Lia* was so tired. She hated her job at the garment factory. She could handle the long days—six days a week—with few breaks, but she hated the way her supervisor constantly shamed her for not working fast enough. She hated mindlessly sewing the same patterned pieces together all day, and she especially hated the blatant harassment from the men who hung around at the doors as the women entered and exited the factory.
But Lia was lucky that her family lived in a small apartment near the factory. That meant that Lia could stay with them where it was safe, and she didn’t have to live in the crowded, factory-provided housing. A number of those women ended up working in the nearby brothels during their hours off.
Then, Lia heard about a job opening at CAMACrafts. Her grandmother had done embroidery work for the CAMACrafts handicraft business when their family fled to the refugee camps in Thailand after the Vietnam War, and she continued embroidering for CAMACrafts when the family returned to their home county shortly before Lia was born. Lia was fascinated by the intricate patterns and longed to be able to make the same beautiful, traditional art that her grandmother did.
Lia gathered her courage and asked about the job. She was surprised that the CAMACrafts manager agreed to hire her even though she had so little work experience. She later learned that CAMACrafts valued being able to provide young people with work experience to begin their résumés so that they would have better opportunities in the future.
Lia quickly caught on to the hand stitching method for the reverse-applique patterns. The older woman who supervised the embroidery producers offered to teach Lia how to fold and cut the patterns into the cloth—a process that took extra patience and practice to master. The practice paid off when a foreign customer special-ordered a tablecloth with an especially difficult pattern; Lia felt honored when the supervisor chose her to do the intricate embroidery work. Lia especially enjoyed the company-sponsored “Creative Days” when the employees were encouraged to use whatever supplies they liked, working alone or in groups to come up with new products. Lia felt so proud when several of her original designs quickly sold at CAMACrafts’ local retail shop.
Please pray for the many young women who lack opportunities for safe and dignified work in this region of the world. Pray for families who see no option but to accept dangerous or demeaning work to make ends meet. Pray for CAMACrafts whose goal is to provide work and opportunity for new producers from a second ethnic group.
Alliance Women is committed to prayer and financial support for the CAMACrafts ministry in the South Pacific region. We have set a goal to raise $17,000 for the expansion of this vital ministry to women. To participate, please visit www.alliancewomen.org/give.
Note: Alliance Women has chosen six projects to support with our prayers and financial gifts. Each project has been assigned a day of the week for concentrated prayer.
CAMACrafts began in the Hmong refugee camps in Thailand almost 40 years ago. It has since become a social enterprise that provides income to 250 village women, mostly from the Hmong ethnic group. Women use their traditional cultural skills to make handicrafts, earning an income to pay for essentials such as medical costs, school books and uniforms, and transportation. Women can work from their own homes in their free time, allowing them to remain the primary caregivers. We celebrate the opportunity for women to pass on traditional embroidery skills to the next generation.
CAMACrafts sells these handicrafts in local and foreign markets. We believe that as producers earn incomes through safe and dignified work while living at home, this allows them to stay in their home communities rather than seeking work in urban centers or in other Asian countries that put them at risk.
We recently discovered that two of our production office staff worked at a garment factory before coming to CAMACrafts. When asked what it was like, they said, “Well, we were a lot more tired.” They have left the exhaustion of the sweatshop behind and are now working in a place where they have time to laugh with their friends, welcome visiting producers, and show their creativity. They have found a place where they feel they belong.
CAMACrafts would like to expand to include producers and designs from additional ethnic groups in remote areas. These groups are already experiencing improvement in health, hygiene, and education through community development efforts. Dozens have found freedom from drug addiction and now follow Christ. CAMACrafts would like to come alongside by providing a means of supplemental income to these villagers and giving them a way to link the new things they are learning to the rich heritage and traditions of the communities to which they belong.
A CAMA Services worker who works with these community development projects has agreed to introduce CAMACrafts staff to villagers. Several young women have been identified as potential producers. These young women have already been leading the way in community development and education—one was the first girl from her village to attend high school and is now studying at the national university.
Initially, CAMACrafts hopes to recruit and train women who can produce cross-stitch embroidered and traditionally quilted pieces that can be sold to Western and Asian markets. In the second year, CAMACrafts would like to explore purchasing traditionally spun cotton thread and hand-woven cotton cloth from these women in addition to embroidered pieces. CAMACrafts will train producers in designs that are attractive to foreign markets and in techniques to improve embroidery skills.
Alliance Women is committed to prayer and financial support for the CAMACrafts ministry in the South Pacific region. We have set a goal to raise $17,000 for the expansion of this vital ministry to women.
To participate, please visit www.alliancewomen.org/give.