Welcome.

We have never been more connected than we are right now. This is not an earthquake or eruption that happened thousands of miles from us. This isn’t something we can feel bad about and then change the channel. There is no one exempt from the impact of the coronavirus. Yet, it impacts each of us uniquely. 

Here we will share the pain experienced by our partners around the world along with the wonder, and brightness they are shining in their communities. 

While Equal Partnership in on of our Family Values, in this case, we aren’t covering stories about our Fair Trade Partners in the United States. They are no less important; we have just designated this space for another part of the world so we can share about our partners in Bolivia, Ecuador, Ethiopia, Guatemala, India, Indonesia, Vietnam and Uganda.  

This will be documented like a journal entry by country with updates as we get them. Click on a banner below to jump to each country. We are reaching out frequently with words of encouragement, sharing what is happening with us – and sending re-orders when we can! We don’t always hear back so if there isn’t a recent update know that they may be facing challenges like charging their phones because of power outages, or, are busy juggling their children as we are here. Wherever we can, we have used direct quotes. Love, Ang and Kara

Bolivia:

On April 14th, Cara wrote: We are…well, all things considered. Bolivia is under strict total lockdown, police-enforced. One person per household is allowed out of doors for 4 hours a week for grocery and pharmacy runs. There are no cars allowed out, so we have to walk to the grocery store (close to us thankfully) and stand in lines blocks long just to get in.
We are all healthy and hunkered down in this quarantine. We are struggling with wiggly, bored kids. We are so thankful to have salaries when most of the day-laborers don’t. Your deposit will pay their April salaries. After that, we’ll probably be dipping into some emergency funds from donations, and praying for some contracts or relief. We did put in a bid to make biohazard suits for a local bank 😂, but so far no word on that.
And even though we don’t currently have access to the workshop, our sewing coordinator would love to start working on patterns and samples from home, and we hear rumors that our total quarantine will be lifted by May 3.  Even if it’s not, we hope to be working from home once we have set orders.
So, yes, let’s start designing!  What are you thinking?

Ecuador:

On April 8th, Alejandra, wrote: Ecuador is not allowing any movement of goods or people across county lines, making it very difficult to work. We are covering taxis for all the artisans to come and go, which are safer than public transportation. Luckily the area of Ecuador where we primarily work has fewer cases than other parts of the country, but the government still has really strong restrictions in place. There is a lot of fear, understandably, both for health and economic prospects for the future.  Everyone is going there best and it’s times like this that we really see the value in our strong team. So far everyone is healthy and that’s the most important thing!

Ethiopia:

On March 23rd Teshome wrote, “We keep on praying and taking all the necessary measures to protect the spread of Corona to the extent possible too. Accordingly, we have temporary closed our production sites, offices and sales outlets since our ultimate objective and vision is to protect our women employees and workers.

Therefore please also kindly understand the situation since it is the most responsible measure that we can do especially at company level.”

This is all we’ve heard so far. Follow up emails after March 25th have been returned with an out-of-office message saying, “Due to the corona virus (COVID-19) outbreak we would like to notify you we have suspended our work for the time being, and we will reply you email as soon as we are back to the office or when we get a chance in between. Stay safe!!!”

Guatemala:

Guatemala has closed its borders to all travel. A lot of the country depends on tourism so they are very worried. There is a country-wide curfew from 4pm – 4am. 

On May 13t, Wendy wrote: In Guatemala, this are getting a bit harder this week since the number of cases has increased considerably. So we hope to pass this thru with health. So we have no news on reopen yet.
On April 6th, Maria wrote: Thanks for the order. Every bit helps! It’s complicated in Guate. For the women extra hard. We are finding ways to adapt. We are selling textile masks now in Guate and in the US – running a campaign to donate masks. That’s the one thing we can do for the villages. Once we can get back we will also be working in food security through organic agriculture with the Sweden project. Bits by bits.
Watch story from our partner, Maria.

On March 27th Hilda Maria said, “We are in our second week close, trying to making home office, with our kids at home making homeschooling, that could be a little bit crazy sometimes. Our health system is weak, so our authorities are trying to content the expansion of the virus. We are trying to keep working with the communities, working at the orders that we already have and trying to keep the source of income for them. As you said, we are together in this, and working together we are going to get over this.”

On March 27th Jorge shared what it is like with us by video saying that the Guatemalan government (as with most country’s governments) doesn’t have funds to provide a safety net like we have here so everyone is very worried. Watch more here:

VIDEO clip from Jorge starting at 18:44 (We are working to embed just his part)

On March 22nd Jorge wrote, “Here in Guate since last week we are home office, the president closed malls and borders, they are preparing for these week.. as you know here in Guate we are not prepared for this situation and some big companies are supporting with money and equipment for some hospitals. My son and my wife are with me in our home, we are trying to keep all the government instructions. Today the president declared a curfew, so between 4pm to 4am nobody can be on streets. I think that everybody is affected with this so we hope that good news come soon.”

Because of your purchases, on Friday, April 3rd we were able to place an order for almost 400 bracelets to keep work and income going to them.

India – Calcutta

On June 16th, Sarah wrote: Update from our team:  everyone is healthy, thankfully. The main jewelry studio (Rabindra) is opening tomorrow with limited capacity (6 artisans + 1 manager) and we will be doing alternate weeks. Women who live close enough to walk or take an auto-rickshaw will be returning. Those who live far away cannot safely travel across town so unfortunately they cannot yet return. The red light area where we have the other studio is still quarantined.  That area has more cases and the situation is more chaotic/vulnerable, so we will not resume that program until August (waiting to see what transpires). We have offered counseling by phone to everyone, and some girls are taking advantage of this resource.  

On May 10th, Nafiza wrote: We all very good here and now it’s easy to spend time at home, more facetime and phone calls with everyone, doing designing stuff so it’s not that bad at begining when lockdown starts. I really miss our work place but it’s what it’s now. Our lockdown up to 17th May but maybe it’s extend or not but we plan to slowly open with a few girls at the end of this month with all the COVID 19 guidelines hope for the best. Thank you for being with us all the time.

On April 29th, Nafiza wrote: Lovely call Angela and Thank you for arranging this for us, I feel so connected with you and everyone, such a special partnership we had. Love you and all.

On April 11th Nafiza wrote: Our lockdown extended up to 30th April 2020 and few hotspots areas also found. So those areas completely lockdown no one can go to those areas and no one can get out of there and from next week those areas also will start rapid tests for safety. not confirmed the name of those areas in the under hotspots zone but gave some idea about the areas so we are still out of the hotspots zone and can go out to get food only and police will be more alert from tomorrow. Will update you next week.

On April 2nd Nafiza wrote: Lockdown extended upto 14th april, but the situation little understandable we are getting stuff we need grocery shops open market open certain time in the morning, emergency essential all available only the price double, online delivery allow. We at home but easily get things.. The number now 10 and one died last Monday. But the government work well.

On March 30th Sarah wrote: I am worried about the girls in the red light area and slums because they don’t have any food stocks, and now India is on total lockdown.  So we are working with partners in 3 locations to do emergency food distribution.

On March 26th Nafiza wrote: Very happy to hear from you, praying for our good health and better situation ahead. Me, my family, friends, all girls, we are fine here, till yet Kolkata found 7 cases and suspected more in the next few weeks, hope for the best now and we also in lockdown period all schools, colleges, cinema halls, restaurants, entertainment parks all closed from today 5pm, we arranged food and water for the next 10 days, no idea about after 10 days what will be the scenario here, we all in the same position in different countries.

We also doing work from home and given girls paid leaves until 31st March. We are depending on our government decision whatever they decide after 31st March we will accept and follow the guideline. One good thing happened because of lockdown our environment is much nicer and clean, fresh air no pollution at all, Mother Nature returned.

India – New Delhi: 

On August 26th, Moon wrote: We sincerely hope that Covid 19 situation in USA is in control now. Sometime ago we heard that it is spreading more in the southern states. Indeed it is worrying, as the pattern of the transmission of Covid 19 virus goes ups and down in different parts of the world. You and your colleagues, families are in our thoughts and prayers.

 We are thankful to you for your continuous work support, especially in these times, when the artisans did not have enough work. We hope that vaccine will be available soon so that people recover and life comes back to normalcy. It is very important for our sustainability. We also hope that the people there are taking social distancing seriously and are using masks.  In India, it is compulsory now to wear the masks.

As you are aware, we are working, but the life in general continue to be disrupted. Due to the large population and the absence of social distancing at many places, it is proving difficult to control the virus transmission. The virus has also reached the small cities and in the rural areas. It happened due to the migration of workers/ labourers, who left the cities several weeks ago, having no work and means to survive in the city. Unfortunately, there was not enough control measures to check. Many of these workers were already infected, when they reached back to their home towns. The State governments are trying their best to take measures for the proper treatment and check the spread of the virus. However, it is still challenging situation at many parts of the country.

We have already crossed 3.23 million Corona cases and sadly more than 59600 people have died so far. At the same time the good news is that many people having mild symptoms are recovering. In Delhi, compared to last month, the situation is better, as the infection and death ratio has gone down. The experts feel that the peak is already there. Let us hope the curve will flatten soon.

The economy continues to be in turmoil and still a large segment of population continue to be without work. Businesses are also having hard times to sustain and survive. Many have closed down. In Delhi, the lockdown is relaxed now and we are able to go outside and drive. Shops are also opened. However, schools and colleges, Metro, inter-state transportation, 95% of the aviation and hotel industry remains close down. On weekends there are strict lockdowns in several States. Food and many other items, like fuel has also become more expensive now, making life more difficult for the common people. The artisan workshops are now working, though still partially, at a slower pace. For three days a week, the workshops are closed in Uttar Pradesh and in Haryana due to lockdown. We hope in September things will further relaxed, due to the continuous economic pressure. Some of our colleagues are still away due to the partial lockdowns and non availability of the transportation.  

Delhi has now 716 red containment zones, that means these are selected areas where the Covid 19 patients are in home quarantine and nobody can enter or go outside from these lanes/ areas for a certain period. Presently, many of the infected patients continue to be home quarantined and are treating themselves by taking home remedies, hot water and anti fever tablets etc. Since, the medical treatment continues to be very expensive for common people, the State is encouraging them to stay at home. They are admitted in hospitals only when serious.

Our efforts to find work and provide relief to the artisans, and other beneficiaries continues. We are distributing raw food material and health kits on regular basis. Tara health care center continue to provide primary medical support to many members in need. Thanks to the community health team for continuously helping in the field at the grassroots level.

To further help the artisans we continue to make cotton masks for some of the partners as well as for the distribution in the community. It has given much needed work to several artisans.

On June 14th, Moon wrote: The situation in New Delhi / India (many other cities) continues to be worrisome. The densely populated cities and many other areas are affected. The situation is far from satisfactory. Mortality rate is increasing due to the non availability of medical treatment. Not easy to get admission in hospitals. There is also a serious shortage of oxygen facility. Unfortunately, we are expecting the hardest weeks ahead with the rapid surge of the Covid cases every day. We have crossed till today more than 333200 cases with 9500 deaths. There is hardly any space available in hospitals or at cremation grounds.

Looking at the grim situation, we are now thinking of adding an oxygen facility (pulse oximeter, oxygen concentrator and oxygen cylinders), in our health centre, in view of the shortage of oxygen available. Such a facility will help us in handling the emergency situation.

On May 13th, Sanjay wrote: Regarding COVID-19 situation in India, at present, we are in stage of third lockdown started from 4th May which will continue till 17th  May.

As you are aware it is almost seven weeks that we continue to be in lockdown, confined to our homes. Due to not enough testing carried out in India so far, nobody knows where we stand in terms of the infection. In reality we do not know if the situation is under control! The state needs to conduct more rapid testing. We have crossed by now 70000 cases and more than 2300 people have died so far. As per the government we are still in a better situation compared to other countries in terms of mortality. But at the same time they are worried as they foresee a surge in the numbers in coming weeks/ months!

On 4th of May,  our government has declared further extension of Lockdown for the next two weeks with some relaxations (the companies can open with 33% of their strength, for important / pending work). They have the opinion that the virus will continue to spread, as it is very difficult to have complete restrictions due to our large population. At the same time there is urgent need to open up the economy as millions of people have lost the jobs in the last several weeks and the situation is rather grim. The government also does not have enough means to support people. The fact is that we will have to learn to live with the virus. We will have to adapt to this reality while saving ourselves and moving on with daily life!!  It is indeed worrying situation till is some permanent solution is found.

Unfortunately, Delhi state continue to be in red zone. Extended lockdown with slight relaxation is not going to change the situation for us. In general life remain paralysed on work front due to no transportation available to commute and closing of the inter-state borders. It is very difficult to work without transportation and not opening of the borders as well as the markets. No possibility to buy raw materials!! and travel from one place to other is not possible . Most of artisans and several colleagues live in the adjacent states. Therefore due to closure of the borders they are not be able to travel. In the city itself auto rickshaws, bus and metro service is also at halt. It is may be due to the danger of virus spread. In Uttar Pradesh State as well (where we have soapstone workshop, wooden workshop, glass workshop and several other jewellery workshops) is also in red zone and all the work is at halt. Not easy times for the artisan communities .

Huge economic setback! We all are fighting on two fronts. Continuous spread of Covid-19 each day and the loss of millions of jobs/ livelihood . The most difficult fact is that  government is not in a position to support the small scale industry and we have no social security. Having no support from the government or enough relief, it is the big challenge for the companies and enterprises to sustain and survive. It is more serious when the countries in Europe and USA are themselves amidst of worst situation. It will take a long time when the trade will come back to its normal state. The coming weeks, months are going to be challenging for all of us.

Let’s just pray that there are no more deaths and no more fear in the world due to this deadly thing! (this sounds unrealistic at the moment, but again we need to be positive and hope for the best.

On April 19th, Moon wrote: Still worrying news from USA and Europe.  We pray for the safety and good health of all.  Governments have to try to develop Vaccine soon, otherwise things are becoming hopeless.
Since we had the last communication, we have entered in the second lockdown now, which will continue till 3rd of May. A few activities like agriculture, fishery etc will start as the government is under great pressure due to vast scale unemployment and no social security. Though the government has not declared and there are still fewer tests, it is becoming clearer that we may be entering in the third stage. Unless some miracle happens, we are going to have more challenging times ahead. Cases are increasing even having fewer tests. That shows virus in becoming more and more active. Will high temperatures will kill it!! Not sure..

We still continue to be closed. Of course it is a big worry to handle the fixed costs. Since government has no support for the industry and there is no social security, many companies are bound to close. Government make it mandatory for the companies to pay to workers and staff, so very crucial times ahead. Many artisans are also having very difficult times. No jobs, no income and the fear of Corona virus… very heartbreaking.. In the given circumstances we continue to run the community kitchen for the vulnerable. But our sources are very limited now.

Next 10 days we know where we stand…

On April 8th, Moon wrote (this is shortened, but not re-worded): Thank you for your whatsApp messages and concern. I was feeling a bit down so could not come earlier… Apologies..As writing this mail we feel very concerned about the critical situation in USA and some European countries. We wish courage and strength to those who are fighting for their lives in the hospitals and for the front liners, helping others by risking their own lives.

Here, so far we are safe. It is a very strange and frustrating experience to be confined in the homes. For many, it is suffocating, as people have to remain inside their small cramped houses. large families living in a very small space.

In mid March, we realised that situation was becoming serious. With not many cases, the government was a bit slow in its response. However, with the rise in cases, soon the government geared up. It all started with the imposition of curfew and a partial lockdown in many cities all over the country. After the curfew and introduction of section 144 (where no 5 persons can be together) on 22nd of March, the complete nationwide lockdown was declared by the govt. It is more than two weeks now that we all are confined to our homes. Our lives have changed overnight with the fear of uncertainty and insecurity. Complete lockdown in the country has brought many other hardships specially for the poor people. But lockdown seems to be the only solution in view of the poor and inadequate health infrastructure in India.

Delhi city and many others are under complete lockdown. Nobody is allowed to come out of their homes. Police is patrolling and can be very harsh if someone is caught outside. Still many unaware and radicals are breaking the rules. All the non-essential services have been closed. Only essential grocery, some vegetables shops, milk and chemists shops are allowed to open for few hours a day.

As you have mentioned too, one of the worst outcome of the situation has been the large exodus of poor daily wage earners/local migrants back to their villages. Due to their fragile socio-economic backgrounds and sudden loss of their jobs, it was difficult for them to understand the seriousness of the situation caused by the pandemic. I think government was not prepared to face this huge and unexpected scale of exodus.

Due to the situation changing we had to close our community actions the third week of March. However , our health center continued to work to support many patients till 24th of March. A very busy month for us with many new patients of viral fever and cold related infections. Many members and artisans were provided medical treatment and day care. We also organised several sessions for the members on the awareness and preventive measures to be taken. More than 100 doctors and health workers in other centers in Delhi developed symptoms of Corona and were found positive and are in quarantine now. Therefore, we had to temporarily close down our health center on 24th of March. .

Many hospitals have been converted into the Corona only hospitals. Usual patients with various diseases are no longer provided treatment. The hospitals do not have sufficient beds to cope with the pandemic. There is also the shortage of PPEs and the testing kits.

Few of our  volunteers and community workers are still active in supporting the members and others in need. Community kitchens are being organised and food is distributed to the needy persons. Our volunteers are also helping in distributing surgical masks. It is a real spirit of solidarity and support as well as sharing with others.

We are trying our best to keep in touch through telephone, whatsApp calls and whatsApp groups. Our actions are limited as we ourselves have limited means. With no source of income at present and the closure of many small workshop and industry, many families have lost their source of livelihood and are suffering. Through the help of some friends we are able to support several needy people by organising community kitchen. For emergency medical support mutual health paramedic and doctor are available as and when required over the phone.

Very trying times ahead. Most of our work has been suspended and cancelled. There is uncertainty and hardly any work for the next several months in view of the difficult situation in Europe and USA. There is concern and we are not sure how we are going to survive. Coming months are going to be very crucial. It is an unimaginable situation as we never confronted such times before. All our colleagues are at home.  Due to the nature of our work, it is not possible to work from home. Many small workshops and groups have already shutdown and many will disappear soon. Prices of the basic household items are also rising every other day..

With the current situation, it is expected that the lockdown may be extended  (not sure till when !!).  we are continuing our actions to support our community workers and producers to compensate for their loss of wages. It is going to take months to come back to our normal conditions.

Several cases of Covid 19 have been identified in our working areas. Many are in quarantine. We hope to work  and support the authorities through and after the pandemic. It is a gigantic task for the government alone.

How is the situation at your end? Very worrying indeed, thinking of USA. Hope you, your family and friends are taking care. You are in our thoughts and prayers.

Keep in touch.  Stay safe and healthy.

On March 29th Moon wrote, “The last two weeks, several days were very strange and stressful… never experienced such times earlier… life came to standstill… looks like crumbling.. Falling down with every thing to halt. 

So much loss of life in China, Europe and now in USA is shocking, a very helpless situation, beyond control.. Thinking about you and friends in USA and Europe.. And I believe though at this cost of huge economic recession.. We will rise to this challenge of corona pandemic…

Here amidst of lockdown, thousands of migrant workers and daily wage earners have suffered most.. And are leaving cities to their home towns far of places.. Just walking with no food and job.. Very sad and pathetic situation.. Migration continue..

On our part we had been also involved in supporting people with whatever little we had.. Helping patients in our health clinic.. Giving masks to sick people and food distribution.. Very scary to see the numbers of patients and casualties in US.. please take care of yourself, family and people around you. We pray for the end of the difficult crisis.”

In Badarpur and Sarai Tareen in UP volunteers cook food for those who have nothing to eat and no work and distributed to daily job workers. Food was cooked and distributed to MHO members and migrant travelling people in need of support.

We think this video is from New Delhi where thousands and thousands of migrant/day-laborers are trying to get back to their villages:

Thanks to all team members, especially Sunita, Rajinder and Anil..Images giving masks to sick people in health clinic.

Indonesia

On April 13th, Hani wrote: Bali now, is no tourist, no malls, no bars, no pubs, only some supermarket open for daily food. They just open from 9AM to 2PM. We don’t get any order, no shipment yet….everything are holds until don’t know. Since Mid of March, we only working 3 days in a week; Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, with 4 hours working and only 3 people.

If you have new design please let us know, we will coordinate with Artisans. Hope you’re safe there and take care

On March 22nd Agung wrote: So far we and artisans are safe from the outbreak of corona. It is terrible situation. We not allow our artisan to visit office, only those who delivery their order can come, and before that they must call to the office. Our team at the office we provide hand sanitiser, maskers, vitamin C and healthy snack. We hope you and us are stay safe.

Please convey our regards to everyone there, and hope all of your family and team are safe.

May God bless us all.

Vietnam:

On April 8th, Suong wrote, everyone are all well and staying safe. City of brass workshop stay didn’t have any people infected Covid-19, they’re safe more than me 🙂
In Vietnam we don’t have more people infected Covid-19, but Government still request all people stay at home and limit go out.
Because my workshop and brass workshop at other city so the exchange of goods will need long time. Now is one time a week, last time is everyday.
But I believe everything will better at future and we’ll pray for US pass Disease fast.

Uganda:

As of April 12th, they’re having both power and network issues so communication is sparse. Evaline is prioritizing staying home and not venturing out to try to charge her phone or refill data so we’ll take communication when she’s able to give it.
Evaline said she’s able to continue with orders. The team is working in their own homes now, so production is a little slower than usual, but still going. The biggest challenge is keeping enough orders coming. There isn’t currently enough orders to generate full time work anymore.

There is price gouging making soap and food very expensive.

As of March 23rd Evaline and team are okay but worried. On the 20th, Uganda confirmed its first case and Evaline said there were nine cases three days later. Not sure how true that is since the news in Uganda is unreliable and most if not all countries are not able to report accurate numbers due to inadequate testing. Also, the ability to get to the hospital and get tested is for the affluent. As of April 2nd, Uganda is only reporting 45 cases. People living in poverty often have to choose food over hygiene and are especially vulnerable to health crises. Social distancing is a privilege not available to the team in Uganda.

Evaline said things are complicated and closing. Flights are grounded which cuts off even more access to resources needed in the country.

Evaline hasn’t been able to charge her phones (likely from power outages) so we don’t have updates after late March.