Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Last Craft Co-Op Meeting (at least for now) - Feb 11

As you may know from our web site, we regrettably had to suspend our Iraqi Women's Craft Co-operative - at least for now. The Co-Op was one of the projects we chose to eliminate in our efforts to stay afloat during this economic downturn when donations are slower than usual. We decided to suspend it because it had been difficult to get the women to come together and become a true co-operative when they had no place to meet on a regular basis and learn and brainstorm together on how they could be as independent as possible - with minimal support from CRP. We had been purchasing their handcrafts from them with the intention of holding sales to resell their items as well as to use them as samples to approach fair trade vendors.

We hope that we can eventually open the Family Resource & Community Center and provide a place for these meetings as well as a gallery/shop space where they can display and sell their fine wares.

However, we hosted a Holiday Art of Peace Craft Bazaar in Medford Oregon in November and sold many of the women's crafts. We had a final meeting to give the women the money from the bazaar and discuss the future of the co-op. It was good to see them after being away for so long!

The women were tremendously disappointed, of course. They'd had hopes of earning an income from their handiwork. At first they were reluctant to accept that we had to end the project - and then, when they finally understood, there were a few minutes of panic among them. But something beautiful bloomed out of this despair!

When they understood that Collateral Repair Project would no longer be purchasing their crafts for resale, they put their heads together and started problem-solving about how they could continue without CRP support. This was what we had encouraged them to do from the beginning but it took CRP abandoning them to provide motivation. It was exciting for me to see them discussing options together and to hear their initial plans for them taking true ownership of the Co-Op!

Their initial plan is to look for local outlets to sell to - such as hotel gift shops and boutiques. They will co-operate in creating a sample kit to take to shops for them to order from. They also asked if CRP could put their crafts on the web site so that they could direct potential buyers to see a sampling of their crafts. They hope that they can attract international buyers by having this online "catalog". Of course, we agreed to create these pages for them.

They discussed shipping options and how to include all costs in their pricing. They determined two contact people within the group who would respond to email inquiries and be laision between buyers and the Co-Op membership.

They accomplished a lot in this short meeting!

We will provide the women as much nonfinancial assistance as possible as they create, for themselves, a true co-operative! I will post notice in this blog when their online gallery is set up as well as a link to their gallery on our web site's menu page