Latitudes store owners Lee and Terry Owsley and daughter Anna Schoenduby, along with other independent fair trade store representatives from across the United States, had the opportunity this March to visit artisans in India with our host and wholesale partner Matr Boomie.
Gurudwara Bangla Sahib, New Delhi
We had to wear head coverings when visiting this Sikh temple. We met a local Sikh tourist who told us stories of healings from the pool of water behind us.
This kitchen prepares all the food for the free meals provided below.
They feed 5000 people three meals daily in a very orderly fashion. It is not unusual for people to sit on the floor. In fact, all the groups we visited sat on the floor, often for hours while doing their work. We found it difficult to sit like that for anything longer than a few minutes, but suppose if that's what you're always done, then you're used to it.
Gurudwara Bangla Sahib is the largest Sikh temple in New Delhi.
Very Special Arts, South Delhi
The students performed a song and dance routine for us. It was very touching for us to see their enthusiasm and joy in celebrating our visit.
This young woman, Rani, is practicing her block printing on newspaper before advancing to cloth. This man is using recycled plastic for handloom weaving bags and purses.
Since its inception in 1997, the Very Special Arts group in South Delhi provides therapy through art to children and adults with disabilities. Young adults in the vocational training program learn how to weave with plastic bag strips and cassette tape and make beautiful bags with recycled material. It was so inspiring to see the joy on the children's faces. The group's founder is Ms. Meera G. She is an energetic 75 years old (she is standing the second from the right of the boy in the wheelchair).
Jewelry Group, Old Delhi
This man named Mulla is an expert in beaded jewelry. He took a special interest in training Terry in the art of poking a hooked needle through a bead and cloth and then pulling a thread from the bottom and then back through. He made it look easy!
If you've purchased a Buddha knot piece of jewelry it was made by the man whose hands are pictured here. He has made every Buddha knot piece sold by Matr Boomie.
Mulla has one hand on top and the other hand is underneath threading the hooked needle from under the cloth. He must turn the needle between his thumb and forefinger a quarter turn each time.
Last summer, we began accepting donations at our stores to sponsor an eye clinic in partnership with Matr Boomie's non-profit organization, SETU. Once enough funds were raised, the clinic was scheduled and took place shortly before our visit. These artisans create most of the jewelry pieces for Matr Boomie, was the beneficiary of the clinic that our customers sponsored. Initially the clinic had only a few patients and they were about to shut it down, but once the community saw the help that was being provided more and more people came and the clinic had to be extended three more days to accommodate everyone. About 240 artisans and their families received free eye exams, medicine, and glasses, and were most appreciative of our efforts to make that possible. Thanks to our customers for your contributions to make this happen! Mr. Nasim, pictured with Terry and Lee, is the head of this jewelry making group and provides employment to several hundred artisans.
This photo was taken in a cricket yard right outside the door of the jewelry workshop. The boys loved trying to get us to play! It felt like a close knit community and we were honored to be a part of it in some way.