July 28, 2014
Last week, artisans from around the world flew in for NEST’s first Artisan Summit in New York City. NEST, Voss Foundation’s partner in Swaziland, is a non-profit organization committed to collaborating with artisans in order to connect their workshops with the global market. With these local workshops, NEST is able to alleviate poverty, empower women, promote peace, and ultimately, transform whole communities. Voss Foundation has funded seven hand-pump wells and 145 latrines for NEST’s artisans and their communities in the Middleveld region of Swaziland. As one of NEST’s partners, Voss Foundation was honored to be involved in the event. The 5-day summit included leadership training for the artisans from top fashion and design experts, such as Nanette Lepore, Alabama Chanin, Calypso and Public School.
Voss Foundation was thrilled to host a lunch during the Summit, where we met with the eighteen artisans and discussed our involvement with NEST. Our Program Director, Caitlin Rackish, spoke of the wonderful work NEST and Voss Foundation have accomplished together to have a ripple effect of change:
“One of the things we have learned and have seen in our work, both in the field and in with organizations, is that water is just one component of development. We partner with organizations, like NEST, because access to water and sanitation is something that enables them to achieve their mission in a way that is far beyond our expectations.”
As Caitlin also mentioned, Voss Foundation’s partnership with NEST began in 2012, which directly benefited Gone Rural boMake and Rosecraft, two NEST organizations in Swaziland, whose artisans struggled without access to clean water and sanitation. After walking up to two hours to simply reach the local river, spring or stream, local artisans and villagers would wait for water that was often unsafe, shared with animals or contaminated by disease. Traditionally, women were charged with this onerous and often debilitating duty, leaving them unable to sustain a job. Funded by our 2012 Women Helping Women campaign, we were able to provide the artisans of Gone Rural boMake and Rosecraft with access to clean water and hygiene. Now with access to clean water, NEST’s Swazi artisans are healthier, more productive and able to spend their time generating an income, rather than transporting water or taking care of family members sickened by water-borne illnesses. Following Caitlin’s remarks, Phillipa, the Summit’s representative from Gone Rural, confirmed the positive ripple effect of the project:
“We got in touch with Voss Foundation through the partnership with NEST. It has been really amazing to see the impact of what this new partnership has done in such a short space of time. The impact of this project has been, [Caitlin] mentioned – 7 boreholes, but it has an indirect impact on over 5,000 people. It makes such a massive difference to their lives…Our artisans are mothers. They’re grandmothers. When they’re caring for their sick families, they cannot do their work and that’s a huge challenge. We are so humbly grateful to Voss Foundation and NEST for what they’ve done for Gone Rural and for Swaziland. Thank you so much.”
NEST’s first Artisan Summit, filled with numerous learning opportunities and important introductions, was a tremendous success. It was a powerful example of how NEST, like Voss Foundation, is interested in helping local organizations not only meet their immediate needs, but also develop them even further. The artisans, hailing from Bali, India, Kenya, Mexico, Swaziland, Vietnam, West Java and USA, will return home with a broader understanding of business development and with the tools to bring their artisanal goods into the modern market. We are inspired by their initiative with this Summit and look forward to collaborating with NEST again in the future. As Caitlin concluded her speech, “We’ve been so lucky to work with NEST and to find an organization who, like us, believes there is strength in a partnership. By working together and drawing upon our different skill sets and the things we both feel passionately about as organizations, we can really work to increase the efficacy and the sustainability of the work we are trying to achieve.”
The Summit also gave us the opportunity to meet with our partners and get updates from the field, which we look forward to sharing with you. In the meantime, you can read more about our work in Swaziland and our partnership with Nest.