Artisans

Have you ever wondered who makes your clothes?

Well, wonder no more. When you buy an Imagine Goods item, you'll see an image like one of these below on your product label. It's called an Artisan Symbol, and it represents the worker who made your item!

We make an effort to respect our artisans' dignity as survivors of trafficking—this is why we use symbols instead of pictures. It's also why we allow them to tell their story in their own words. However, we understand that if you've never known anyone in extreme poverty, you may not understand exactly what it looks like. For example, you might see "family financial problems" in some of our artisans' answers—keep in mind that what they are referring to is probably pretty different from what you would mean if you said it about yourself. Whereas "debt" to you may mean credit card debt that doesn't seem to go away,  in these parts of the world, "debt" can mean being coerced into slavery or allowing a son or daughter to be trafficked. For a look at what our artisan's lives may look like, see this article, written about some of the young women employed by our production partners.

"Pincushion" Artisan

  • About Me:

    I was born in a refugee camp in Thailand [for Cambodians who had fled the Khmer Rouge genocide]. I like reading stories about people and their experiences—how their lives have changed and been transformed. I also like to play music—I play six instruments, but would play more if I could get my hands on them!

    My Biggest Challenge:

    The biggest challenge is inside me—overcoming my fear and lack of confidence in what I do.

"Sewing Machine" Artisan

  • About Me:

    I lived in a refugee camp until I was 7 years old—my grandfather was a soldier, and one time my sister almost exploded a grenade that he had hung from the ceiling. I learned how to sew when I went to a tailor and he didn’t make my order correctly, so I learned how to fix it.

    My Biggest Challenge:

    I wanted to continue to study in school, but I’m the eldest child in my family, so I had to stop at 10th grade in order to work to support my five younger siblings.

"Safety Pin" Artisan

  • About Me:

    My parents are my biggest inspiration, because they work hard to give me what I need. Courage is the joy we have from Jesus. 

    My Biggest Challenge:

    My family’s financial problems.

"Scissors" Artisan

  • About Me: 

    I lived in a refugee camp until I was 4 years old. My husband and children are my biggest inspiration because when I see their faces, I want to work for them. 

    My Biggest Challenge:

    My family’s financial problems.

"Button" Artisan

  • About Me:

    I believe that courage comes from God, who has helped me. Once, when I was 8 years old, my father had gone to Thailand to find work, and there was no food for my mother or younger siblings. I had to ask people at my school for food, and they gave it to us. My mother is my inspiration.

    My biggest challenge:

    My father is in debt with many people, so I work to support our family.

"Spool" Artisan

  • About Me:

    I live with my grandmother, brother, and sister-in-law. My dream is to own a stall in the nearby market. My grandmother is my inspiration.

"Iron" Artisan

  • About Me:

    I’ve been sewing since I was 14 years old; my fondest memory is from when I had my first sewing lesson. Courage means taking responsibility when you’ve done something wrong.

    My Biggest Challenge:

    Finding a place to live. 

 

"Bobbin" Artisan

  • About Me:

    I think it is important to have other people in your life and to love them. Courage means being able to comfort others. [Editor's note: This artisan is a survivor of sexual trafficking and is employed by an organization whose specific aim is to empower people like her; along with employment, she receives one hour daily of (paid) education, learning to read and write in Khmer and English.]

    My Biggest Challenge:

    Jesus challenges me to be strong and not to fear. 

"Clothes Hanger" Artisan

  • About Me:

    I like to make friends with other people. . . relationships are important to me. My wildest dream is to help more girls. [Editor's note: this artisan is a survivor of sexual exploitation and is employed by an organization whose specific aim is to empower people like her. Along with employment, she receives one hour daily of (paid) education, learning to read and write in Khmer and English.]

    My Biggest Challenge:

    Working hard and overcoming the bad things. [Editor's note: many women refer to their memories from the brothels as "the bad things".]

"Thimble" Artisan

  • About Me:

    I enjoy sewing and showing hospitality to people. If I could go anywhere in the world, I would want to go to the USA, because everyone from the USA is full of love. My wildest dream is to live on a farm and do things like feeding chickens. [Editor's note: This artisan is a survivor of sexual exploitation and is employed by an organization whose specific aim is to empower people like her; along with employment, she receives one hour daily of (paid) education, learning to read and write in Khmer and English.]

    My Biggest Challenge:

    My step-mother makes me do hard work and mistreats me, and my husband mistreats me.

"Pins" Artisan

  • About Me:

    It is good to show our feelings and talk to people using good words. Courage means doing what you need to and being a good person. [Editor's note: This artisan is a survivor of sexual exploitation and is employed by an organization whose specific aim is to empower people like her; along with employment, she receives one hour daily of (paid) education, learning to read and write in Khmer and English.]

    My Biggest Challenge:

    My parents are very poor and I want to support them.

"Clothes Pin" Artisan

  • About Me:

    I used to work at a KTV [a karaoke bar/restaurant which often operates as a front for a brothel]. A pastor met me at the restaurant and invited me to church. When there was an open space at the employment center, I applied. That is how I came to work here. I used to be a farmer, making charcoal. My inspiration comes from the desire to help others and myself at my workplace. [Editor's note: This artisan is a survivor of sexual exploitation and is employed by an organization whose specific aim is to empower people like her; along with employment, she receives one hour daily of (paid) education, learning to read and write in Khmer and English.]

"Zipper" Artisan

  • About Me:

    Courage means to be responsible for all the things that we have done. If I could go anywhere in the world, I'd want to go anyplace I haven't been before, because I'm curious about how other people live.

    My Biggest Challenge:

    Lacking the skills to earn the income to support my family.

"Sewing Form" Artisan

  • About Me:

    If there was anything people could know about me, I would want people to know how hard I work here. Working here is my fondest memory, while my worst one was poverty. 

    My Biggest Challenge:

    Financial crisis.

Our Crochet Artisans (from Haiti):

You will see that we are introducing more and more crocheted items into our line of goods. These are made by a small group of women in Haiti whose stories you can read below. We use their real first names because—unlike our artisans listed above—these are not survivors of trafficking. However, like all our artisans, these women are part of a program that is designed to empower through employment.

First, a little background on the artisans, written by the director of the program that the women are a part of.  It may give you some deeper insight into their answers.

The Plateau where these ladies are from is a farming community….or used to be. People survived traditionally on subsistence farming and animal husbandry. However, hard times and drought drove people to cut down trees in order to make charcoal to sell for a living. This created a vicious cycle, because the deforestation caused it to rain less (drought=deforestation=more drought=more deforestation=worse drought….etc.)  There has been no harvest to speak of for several years now.  In this last and latest stretch of drought, many people lost their animals too.  Here, livestock are your investment, your bank account, and your mode of transportation (donkeys).

You will notice as you read their stories below that all of these women (except Dieuna) live with their husbands. But not all their husbands have a way of making a living. Normally, they would provide for their families with the harvest from their gardens and the sale of their livestock.But they are not able to survive by these trades anymore.  I think two of them have consistent work. Some may have skills that enable them to work sporadic, temporary jobs. 

In recent days, the Haitian currency has taken several hits in value, and food prices have skyrocketed. There was some rain, so people planted their gardens. Crop worms ate everything.  They planted again. Crop worms ate everything again. Once the crop worms finally subsided, it stopped raining.

All that to say—even though it is not much when compared to the size of the need—the money that these ladies are able to make through having a market for their crocheted products is more than just a little extra on the side. 

So, THANK YOU for working with us and providing some hope for these ladies.

(P.S. When the ladies speak of their houses being in bad shape, it is because they live in mud houses with thatched roofs.  These roofs eventually wear out and leak badly when it rains.)

Sonia

Who do you live with?

My husband, three of my children, and one grandchild.

What is the greatest difficulty you are confronting?

Providing food for my family and paying for schooling for my kids, especially those who are in school in the city.

What gives you hope in the midst of life's difficulties?

God has given me life. Also, participating in crochet offers a distraction from life's problems.

How has crochet been important to you?

It offers a place where I can come together with other ladies and talk and forget about life's problems. Also, I am able to make some income.

What dreams do you have for the future?

I would like to keep moving forward. And I want a good future for my children.

Venèse

Who do you live with?

My husband and five children.

What is the greatest difficulty you are confronting?

Paying for my children’s schooling.  Selling charcoal cannot pay anymore.

What gives you hope in the midst of life's difficulties?

I have found a little work.

How has crochet been important to you?

The money I am able to make helps me take care of my children.

What dreams do you have for the future?

I want my children to have a good future.  I hope they can learn something that will help them make something of their lives.

Dieulane

Who do you live with?

My husband and four children.

What is the greatest difficulty you are confronting?

Our roof leaks very badly when it rains.  Also, providing food is difficult.

What gives you hope in the midst of life's difficulties?

Faith in God.

How has crochet been important to you?

It has offered a little work and income, as well as the chance to learn something new.  It also could open up other opportunities. 

What dreams do you have for the future?

I would like for my family to pull out of the situation we are in and have a better life.  I also would like to visit Miami someday.

Wilta

Who do you live with?

My husband and two of my children.  I also have two children living in the city.

What is the greatest difficulty you are confronting?

Providing for my family.

What gives you hope in the midst of life's difficulties?

My husband is able to have a job teaching in a school.

How has crochet been important to you?

I love to learn!  Crochet is something I did not know how to do before.  Also, if I go anywhere else, it is a skill that I may be able to use.

What dreams do you have for the future?

I would like to learn more skills at a women’s center.

Analiese

Who do you live with?

My husband and four of my children.  I have three children living in the city as well.

What is the greatest difficulty you are confronting?

There is no work, our livestock have died, and my house is in bad shape.

What gives you hope in the midst of life's difficulties?

In the recent hard days, I contemplated going to the city to look for work.  All my hopes rest on the income I can get from crochet.  There is nothing else.  My husband is a farmer, but there has been no harvest.

How has crochet been important to you?

With the money I earn, I can buy food for my family and help pay for my children’s schooling.

What dreams do you have for the future?

I would like to build a better house and get my children through school.

Dieumila

Who do you live with?

My husband and three of my children.  I have two children living in the Dominican Republic as well.

What is the greatest difficulty you are confronting?

My house is in bad shape.  I am working towards building a block house.  I have some blocks and sand, but I don’t have the money to buy the cement yet.

What gives you hope in the midst of life's difficulties?

I have a job.

How has crochet been important to you?

I’m learning something new, and it’s encouraging to come together with the other ladies.  Also, I am able to earn some money through it.

What dreams do you have for the future?

I hope to always be in good health and never get discouraged.

Dieuna 

(Note: Dieuna is Sonia’s daughter. She was sick and unable to finish school last year, so she participated in the crochet program.  This year, she is back in school.  Her questions/answers are slightly different than the other ladies, because I did them with her last year.)

Who do you live with?

My mother, father, brothers, and sisters.

What kinds of things do you like to do?

Crochet, embroidery, go to school.

What does it mean to have courage?

It means to have strength in all you do.

How has crochet been important to you?

I’m learning something new, and it’s encouraging to come together with the other ladies.  Also, I am able to earn some money through it.

What dreams do you have for the future?

After school, I want to learn something that will enable me to get a job and help my family.