By Lindsay Beck
The day following our visit with Saathi group (which you can read about in my previous two blog posts) found us heading to ASHA Handicrafts. After a confusing ride with a driver who spoke no English and who stopped to ask for directions every few yards, we arrived at ASHA’s headquarters. We were warmly welcomed with the customary chai, and began with an overview of the organization from Immanuel, who has worked there for over 30 years.
ASHA was formed in 1975, and their name means “hope” in Sanskrit. Their mission statement demonstrates their seriousness of purpose: “to promote the social and economic welfare of its artisans and producers in India, by providing marketing facilities for handicrafts through fair trade practices.” They clearly state that ASHA guarantees with their fair trade certification, “A fair price, quality handicraft products, welfare of the artisan community, and dedication to protecting and preserving the environment.” We were highly impressed with the comprehensive overview that Immanuel gave us, and were encouraged to see how high and wide ASHA’s scope of influence is and how much they are achieving.
We went on to meet one producer for ASHA who brought with him several beautiful products for us to admire, including a piece of screen-printed material which had required over twenty different screens for the separate colors. It was amazing to realize how much intricate work goes into the handmade items we buy! Immanuel also took us down into the warehouse to meet some of their employees and see where the packing-magic happens; Amy spoke with one of the employees, and will be telling his story on Monday.
ASHA treated us to a delicious lunch–seeing the picture makes me miss Indian food–after which we had the privilege of meeting the CEO, Lucas. To cap off our full day with ASHA, we drove over to the outskirts of the largest slum in Mumbai and paid a visit to one of their producers, whose story you will hear on Friday! We couldn’t have asked for a better glimpse into ASHA’s work.