Ten Thousand Villages & L’Arche Partnership Countdown: 9 days

Starting Sunday August 1, shop at Ten Thousand Villages on West Broadway and benefit in three ways!

1. You’ll be supporting artisans around the world, who are provided vital and fair income.

2. Mention L’Arche and 10% of your purchase will be donated to help fund programs for developmentally disabled people at L’Arche Greater Vancouver.

3. Pick up a unique item for yourself or for someone special.

In anticipation for the August fundraiser with Ten Thousand Villages, we will be posting artisan and product stories every few days.  Today’s story is about Robert Rachami Ombasa, a soap stone carver in Kenya.  Check back often for more great inspirational stories.

For Kenyan carver Robert Rachami Ombasa, working with kisii soapstone has been life-altering.

“I thank Undugu for enlisting me as a producer and introducing me to Fair Trade business programs,” says Ombasa. “When I began with Undugu, even though I was an accomplished stone carver, I had given up on ever making major progress in my life and had become an habitual alcohol drinker. With Undugu, I have become a better artisan and family person.”

A forty-two-year old father of five, Ombasa acquired the skills of his trade from his father, a professional carver. He worked for some time independently but it has been his connection with Undugu that has allowed him to successfully grow the family business.

Today, he heads up a team of five carvers and three finishers. He is highly respected by both producers and suppliers, in part because of the legacy he has created within the community – he has been producing fine soapstone crafts for fifteen years now, twelve of those with Undugu.

His path, however, has not been without its obstacles. Market accessibility for kisii products is impeded by the rugged landscape, inadequate transportation and high production costs. Landslides around the soapstone quarries and the lack of sunshine during the rainy season also hinder the completion of work. As if these were not challenges enough, the market for kisii is highly competitive.

Ombasa still struggles with hardships however Fair Trade has given him hope and optimism for the future.

Despite these difficulties, Ombasa has been able to support his family, ensuring that their basic needs and medical costs are covered. He has also been able to construct a building that serves as both workshop and warehouse and hopes to expand his business in both local and international markets.

Ombasa recognizes that kisii soapstone products hold genuine appeal as artistic pieces and as functional home accessories. And because soapstone carving has both traditional and economic value to the community, he sincerely hopes that the craft will continue to be practiced by future generations

A big thank you goes to Ten Thousand Villages Marketing Department for providing us with these amazing stories and photos.

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About L'Arche Greater Vancouver

L'Arche Greater Vancouver is a charitable organization that provides residential care and day programs for adults with developmental disabilities. We are located in Burnaby, BC Canada.
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