We are privileged to work with such a talented group of people in Thailand and Nepal. Our team is loyal, hard-working and light-hearted. Our common means of communication is a second language for us all – Thai. Additionally, in the studio you will often hear Thai, English, Akha, Karen or Lewa being spoken.
Through fair trade practices, such as fair living wages and working conditions, we are able to ensure our products are made with care and that we are helping people support their families and have a better life. We couldn't do it without them or without you!
Here are just a few of the many artisans that we work with:
Bijay began hand-making felt products to support his family. He now employs many of his family members. The women enjoy doing creative work and this occupation allows them to bring their children to work before they are in school. We are proud to be a Fair Trade partner and support Bijay and his family in Kathmandu, Nepal.
Watch the production of felt products made by Bijay and his team in Nepal.....
Salinee, whose nickname is “Nee,” has been around fabric, thread and sewing machines almost all her life. From Thailand, as a child she worked at her mother’s side, ironing and attaching buttons in a Bangkok clothing factory. “In those days we worked in the factory eight or nine hours a day and made only 70 baht (two dollars),” she recalls.
After leaving school at 16, Nee took a sewing course, married a man from northern Thailand, and moved there to work in another factory sewing clothes for export. Life was a constant struggle, especially after her husband began drinking.
Today, Nee sews at home, along with a group of four women who, like she, left the factory when they began having children. For the past 13 years Nee has been the head of the sewing group. “The factory boss lets us take work home,” she explains.
“Some of the others need help with difficult jobs, so I teach them. I am also in charge of quality control.
But the work depends so much upon the market, and oftentimes we can’t make ends meet.”
This is where Global Groove Life stepped in. Nee and her group now make flags for our kids decor, and stitch our designer cushion covers and other home décor items. “This is what I do best”, Nee says “I make patterns, I sew, and I am good at it.”
“Everything I know about sewing I learned from my mother,” says Pranom. She grew up on Doi Tung, a mountain in northern Thailand, where her family made a living farming tea. As a Lahu girl, Pranom was expected to learn embroidery and stitch work, skills that are highly valued in this ethnic minority group. Today Pranom and her family of five live in the town of Chiang Mai, where they moved 20 years ago in order to send their children to better schools. An industrious worker, Pranom has been the main wage-owner in the family. She sews flags, bags, and cushion covers in her home, where other Lahu women from the neighborhood gather to help when big orders come in.
“Sometimes I invite young women from my village too,” says Pranom. “I like to teach them, and the income helps their families.”
Although educated only through Grade 6, Pranom is keen to learn and enjoys new challenges. Making leather bags was one such challenge that Global Groove Life has provided, and the results are impressive.
She is extremely grateful for the work Global Groove Life has provided over the years, saying, “The products are interesting, the people are kind, and the wage is fair.” Pranom would love to have the chance to take some advanced sewing courses in the future, and, she admitted with a smile, she really wants to learn how to bake!
Ahsu Cheumeu is an Akha Jewelry Designer and Producer, although he has not always made jewelry. He has not always made a decent wage. And he has not always had a roof over his head…literally.
The year he turned 18, Ahsu and his family were ejected from their village in Burma. Contrary to what one might think, this expulsion had nothing to do with the political situation in the country, nor the fact that this is an ethnic minority family. No, the villagers themselves – Ahsu’s own neighbors —kicked the family out. And they did so because his father was an opium addict.
It has taken a long time, but Ahsu’s determination is paying off. He has a small home of his own now, two young daughters, and is helping to pay his younger brother’s college tuition. His biggest hope is that his father, still an opium addict, will agree to move from the village and stay with Ahsu, who wants to get him help to rid him of his habit and free his mother of the financial burden he brings.
“He came to stay for three months, but went back for New Year’s and hasn’t returned,” Ahsu explained with a sigh. “I pray that he comes to stay here for good, and he will give up his opium forever.” Without the business Ahsu runs with Global Groove Life’s help, he could never have reached this point. “Times are hard,” Ahsu admits, “but we have A Fair Trade Story with Global Groove Life!"