Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Holiday Shopping

If you're looking for places to buy fair and direct trade gifts this year, let us recommend these groups. We'd love for you to link to this list or tweet about this post!

Hill Country Hill Tribers
Hill Country Hill Tribers provides supplemental income and marketable skills to artisans in Austin’s refugee community. By weaving and sewing, these women are creating a new sense of community in this country while remembering their homelands. Proceeds are given directly back to the artisan who made each piece.

Noonday Collection
Noonday Collection offers inspired accessories handcrafted by artisans who receive a living, fair wage for their work. We believe that you shouldn’t have to sacrifice good design and style in order to support fair trade ventures.

The CDK Project
The CDK Project is empowering oppressed women around the globe through employment in the craft of jewelry-making. We are instilling dignity and hope, while bringing you authentically rare jewelry.

Eternal Threads
Eternal Threads is dedicated to improving the lives of women and children most at risk by providing sustainable livelihoods through income generating projects. Eternal Threads began as an outreach to India, but now includes projects in Nepal, Afghanistan, Thailand and Madagascar.

Freedom Stones
Freedom Stones is committed to eliminating and preventing human trafficking through livelihoods projects that transform and develop vulnerable communities. Our aim is to transform individuals and entire communities so that they can begin walking in their God-given destinies free from extreme poverty, oppression and injustice.

Makarios & Dominican Joe
Makarios is a faith-based 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to educational development in the Dominican Republic, Haiti, and other impoverished areas of the world. We are committed to a child’s spiritual, physical, emotional, and intellectual growth, to provide hope for a better future.

Ethical City
Ethical City collaborates with faith-based organizations in Austin to host fair trade global bazaars. Ethical City’s products include baskets made by a widow’s cooperative in Ghana, jewelry from India and Afghanistan, metal work from Haiti, and gift cards made by orphans in Rwanda.

The Kibo Group
Beads sold by the Kibo Group are made of recycled paper by Ugandan women who are seeking to reach up and out of poverty. The Kibo Group helps facilitate development and job training in the remote Busoga
villages. Your purchase helps rural African women have hope for a better life.

Village of Hope
Village of Hope is an orphanage in Ghana for orphaned, abandoned, destitute and needy children. These products were made by students at the Vocational Training Centre, where street children are taught employable skills to help them leave the streets. All proceeds go back to supporting Village of Hope in their mission to provide a better life for these children.

Hanna Galo
Hanna Galo is a refugee from Iraq who has been working hard to establish a new life in Austin during the past year. His handcrafted beaded crosses are more than a hobby—it’s his mission. When people look at the crosses he makes, he wants them to remember that there is a God who is with them, even in the toughest toughest of circumstances.

(If you're interested in purchasing Village of Hope bags or Hanna Galo's crosses, e-mail us at karenhilltribers@gmail.com and we'll try to connect you with the right people.)

Monday, November 8, 2010

Artreach New Product Giveaway!

Hill Country Hill Tribers is gearing up for our flagship event:


You can read the stories behind each of the amazing vendors and learn details about the event itself at ArtReachAustin.blogspot.com

In order to spread the word about the event, HCHT is giving away three of our newest up-cycled products, all made by Hser Kuq Moo and Ku Lo, our most proficient sewers. They've been working so hard and a lot of time the weavers get all of the attention, so we wanted to feature the work of these two women and tell you a bit more about them.
Hser Kuq Moo and Ku Lo are pictured above (and yes, Ku Lo's shirt says "Lefties Do It Right"). They are both members of the Karen hill tribe. They each have two small children, though Ku Lo is pregnant with another baby due in January. They manage to make beautiful, meticulous products at home while their husbands work as housekeeping staff in local hotels. Though Hser Kuq Moo's mother Law Gay (also one of our artisans) taught her how to weave, Hser Kuq Moo would much rather sew. In the last few months, with the introduction of some of our new products, both women have been able to contribute to their families' incomes and support their young children (and even a couple of friends living with them). To celebrate Hser Kuq Moo and Ku Lo's hard work, we're giving away three of their latest items.

Product 1: Rice-Cycled Bibs

Made from up-cycled rice bags, these baby bibs are as cute as they are functional. They're an adorable way to help your baby go green! They normally retail for $8. (With all three of these products, the ones pictured will not necessarily be the ones being given away. Each HCHT product is unique and if you win, we'll give you some options to choose from.)

Product 2: Rice-Cycled Pouches

These up-cycled rice bag pouches come in a variety of different sizes and no two are alike. The Three Ladies one pictured above is my absolute favorite! The sizes and prices of these vary; they make great stocking stuffers and can be used for pencils, make-up, or anything small and portable.

Product 3: Burlap Tote Bags

Made from up-cycled burlap sacks from Third Coast Coffee, these tote bags are fashionable and practical. They normally retail at $22. They're big enough to slip in a laptop or some books; they have a clasp at the top and a small pocket to keep things organized. Each bag is lined with different fabrics which add to their individuality; they're a great way to express yourself while helping the environment and supporting our artisans.

To win one of these products, leave a comment on this blog saying that you have done one of the following things:
  1. Facebook: Invite friends to the Artreach Festival from our Facebook event page (Leave us a note and tell us you're coming, too!). Make sure to tell your friends about this giveaway so they can enter. 
  2. Blog: Put information about Artreach on your blog (we'd love to see the links!).
  3. E-mail: It's old school but it counts! Send your friends the link to the Artreach blog or Artreach event page and invite them to come. 
  4. Twitter: Tweet the Artreach blog or Artreach event page (and while you're at it, sign up to follow HCHT on twitter!)

The contest will go on from Tuesday, November 9 until Tuesday, November 15 at midnight. Leave a comment by then with your name and what you've done to help us spread the word! (And if you live outside of Austin but want to register to win, find a creative way to tell other people about HCHT and we just might count it.) We're excited to see many of you at Artreach this year; the weavers and sewers will be there and you might get the chance to meet the woman who made your new item. The weaving demonstrations alone are worth coming for, but the products available from around the world are truly amazing. So even if you don't win, come to Artreach and you'll feel like you did!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Tribal Losses

This Saturday, I spent the morning with people from the indigenous tribes of North America and the afternoon with people from the indigenous tribes of Burma. I had never before made a connection between the two.

I grew up with a close friend who was a descendant of the Ojibwe people. Her family brought me along to cultural events and powwows and I saw how native american traditions were incorporated into their weddings, prayers and everyday life. I witnessed a stronger relationship between nature and spirituality, and a stronger connection to God as Creator and Jesus as the Way. I also discovered that there is nothing in this world more delicious than a Navajo taco served on homemade fry bread.

I've been meaning to share a powwow experience with my family for years, but kept missing the boat. This Saturday was a beautiful introduction. We were able to witness an opening ceremony where all of the dancers entered the circle. The announcer shared the history behind of each group of traditional dancers. There were elderly Goard Dancers, many of whom where veterans of U.S. wars., fringy Grass Dancers, swaying Buckskin Dancers, and my personal favorite, the Northern Fancy Dancers (pictured above). Us northerners sure know how to do it up fancy.

But as the ceremony came to a close, I couldn't help but get a little teary. I looked down and saw hundreds of people with beautiful regalia, each one unique, each one representing a different family or tribe, each one representing loss. It was a reminder that Native Americans weren't (and aren't) one group of people, but hundreds of tribes with thousands of unique cultural traditions, many of which have become tragically extinct.

The women of Hill Country Hill Tribers represent a vast array of cultures and traditions as well. In our meetings, we've slowly learned not to expect common language, even among members of the same tribe. Dialects among the Chin people vary as you travel from one valley to the next. Some tribes wear red for ceremonial dress, others yellow and others green. Weaving and farming were central to the hill tribe way of life for many of the women we know. During a recent interview, Ko Meh (at right) pointed to her cement patio on her second floor apartment and said she missed the soil. My heart is heavy with all that they must miss--extended family, childhood haunts, village traditions, dirt. And I worry about the weight on their shoulders as they struggle to pass on their tribal language, traditions and customs to a younger generation surrounded by the deafening cultural influence of American media.

I can't wait for Artreach. It's a time to celebrate the work of hill tribe artisans and help them incorporate their ancestral home into their new one. Like this weekend's powwow, it will be a colorful demonstration of intricate artistry and beauty. Bound up in the beautiful strands of thread on display that day will be the bittersweet sense of what has been lost and the hope of keeping age-old traditions alive.