THE MELA JOURNEY
"These artisans are immensely talented. They just need someone to help link them to new markets. We want to be that bridge for them."
As a young boy, I recall my father's love of art and his collection of beautiful handicrafts and antiques from all over India. Over the years and through my travels around the world, it became my passion to seek out indigenous artisans and support them by buying their exquisite works of art.
This was especially true during my many visits to the different regions of India. I am constantly amazed and surprised by the unique beauty and intricate detail of the items that these artisans create. In many cases their skills have been passed down over generations.
It is therefore especially tragic to see that several of these artisans can no longer earn a living wage because of the lack of local demand for their work. Every month, one hears of master craftsmen forced into giving up their craft in exchange for a life of abject poverty as unskilled workers in India's large urban centers. Many dedicated organizations have recognized this problem and are making commendable efforts to help.
My daughter Sonali sent me an article a few summers ago that served as my call to action. She had spent the previous four summers in India working with social entreprises. The article highlighted yet another artisan group abandoning its work because of the difficulty of marketing its products. Over the next few weeks we thought through our business model and began to explore partnership opportunities. And thus Mela Artisans was born. With the help of some good friends, we were able to raise enough funds for the project.
As we continue our incredible journey, I invite you to join in whatever capacity you can. Choose to purchase our handmade products, learn about their triumphs and struggles on our blog, or get more actively involved by volunteering to help further our mission.
And always feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with your feedback, comments and ideas.
Navroze S. Mehta
"Creating more opportunities for those who have been underserved by the current system actually benefits every level of society, globally and locally."
Having the good fortune to be born to a privileged lifestyle in the U.S., my initial encounter with poverty occurred on my first trip to India when I was in the midst of my awkward middle school years. It occurred to me that the only thing separating me from the ragged children that I saw sleeping on the street was the fact that I happened to be born in a different place, under different circumstances.
Over the years, that realization has translated into a sense of responsibility. Since I have been fortunate enough to benefit from a system that has excluded so many others, there is nothing more productive or fulfilling for me than to promote system changing innovations, which will lead to a more equitable and sustainable world.
Mela Artisans is the first step for me in a career that I plan to devote to empowering the world's underserved populations. To me this is not about simply feeling bad, handing over a bag of rice and getting back on a plane home. It is about dedicating all resources available to us, whether it is brainpower or investment dollars, towards making positive social and environmental change. My personal goal is to use every opportunity available to me to create opportunities for others who may not have been born into privilege but are no less worthy of the chance to succeed, to prosper and to become the next global leaders.
Mela Artisans also reflects my recognition that the challenge of poverty is multifaceted and calls for interdisciplinary solutions. It also calls for a deep understanding of and respect for those with whom we work.
My hope is that our online community will foster that important relationship of mutual understanding and respect between customer and producer, even though they are oceans apart.Sonali Mehta Rao