The Artisans: Re-purposed Net
In January 2017 Talis started a business relationship with another fair trade cooperative from Cambodia – Peace Handicrafts, which specializes in making accessories from reclaimed mosquito and fish netting. The materials are the offcuts from the netting industry, which otherwise would end up in a landfill. They are washed and good areas are selected for cutting. The net materials are not dyed but used in combinations to create the unique line of colours. The end products (shoulder bags, wallets, cosmetic cases, etc) are not only elegant, en vogue, lightweight and sustainably produced, but they also bring positive change for the disadvantaged of Cambodia. Many of the producers are physically disabled or deaf, and are now given quality training and a fair wage. This provides a livelihood that will change the course of the lives of the artisans, their families and their community for generations to come.
Sokha is the eldest daughter in the family of 8 children. Her parents’ source of income was growing lotus in the pond for sale but, despite their hard work, they could barely feed the family. At age 10, Sokha had to give up on her khmer schooling to help her parents support the family. It wasn’t enough so when she was 16, she was sent to work as a house keeper. When she was 21 her father passed away and she moved back home. Since she lived in a city slums area, her and her 3 sisters were selected to join the training program at Hagar Shelter.
A year later Sokha started working at Peace Handicrafts as a sewer and was quickly recognized for her hard, immaculate work and commitment. Over the years of working at Peace Handicrafts, she was provided with managerial training as well as the opportunity to learn how to read and write in English. She has been promoted to the position of the manager of quality control and, later on, to the position of the logistic assistant. At the moment, she is a production supervisor at Peace Handicrafts.
Pha Tha was just 3 years old when her father died. She is the youngest in her family and her mother struggled to bring up the family, surviving hand-to-mouth. At the age of 4, Pha Tha fell ill. Her mother could not afford to buy medication. The left side of her body become immobile and she could only walk around the house with a walking stick or by crawling. In her debt-ridden family, everyone had to work to survive. Her disability proved to be a significant burden for the family. She was often subjected to physical and verbal abuse from her siblings.
In 2002, a friend told her about Peace and offered to take her to Phnom Penh and apply for work training with Peace. With the limitations of her physical condition, and lack of experience, she was accepted to work with the quality control team. Peace management at the time very skeptical about her ability to work, and in fact, does not believe that she can work at all.
Tha is now one of Peace’s longest serving staff. She has proved to be a fighter and a worthy member of the team. She helps to provide her family as much financial support as she can, however she still continues to receive verbal abuse from her siblings, as they always expecting more. Peace Continues to offer her free shelter and a good job.
Chea Saron was born in 1986 on the outskirt of Phnom Penh in a family of 6 children. She is deaf-mute, and so are her two other siblings. Her family earns a living by weaving doormats from remnant fabric discarded by garment factories and farming. At age 8, Saron attended primary school, however because of her disability, she was bullied by other students. Unable to cope with the pressure, she left school a few months later.
In 2004 she attended the Deaf Development Program supported by a non-profit organization Maryknoll International, where she learnt a sign language and how to read and write. In 2008, she was accepted for a two-year vocational training in sewing with Mith Samlanh, another non-profit organization. In 2010, Saron was accepted for further training with Peace Handicrafts and three months later she joined Peace Handicrafts team.
Saron is now very happy to be able to work and earn a living and, most importantly, to be able to help to support her family.