On February 21, Karama Mamas traveled from the US and Tanzania to meet in Nairobi, Kenya and Addis Ababa, Ethiopia for an unforgettable journey through East Africa. Equal parts artisan visits, product design conferences, and brainstorming sessions over coffee, the Karama Collection Tour has been a time to build relationships with our artisans and organization leaders and explore Karama's future.
At the heart of all Karama activity is the investment in the artisans and leaders that we work with. We don't just love the products we sell - we love the people who made them. We aren't just interested in fair trade and good work conditions because it's right, but because we have beautiful friendships that have shown us the artisans' dreams, the families they provide for, and how their lives have changed because they are purposefully employed. We care about whether or not they're happy in their jobs, if they can pay school fees, or if they need prayers. In order to deepen those friendships and take an active interest in a person's well-being, we make personal visits to the artisans and organization leaders, which are a necessary part of open and consistent communication and showing people that they are important to you.
Because you can't know someone's story if you can't see the crinkles that form at their eyes when they talk about their children or what they want to pursue in college. Or how proud they are of their creations unless you see them skillfully working a loom or putting the finishing stitches into a leather bag they helped design. These details are the most important parts of our friendships, and we wouldn't trade them for the world.
When we can establish open and honest dialog with our artisans, magic happens. Full knowledge of products and materials available to us and a work time-frame pave the way for a flow of ideas about product designs. This is a beautiful process; we see the artisans in their workshops and get an idea of how much work they can handle and the scale of their abilities, we find out where their materials come from and all of the possibilities they offer, and we work on designs in person with the artisans themselves. This ensures that artisans are not being over- or underworked, and that they are treated with respect in an professional environment. We learn how to communicate with each other and brainstorm about the possibilities. We come away from the experience with mutual respect and responsibility.
The combination of personal and professional relationships creates a truly extraordinary friendship. We cherish our artisans as human beings and as creative individuals with incredible and unique abilities. We're proud of them because of what they can make and because we know about their dreams and goals. We know what they're capable of. Because we know these things, and because we love these people, we want to share their lives with the world - we want you to know them like we know them. The Karama Collection Tour has gathered ideas and products of course, but more than anything, it gives us the opportunity to gather stories. Every person who then invests in the life of an artisan through the stories we share becomes part of the Karama story - past language, geographical, and socio-economic barriers - to unite people across the globe.