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!
This season for dignify has challenged us with waiting. Blankets have been leaving our hands at the fastest pace ever (yay!) and we are trying to simply keep up. Add extra inconveniences & delays (from COVID, from customs checks, and more), and we have been really exercising our muscles in patience, trust, and gratitude.
Culturally, we are in a stage of waiting, as well. Waiting for vaccine rollout. Waiting for "normal" opportunities to return, for "normal" life to resume in our cities, our nations.
Looking back at some photos from last Christmas, I came across this screenshot from my phone that really made me laugh:
My husband was dropping off our parcels recently, and a woman working in our shipper's office said, "I was looking at your site, and I think I might buy some of these blankets this year as gifts; I'm mostly shopping online." Another employee chimed in, "I'm going to do all of my shopping online, too."
That evening, he went with our kids to the mall to pick something up (masked, natch), and as he surveyed the hallways — with some permanently closed stores, some shuttered from lack of employees, etc. — Wayne's thought was, "I think I need to do all my shopping at the mall!"