TEMPLES AND MARKETS was born out of a love of travelling, eating and shopping my way through South East Asia. In 1997 I left the UK, en route to migrating to Australia, and spent 5 life changing months in Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore. Nowadays I return to S.E Asia as often as I can and have since discovered the wonder of Vietnam, Cambodia and most recently Laos too.
Back in Sydney I’d be wearing unique jewellery, clothes or shoes that I’d found on my travels and often get asked “where did you get that?” from folks back home here. This compelled me to provide the market outside of S.E Asia access to my fabulous finds and at the same time, give wider exposure to the talented artisans and designers I met along the way. I wanted to tell the story behind the Home Decorative pieces, the Jewellery and Accessories they create, so unique to the region, and through those stories bring back the memories of travel through the magical kingdoms of Thailand, Cambodia and so on.
Now, when I return to the countries I love it is to source new product for Temples and Markets. Along the way I have discovered products that are being created by resilient artisans employed by Social Enterprises that exist to improve the lives of the locals in these countries. I am proud to be associated with them and honoured to be bringing their products to the Temples and Markets audience.
The Social Enterprises featured on Temples and Markets are creating work opportunities for the locals and training them in a craft they can be proud of. Through the Temples and Markets Estore I can tell the story behind each organization and showcase the products they create. I like to think our customers are getting “WinWin” – in other words they are not only purchasing a beautiful piece of jewellery when they buy from the Senhoa Foundation but they are doing their bit to give back to the resilient woman who made it in Cambodia. “Win Win” or the “Feel Good Factor” – call it what you will but doesn’t it make you feel good to be shopping ethically rather than shopping for the sake of sheer consumerism? Doesn’t it make you feel good knowing you’ve made a tangible difference to the life of the artisan who made your purchase?
It is a definite “Win Win” for me to be supporting the Social Enterprises featured in this article and helping to trade their artisans into a better life.
SENHOA FOUNDATION whose tagline is “Employ, Empower, Emancipate” believes in:
- Income-generation for women’s economic and personal independence
- Education and training programs for self-empowerment
- Using business sensibilities to achieve humanitarian goals
Proceeds from the sales of Senhoa Jewellery go directly to the rehabilitation and education of young women who are vulnerable to or survivors of slavey in South East Asia. Since 2010 Senhoa has
- Sheltered 57 victimized women in their safe house.
- Thanks to their transitional program, 82% are either apprentices or safely employed.
- Trained 105 at risk girls in a dignified vocation
MEKONG+ The Social Enterprise I first came across in the magical town of Hoi An began in 2001 with one aim and that is to create sustainable employment for under-privileged women in remote and rural regions of Vietnam and Cambodia.
Mekong+ now employs over 340 women in communities northeast of Ho Chi Minh City, the Mekong Delta and Svay Rieng in Cambodia. Besides direct economic benefit to the women, all profits from your purchase of Mekong+ products are used to support the wider community through development initiatives such as micro-financing, scholarships, and health, hygiene and agricultural education programs.
Their tagline is “Every item purchased from Mekong+ is a gift that gives twice”
Mekong+ started with quilting but have expanded their range to bamboo bikes, fashion accessories and the Water Hyacinth eco-friendly bags. The quilts and quilts are showcased on Temples and Markets. Group leader Mrs Be Hai from the Water Hyacinth workshop in Long Binh Commune, based in the Mekong Delta is responsible for buying the raw materials. With 1 bag of dried water hyacinth (2kg) she can make about 5 – 7 bags a week, each bag will earn her $4US. Excluding the raw materials, she is able to earn approximately $75 US per month. She can work from home which affords her more time with her family.
AMMO is the creation of expat English Jeweller Madeline Green now based in Siem Reap. She has learnt the Cambodian way to produce jewellery and provids apprenticeships to young Cambodians to train as jewellers. Brass Bullet Casings and silver are transformed by the team at Ammo from “Negative metal into Positive jewellery for both Men and Women”, with original and also traditional Angkorian design elements.
I will never forget visiting Madeline’s workshop in Siem Reap; as we talked her 6 month old baby fell asleep to the gentle sounds of lead apprentice, Lai ‘s melodic singing from the workshop. Maddy’s enthusiasm for her adopted home, her pride in her staff, her wish to make the lives of her staff and apprentices better by training them to help themselves, was genuine and infectious.
SMATERIA is the Social Enterprise created by Italian Expats to Cambodia, Jennifer and Elisa. They had two very clear objectives: to create a beautiful, high-quality product using ‘bizarre’ materials, and to employ Cambodian workers in a fair and sustainable way, giving priority to women and mothers. They have succeeded on both counts in spades.
Smateria’s employees (85 percent of whom are women) enjoy comfortable working conditions, a thirteen-month salary, health insurance, professional training and the freedom to train across the whole organisation – from pre-production to sales. Best of all is a free preschool and childcare centre right on the premises so new mums can breastfeed their babies and staff with young children can work; happy in the knowledge that their children are getting a good education – right upstairs. The professionally trained teachers also oversee a library and encourage children to borrow books to read at home. Smateria’s vibrant coloured bags and accessories are made using recycled fishing net and remnant sofa leather.
ANGKOR BULLET JEWELLERY is a group of home-based artisans who reside in a small community around 30 minutes from Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
Its members, a group of vulnerable Cambodians with disabilities have been given the opportunity to train in the production, management, leadership and marketing of a contemporary handicrafts and arts collective. This Social Enterprise is committed to the personal development of their home based workers as individuals in an economic, social and spiritual sense. The artisans are given employment with fair wages, a safe work environment and education for their families.
At the centre of the Network is a special man, Jewellery Production Manager Chanta Theoun. Orphaned during the horror days of the Khmer Rouge, Chanta was taken care of by the Skip Organisation/Orphanage Centre and it was there that he began learning the fine art of jewellery creation. Fast forward to present and Chanta has a family of his own, is now a talented designer and craftsman and his wife creates beautiful jewellery too. Chantha particularly enjoys the freedom to look after his children that working from home gives him.
Angkor Bullet Jewellery produces unique jewellery pieces that have been fashioned from recycled bomb casing remaining from the days of war. The metal from the casing is melted down and sculptured into the works of art featured in this collection. From horror comes resilience, strength and incredible beauty.