Mary grew up in an orphanage in India with a bleak outlook for her future. When time came for her to leave the orphanage, she was deceived by an offer of marriage and found herself instead in a brothel. She escaped and tried to commit suicide multiple times, the last time by eating glass. A local missionary found her dying in the street and took her in.
Mary, whose life was broken by trafficking, now uses recycled multicolored broken glass to handcraft photo frames and jewelry she sells to earn an upright living.
A thin, dirty girl sits dejectedly on the curb in Bangladesh as pedestrians filter past her. Young Farjana is tired and does not feel well, but she knows she must earn more money before she can go home for the day. Farjana does not go to school and cannot read or write. She is one of Bangladesh’s estimated 700,000 beggars. Girls like her face dangers such as sex trafficking and exploitation, as beggars are viewed as only good for cleaning, cooking, sex, and child-bearing. The Light of Hope center provides Farjana education, showers, clean clothes, and meals and gives her the opportunity to sew and embroider crafts that give her freedom and hope for a future.
People like Farjana and Mary exist in countless number around the world — girls and women enslaved through bonded labor and sexual exploitation. WorldCrafts fights these evils by developing viable employment for men and women in poverty so women are no longer forced to turn to prostitution for their survival.
The organization does this, in part, by providing job and skills training that enable members to use local resources to hand craft materials. WorldCrafts then sells the items on a global, fair-trade market and uses the money to further help women leave lives of exploitation.
“This organization came to my attention recently, and I just thought we should do something to help these women and children,” said Dawn Cottle, a member of Elizabethtown Baptist Church.
To that end, the church will be the site of a WorldCrafts Christmas Party, where guests can buy items made by women like Mary and Farjana. Items range from Christmas stockings woven by artisans in the Himalayas, nativities carved from olive wood from the West Bank, and throw blankets sewn from the bright saris of Calcutta women to hand-painted vases embellished with Turkish designs, djembe drums stained in ethnic African patterns, and children’s puzzles and hand puppets constructed in Sri Lanka.
Gifts range from $4 for a bookmark made in Bangladesh or birthday cards painted in Mauritius, to $80 for a Moroccan leather messenger bag. In the middle price range, $40 might buy a Swahili nativity made from banana fibers, ebony candlesticks carved in Kenya, a lunch tote lined with one-0f-a-kind Thai fabric, or a bright necklace constructed by shunned Indian widows.
“This event is a wonderful opportunity to buy Christmas gifts while discovering authentic, handmade art made from renewable resources in remote regions of the world and learning more about little-known cultures,” commented Cottle.
EBC’s WorldCrafts Christmas Party will be held on Saturday, Oct. 14, from 10 a.m. to noon at Elizabethtown Baptist Church, located at 1800 W. Broad St. in Elizabethtown.
WorldCrafts is a fair-trade organization, abiding by and requiring all partnering artisan groups to abide by Fair Trade Federation guidelines. Fair-trade buyers ensure that artisans receive fair wages and the goods purchase were produced in an ethical and environmentally-friendly manner. All items are hand-made, never factory-produced.
WorldCrafts is a division of WMU.
Chrysta Carroll can be reached by calling 910-862-4163 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.