Thank you so much for all your incredible support in 2020, without you we quite literally couldn’t serve all the many people that we do! You make all these stories of transformation possible…
Highlights from an extraordinary year…UK: We were overjoyed to be given a premises in Harrogate town centre of at the beginning of the year, generously provided by the Harrogate Hub network of local churches and an incredibly kind anonymous donor. Susie spent the many months of lockdown transforming the building with a group of awesome volunteers, creating a shop, craft studio, office and packing area for shipping orders. We opened the shop a few weeks ago and it’s going SO WELL! It’s wonderful to see customers’ reactions to the beautiful crafts being made by our artisans in Ecuador & Peru. Income from the shop has helped us to keep supporting them, right through the lockdown and beyond. Meanwhile, despite not being able to run our usual in-person workshops this year, Liz and the UK team have been doing an incredible job running them remotely. We’ve sent crafts packs to over 90 adults and children with disabilities every month, with 4 weekly activities each time, plus crafts videos, weekly tutorials, Zoom calls and phone calls. We’ve seen our participant numbers more than triple and are really looking forward to welcoming people to join us in person again when safe to do so.
Peru: Just days before the virus hit Peru we were able to finally purchase a beautiful old building in Arequipa, Peru, which will become our new crafts training centre, café and shop, providing training and employment opportunities for many differently-able people who’d otherwise be living in extreme poverty. It’s taken a few years to raise the funds and complete the legal processes for this, so we’re over the moon to have finally completed this foundational step. Huge thanks to everyone who’s made this possible! Having received the keys, frustratingly the building remained locked up for many months whilst the whole country went into severe lockdown. Like everyone in Peru, our volunteer Laura Baxendale was barely able to leave the house for weeks at a time, so it was a very challenging time. Thankfully, she and all our participants have escaped unscathed and are enjoying a lifting of restrictions on movement this month. Peruvian cushions and jewellery from our artisans in Arequipa will be arriving in the UK next week, which is really exciting! Renovation work on our building there will start to take place in the New Year.
Ecuador: Our volunteers Andy & Jess Lynch did a superb job running the project for the 12 months that they served with us in Ecuador. They managed to fly home just days before flights out of the country were stopped. They handed over to local Ecuadorian couple Carlos and Jessica, who have been holding the fort ever since, visiting our artisans in lockdown every month and delivering the support payments we’ve been sending them whilst they’ve been unable to work, due to the Covid restrictions. They’re very much looking forward to opening up the workshop again in the new year, now that the worst has passed. We now have 21 artisans there, keen to start making paper and jewellery again as soon as possible. It’s so good to be able to support them with sales of their work here, since so many of the boutiques we originally sold to in Ecuador have sadly been shut down by the virus. We look forward to adding screen printing and sewn-textiles techniques to the range of skills our artisans will have, through new training programmes planned for next year. We’re delighted that former Ecuador volunteer Lydia Trezise (who volunteered years previously with Susie in Tanzania as well), has now joined our UK team as Volunteer Coordinator, overseeing all our UK volunteers and working closely to support Carlos and Jessica in Ecuador as well.
You can see all the beautiful work being produced at our new shop in Harrogate, at 39 Oxford Street (HG1 1PW) or online at www.artizaninternational.com
Due to Covid, in 2020 our individual donations unprecedentedly went down by more than 40%, so this month we launched our Artizan Angels regular giving scheme, to help encourage more folks to give a little each month, as this helps us support so many more people and really does add up over the year. A little bit of help goes a long way, especially in Latin America. If you’re a regular giver already (thank you so much!) you’ll be being sent a 10% discount code which you can use all year , either online or in our shop in person. Even if you’re not, here’s a one-off code which you can use for your next order, or feel free to share it with a friend and pass on the word about what we do. Code : CHRISTMAS-10
To find out more about Artizan Angels, click here:
Become an Artizan Angel
Keep an eye on the website too for all the amazing things which will be unfolding the in course of next year, including our new Artizan Café, opening in Harrogate we hope in the spring.
We wish you and yours a bright New Year to come,
From all the team at Artizan
In a nutshell, what does your organisation do and how did it start?
I started Artizan International on returning to Harrogate after 10 years of life and work in Tanzania, East Africa, where I set up a social enterprise that provides crafts training and employment for people with disabilities who would otherwise be street begging to earn a living. Having started with three deaf trainees when I began, on a start-up budget of just £400, by the time I left the centre was employing over 120 people with a huge range of disabilities, all of whom are now able to support themselves and their families with dignity and pride. I set up the registered charity Artizan International on returning home, (originally known as Craft Aid International) to pass on this model to other developing countries where people with disabilities are still living in poverty. I also found that differently-able people in the UK are often very socially isolated, something we’ve experienced first-hand as my youngest daughter has Downs Syndrome. Therefore, as an organisation we started by running free weekly therapeutic crafts sessions for adults with disabilities in the community in Harrogate and Leeds. We also work with long-term hospital inpatients at Harrogate and Ripon hospitals, and run after school clubs for children with special needs too.
What’s the most surprising thing about it?
People are often surprised how capable, talented and employable differently-able people are, when given the same opportunities as their peers. They’re also surprised by the high quality of the products our artisans produce.
What do you do?
I’m the Director, so I ‘steer the ship’ of our organisation. This includes overseeing and supporting all our overseas volunteers, doing hands-on design for some our overseas products, working closely with Liz Cluderay our amazing UK Programmes Officer and volunteer co-ordinator, writing grant applications, liaising with supporters, creating and managing the website, finding outlets for our products at home and overseas, running events …there’s always a lot to do!
How did you end up here?
I studied textiles as my degree. Having become a Christian in my late teens, I discovered this great source of love and that made me want to use my skills to serve others rather than just serving myself, so I volunteered in Uganda whilst still a student, setting up a social enterprise for people with learning disabilities. This led me on to my work with differently-able people (of all faiths and none), in Tanzania and now the UK, Ecuador and Peru.
If you weren’t doing this what would you be doing?
I’d be a jazz singer! I’m the vocalist with The Nightflyers jazz band.
What motivates you?
LOVE. The kind of love that puts others before self, that compels us to leave our comfort zones and reach out to people on the margins. I was born with a disability myself, having no left hip socket or head to the femur, so I had 22 operations by the time I was 19 years old. It’s hard to tell now, but I know what it’s like to be prevented from doing things, just because you’re different. This can be tough, but it also makes differently-able people incredibly resilient and great problem solvers. People say to me, “Why are you always smiling?!”, it’s not because my life has been easy, but it has been an adventure! My relentless positivity is an expression of my refusal to let my limitations get in the way of anything I want to achieve, or that I want to achieve on behalf of others.
What one thing do you wish you had known when you started out in social enterprise?
Get your work-life balance right early! Family and friendships are just as important as your work, in fact more so, and you’ll be better at your job if you’re not permanently shattered! We all need to be told that sometimes.
What excites you about business / social enterprise?
Unpacking the boxes of beautiful cards and jewellery as they arrive from Ecuador and Peru, handling each one and knowing the transformational story of the artisan who made it. Whether it’s a bracelet made by Vanessa who has muscular dystrophy and rarely used to leave the house, or a card made by Ramon who lost the use of his legs in motorbike accident and was without work for literally years before we trained and equipped him. Knowing the stories behind each product we produce, visiting the artisans when I go overseas and seeing their lives improving. That’s exciting and hugely rewarding.
What advice would you give to people just starting their careers?
Do what you love, work hard, pray hard, put your heart and soul into it, and don’t be afraid to fail. Make no small plans and don’t listen to the doubters. (But do listen to wise friends!)
Who in business do you most admire and why?
Randolph Lewis. He’s a former vice president of a Fortune 50 company in the U.S. and encourages businesses to integrate large numbers of people with disabilities as equals into their workforce.
What moments of your career so far stand out?
Receiving the Woman of the Year award and an MBE for my work in Tanzania (to my amazement!).
What sets you apart from the competition?
We’re motivated by love and service for people on the margins rather than profit. At the same time, we care passionately about producing great quality, well-designed products that customers will love. The back-story of lives transformed, is then a bonus.
What is the most difficult challenge your charity has faced?
Hard to choose between funding and the need for extra pairs of hands!
…and what challenges are you experiencing at the moment?
We’d love to have more volunteers join us.
Have you got a five-year goal for the charity?
Yes! We plan to start a community café and shop, run by differently-able people in Harrogate; and also hope to establish social enterprises in other developing countries.
Why is it good to do business in Harrogate and Wetherby?
It’s a vibrant community of people, many of whom care about the ethical provenance of the products they buy.
In my role at Craft Aid International I am responsible for the role of volunteers in our organisation.
It's my job to organise them (well, try!) Make sure everyone has the training they need and we have the right people in the right place for sessions and school visits and events etc.
Even though it's my job and I'm doing it most days, I'm still in awe of people who volunteer their time to charities.
This is time that they could be seeing friends or doing their own chores or any number of many tasks I'm sure they have on a mental list like all of us.
But instead they selflessly give their time to improve someone else's life.
And that they do.
Of course they'll tell you they love the craft making, the company and friendship and it's only a couple of hours, but to us as an organisation it's priceless.
And to our participants it's a really big deal.
That companionship for the afternoon working on a mosaic or creating some cards means the world to our participants. It's conversation. It's someone interested in who they are and what they like, what they've been up to and boom, just like that they feel important.
How magical is that !?
I think it's incredible and I am humbled to witness it every week.
I see the enjoyment our volunteers get from seeing the difference they make. There's often many a tear shed after a school session where you see participants being accepted and treated kindly by children who have not yet been tainted by society's assumption that being differently-able means you don't have anything to contribute other than making people feel awkward to be around you.
There is no awkward here.
Only love and acceptance
I think that's what volunteering is, it creates magical moments.
So if you volunteer at your child's school or your local charity then thank you for the magic, and if you don't, why don't you come and make some magic with us ?
We'd love to have you.
Written by Liz Cluderay .
(If you'd like to get involved and find out more about volunteering opportunities with us, email Liz here: email@example.com)