The Honeycutts returned from their 3 weeks in Ecuador two Tuesdays ago. Since then we've been frantically catching them up on what happened here in Chattanooga while they were gone, and hearing more and more about what happened on their trip.
As you may have read, they visited lots of different co-ops and artisan groups in attempt to make connections, build relationships, and find new and interesting products. I won't go too far into what happened, since you can read for yourself their firsthand accounts further down the page.
What I will mention is all the goods they brought back, and all the commotion that's arisen as a result. Jency and I went over to their house two weeks ago to see all the stuff. We saw lots of clothing for men, women, and children. We saw lots of bags. We saw lots of jewelry. We saw lots of scarves, toys, games, and even some hammocks! I'll post pictures when I get a chance. But the amount of stuff piled up in their living room was a testament to several things. It was a testament to upper body strength -- they lugged it through airports with their 3 kids! It was a testament to diligence and productivity on the trip. And it was a testament to the value of itemizing all your declared merchandise when going through US Customs on reentry!
Some of the coolest stuff was some tagua nut jewelry made by refugees from Columbia. Did you realize that there's a humanitarian crisis happening in Columbia? I sure didn't. I don't really pay a great deal of attention to the news, but I do pay enough attention to know that it's not really being covered. But then, many of the world's humanitarian crises don't receive much news coverage. But that's a rant for a different day. How we might fit in to the Columbian refugees' situation sheds a little light on the challenges of fair trade. These people live in very secluded rural areas where little infrastructure exists. Without things like electricity and telecoms, communication becomes a very big barrier to doing business. How would one place an order with an artisan community without phones or the internet, where the only communication happens by weekly mail? How would one ensure that the artisans receive their payment in full? How does one create sustainable, long-term opportunities for communities like this? Though business has been done for thousands of years without modern conveniences like the internet, the fast pace of business today creates big constraints when thinking about the developing world.
But I digress. As much as we'd like to work with the refugees, that project might have to wait for the less-than-immediate future. The most promising lead we're currently working on is... well... I think I should keep it a secret for now. But do let me say that if we can get things up and running, it could be something very good for Ecuadorians as people and for World Next Door as a business. We're planning a short trip to go back to Ecuador in the next couple months to explore things further. More to come on that as things develop...
We haven't put all the Ecuador stuff in the store just yet, but we're bringing more stuff in every so often. Stop by if you want to see some of it!