This past February, in part one of the canvas home™ Small Grants Program Awardees series, Aid to Artisans featured four of the organizations making a big impact in the lives of international artisans. This month, ATA is featuring the Lupane Women’s Centre in Zimbabwe, PeaceQuilts, Inc. in Haiti and Sasa Designs by the Deaf in Kenya and the effect impact the grants have had on their local efforts.

The Lupane Women’s Centre (Zimbabwe)

The Lupane Women’s Centre (LWC) is a community organization run by the women of Lupane for the women of Lupane. Its initial development began with 14 baskets weavers and the help of a US Peace Corps volunteer Claire Raick, who worked with the organization for 10 years. Funds received from ATA went a long way to market the centre and its products. In September of last year, Lupane participated in an exhibition at Randal Farm. As a result, Lupane was able to receive greater publicity for the crafts and women weavers as well as gain increased sales and effectively increase the members’ incomes. The group earned $319 from sales and an invoice for a bride who ordered wedding baskets (for a total of $322). 85% of the revenue from the event went to the artisans themselves.

“Without the funding,” says their local coordinator, “it would have been impossible to attend the exhibition. The weavers of Lupane are grateful to Aid to Artisans.” In the near future, Lupane will continue to exhibit locally.

LWC products displayed at the exhibition

PeaceQuilts, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to relieving poverty by establishing independent, self-managed and self-sustaining sewing cooperatives in Haiti. The sewing cooperatives provide Haitian women an opportunity to engage in meaningful work, producing products that reflect Haitian art and culture, while earning a living wage. Three of the groups in the towns of Damassin, Sodot, and Lilavois were able to improve production by purchasing new treadle sewing machines with the grant funds. Additionally, PeaceQuilts was able to organize computer training classes and sponsor several of the cooperative members to attend in order to help the artisans communicate with customers and send invoices for payments as well as working with a Haitian artisan support group that will be sending a designer to help the women fine tune their product development. The most important impact of the grant, however, is the change in production efficiency. The equipment purchased provides an opportunity for more women to work at the same time and allows the women working to complete their tasks without having to stop due to discomfort. This permits the cooperatives to scale up production to respond to shorter order timelines and work at full capacity to meet increases in product demand. The timing for receiving the grant funds could not have come at a better time as the women had recently completed a large order for The Shopping Channel of Canada. The additional machines and chairs augmented their ability to complete the order on time.

As for the future, their local coordinator is very optimistic.

“Even though, PeaceQuilts is not yet able to quantify a sales increase at this time, we anticipate that this will happen over the course of the coming year.”

Members of PeaceQuilts in Haiti

Sasa Designs by the Deaf (Kenya)

In 2011, launched Sasa Designs by the Deaf to provide employment and fair wages to Deaf artisans in the country. The project was started in response to the ideas of women about learning to make and sell jewelry. This grant supplemented their materials budget allowing the group to save funds for their next big material need: a computer for their workshop.

Continually ensuring the health and safety of artisans of the group has been the biggest impact of the grant as noted by their local coordinator.

“(This) demonstrates to our artisans that their health and comfort is a priority of our leadership team. We want them to know how much we value them, and also encourage them to take care of their bodies and personal health.”

The women of Sasa Designs by the Deaf, perfecting their craft