Today is International Women’s Day. How better to celebrate than by taking a look at Carpets for Communities, a social enterprise that is changing lives for women in Cambodia right now?
I first came across Carpets for Communities at the Fair Traders of Australia launch last year. Their brightly coloured one-of-a-kind carpets were hard to miss. They are made from T-shirt off cuts, used hessian rice sacks and cotton thread – a great up-cycling of materials that would otherwise end up in landfill. Each rug takes about 20 to 30 hours to make – and are all hand-hooked by mothers in Cambodia.
“It started after I had made several trips to the Cambodian-Thai border to extend my visa,” says David. “On each trip I met and started to make friends with the same small group of children who were begging from tourists. They were so full of energy and had such potential but I could see that their future was dim at best – it triggered something inside me. I decided to meet their families and try to improve their lives.”
Having been up and running now for since 2005, I was excited to learn Carpets for Communities have recently become a Fair Trader of Australia.
“Becoming a Fair Trader of Australia is very important for us,” said Rowan Klaassan, Sales and Marketing Manager. “It is great to be recognized by such a widely respected organisation. Carpets for Communities aims to be a social, ecological and financial sustainable enterprise. This certification proves to us and our customers that we are on the right track.”
Becoming a Fair Trader of Australia required Carpets for Communities to review their whole production process, and which has helped them to make improvements and find areas for further improvement.
“As a social enterprise we aim to make a profit from our products so that we can use this profit to fund our development projects. Through the sales of our carpets, through market sales, retailers and online, we earn money to invest back into our projects. This however is a very difficult process… so in practice we still rely on donations to keep operating,” says Rowan. “However, in the future we want to eliminate all dependency and become a financially sustainable business which aims to create social change in Cambodia.”
So has David succeeded in his mission? Are they creating social change in Cambodia?
To understand the impact, we need to understand the world that Carpets for Communities works in. Working in Poipet, extreme poverty means that the children normally don't go to school as they have to work or beg for money for food. A hotspot for human trafficking, this also makes them a vulnerable target for traffickers.
The impact Carpets for Communities can have for these children and their family is immediate. As soon as a family is taken into the program, their children return to school within 48 hours. As the families move through the program they switch from making carpets to running their own micro-businesses. The money they make with these micro-businesses provides financial stability, money to buy food and enables children to go to school. With a new scholarship program, three children from Carpets for Communities families now attend university.
|Gnean Ouch Family|
Carpets for Communities are running a promotion for International Women’s Day, selling a limited number of canvas pictures on their webstore. You will also find there the full range of carpets, cushion covers, mats and rugs – so go nuts.
Go do some guilt free shopping, celebrate International Women’s Day, and feel really Good.