More details on that, I'll save for another day (or perhaps for a more intimate conversation!). But, let it suffice to say that my colleagues in Bangladesh do NOT operate from that mindset... it doesn't even factor into the conversation.
Being reminded of this, as well as seeing — in person — the inner workings and impact of the blanket biz on the production side... well, it was deeply regenerative for me.
If I had not visited in January 2020, I don't know when that trip would have taken place! Soooo thankful.
Here is one story of a woman artisan I met: Poli.
During my week in Bangladesh, I spent time primarily in Dhaka (where the main Basha production centre & management staff are located). But, I also did a short trip to Jessore (a much smaller city, near the India border) to visit another production centre.
I had heard rumours of the "super-producer" out of Jessore — a woman who was a very fast worker and could create more (excellent-quality) kantha blankets than anyone else in a similar time frame. Because the artisans are paid a day rate plus a rate per piece that they sew, this woman had earned a reputation for raking in the cash at Basha!
That was now 🙌, but this was then:
She came to sew blankets through Basha's training partnership with the Salvation Army (in 2016). Her husband was, at that time, ill with Tuberculosis & kidney problems. Poli was working in domestic homes, but earning a poor salary. The Salvation Army offered her training and work; and early on, she was sewing in the day, but still working in homes in the early morning & evenings (to pay for her husband's treatment). Her son also left his studies to work in a car garage to help with support.
As she gained momentum and developed her skills sewing kantha blankets at Basha, she began earning well. She could support her son, who was able to return to his studies (as well as one daughter who is also now studying) This is probably the highest value for a woman in Bangladesh, to be able to support her children in their education.
The afternoon we arrived in Jessore, Poli left work early to take me and three colleagues for visits to her home & several neighbours' in the village outside of town. When we visited her home (which she had also improved from makeshift to finished), she was SO proud to host me, and was so wonderfully hospitable.
Another source of her great pride was that with her earnings, she was able to help pay a deposit on a tea stall for her husband!
Our last visit in the village was to this tea stall. I said (silently) an earnest & fervent prayer for protection against illness as I watched Poli's husband *rinse out* the used tea cups. There was no way I would turn down their buoyant hospitality!
There are many "success stories" from our production partner, Basha, that are awash in sadness & grief. In many cases, even while the work situation is so good, problems continue to abound: death, abusive husbands, lost babies.
In Poli's case, there is so much goodness that we can only respond in celebration! I've never tasted tea so good :) . After hearing, earlier in the day, about many artisan's husbands who steal their paycheques to gamble or buy drugs & women... Poli & her husband Mukul's life together was joyful and refreshing.
Check your blanket's label for Poli's name, and let us celebrate together this wonderful story!
Some favorite summer recipes of mine, for you to try & (hopefully) enjoy. Let me know about your successes, or your own faves!
This is a motto I've been replaying lately in my mind.
For me, one of the *necessities* to sustain energy for this work is to embrace joy, celebration, & fun. But this year, those things have felt pretty elusive. The past 16 months have enriched the depth of my close friendships and have brought maturation & focus to my time; these have been invaluable gifts!
But... I feel like I need to learn all over again how to have fun!
Here are some of the ways I've been thinking about, or practicing, fun lately. I would also love to hear about how you find joy & energy to recharge for everything else that life brings at us!
Basha Boutique is the name of the organization in Bangladesh where all of our beautiful products are made.
Yes, *all* of our products, every item of kantha we sell. This was... ill-advised by our banker. But, a personal working relationship, excellent partnership, and the literal best quality products have kept us together for nearly 9 years! dignify is yoked to Basha, and we have zero regrets.
If you've been around dignify for a while, you've heard plenty about Basha and likely have a good familiarity with how they (and we) operate. But, if not, here is a bit more context!