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WorldCrafts changes distraught lives
Baptist Press
November 03, 2009
6 MIN READ TIME

WorldCrafts changes distraught lives

WorldCrafts changes distraught lives
Baptist Press
November 03, 2009

BIRMINGHAM, Ala.

— Lives are being turned from darkness to light in more than 30 countries

through WorldCrafts, an ongoing artisan ministry coordinated by Woman’s

Missionary Union (WMU).

As the Christmas gift-giving season approaches, WMU encourages Southern

Baptists to consider WorldCrafts, to support a ministry that has helped

thousands of neglected women embrace fulfilling careers as artisans.

Photo courtesy of WorldCrafts

Victims of Nepal’s sex trade industry have sought refuge at a ministry called Higher Ground, where they now have salaried jobs making jewelry available for purchase from WorldCrafts.

“WorldCrafts is about more than social good. WorldCrafts is concerned with

transformed lives, homes and communities,” said Andrea Mullins, director of

WorldCrafts. “With each and every gift purchase, you are helping artisans

across the world escape poverty and discover a living hope.”

WorldCrafts pays artisans a fair price that covers not only their costs but

also ensures sustainable production, Mullins, said. WMU encourages artisans to

set prices that allow them to invest in the growth of their business.

“We provide partial advance on payments to the artisans that allows them to

hire more people and purchase the raw materials needed,” Mullins said. “We are

committed to our artisans for the long term to maintain certain levels of

product orders, investing in product development for long-term planning as well

as sustainable production practices. These standards guarantee impoverished

families hope for a better life.”

In three vignettes this fall, WMU has featured three women whose lives that

were changed through WorldCrafts, providing snapshots of the success of the

artisan endeavors. WorldCrafts’ Set1Free campaign highlights various artisan

groups working to end sexual exploitation and human trafficking among the world’s

poor.

In India, women and children who live in poverty are at risk of being trapped

in the country’s sex trade industry, facing lives where they are denied some of

the most basic freedoms.

WMU featured Menaka, a woman who 30 years ago was a 13-year-old girl in a

refugee camp, a victim of the Bangladesh Liberation War. Disgusted by the

conditions of the camp, Menaka sought a better life by escaping to Calcutta,

where she thought she could get a job as a housemaid.

Instead of landing the job she expected, Menaka found herself sold to a brothel

for $20. Her first customer drugged her and raped her as she tried again to

escape.

In 2001, after years in bondage, Menaka became one of the original 20 employees

of an artisan business called Freeset, which is a WMU partner. Now Menaka sews

high-quality jute bags, available for purchase through WorldCrafts.

Freeset employs women on the basis of their need for freedom rather than the

skills they have to offer. A woman must be in the sex trade or be the daughter

of a woman in the trade to qualify for a job at the business, which is located

in a red-light district.

The women are trained, paid a fair wage, taught to read and write, and signed

up for health insurance and a pension fund. WMU said a milestone for each

employee is reached when she is able to sign her own name for her paycheck.

A few years ago, Menaka journeyed home to find her mother, and the two were

reunited. Now she wants to see as many women as possible set free from the

bondage of prostitution, WMU said.

Another story comes from Nepal, where Sara and Cara were teenagers working in a

dance bar, being sexually exploited by the customers. Bimala, founder of an

artisan business called Higher Ground, approached them two years ago and

offered them the opportunity to trade that lifestyle in for training and

salaried jobs making jewelry.

Cara accepted the offer two weeks later and now follows Christ as a 19-year-old

high school-educated artisan. Sara opted to remain at the dance bar and try to

raise her infant son on the minimal wages she received. But recently she

contacted Cara about joining her as an artisan, WMU said.

Now 21, Sara is working at Higher Ground with a good salary and a scholarship

for her son. She also is learning how to manage her time and money and care for

her child.

Her story, though, does include a period when she considered going back to the

dance bar for more money. Higher Ground counseled her against that option but

allowed her to choose whether to remain an artisan or return to her previous

lifestyle. She decided to stay and has renounced her previous job.

WMU also highlighted Jo, a woman in Thailand who recounted her story firsthand.

She had a husband and children but sought a house in order to gain approval

from her friends. She and her husband ran into overwhelming debt as they tried

to construct the house, and he left to work abroad for three years.

The geographical distance between the couple caused their marriage to

deteriorate, and infidelity eventually wrecked both of their lives. Jo found

herself in Thailand’s sex industry, living with people who were hooked on

drugs. She recounted walking along the beach looking for a Buddha idol to pray

with because she had no hope left in life.

As she was working in a bar in Bangkok, some people from an artisan business

named The Well came in to tell her about the opportunities available to her.

She quit her job at the bar and now makes traditional Thai textiles and

jewelry.

“I started following Jesus and repented from my past,” Jo said. “God has

changed me. The world forgot me, but now I have a new life with Jesus. I love

to work with Him, study His words and pray to Him. Old Jo has died. I’m a new

person. Thank God for His cleansing love. I would like to go back to my village

and share Jesus with them.”

In order to support women like these, WMU encourages American women to help in

four specific ways. First, host a WorldCrafts party featuring samples of

artisans’ goods as instructed on the WorldCrafts web site,

worldcraftsvillage.com.

Also, pray for the artisans and consider donating to the endowment that helps

make the ministry possible. Obviously, a fourth way to help is to shop. WMU

recommends browsing through the items on the web site or in the catalog

(available by calling 800-968-7301) and remembering WorldCrafts for

gift-giving occasions.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Compiled by Baptist Press staff writer Erin Roach.)