WorldCrafts gives hope to Afghan families

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- In the midst of Afghanistan -- where armed conflict and oppressive poverty make every day a struggle for survival -- some women and their families have found deliverance thanks to WorldCrafts.

WorldCrafts, a fair trade nonprofit ministry of the Southern Baptist Woman's Missionary Union, is helping give Afghan families an expectation of a life beyond their impoverished conditions through a partnership with an artisan group composed of women who make jewelry, mosaics, clothing and accessories.

The artisan group of about a dozen women sell their handmade products through WorldCrafts, and they use the proceeds to pay for healthcare and education for themselves and their families.

“I am very happy that we will soon start a literacy class here,” one woman said.

Forced to drop out of school at age 10 due to illness, she is unable to read or write. She currently lives with her mother, single sister, two brothers, and her brothers' wives and children.

Her father died when she was 11, and she and her sisters were forbidden to marry before her brothers. At age 28, she is deemed too old to marry. But she discovers freedom in her ability to work.

“It is very good for me to have my own money,” she said. “I can provide everything for myself without asking my brother. Now I can even help my brother, and I put my nephew in school.”

In Afghanistan, young women learn early the constraints of financial oppression. A 15-year-old ninth grader resides in her paternal grandfather's home with her mother, father, three sisters, three uncles and her uncles' wives. Between her health problems and her mother's, she and her family often wondered if they would have enough money for medical treatments and school.

But the girl, who dreams of becoming a geologist, finds some solace in her job as an artisan with WorldCrafts.

“My father is currently unemployed. I use the money I earn to go to school and to help my father provide for the family,” she said.

A 32-year-old artisan says her immediate goal is to finish the 12th grade, but she dreams of eventually completing graduate school.

Despite hardships, like her husband being injured in an accident, she continues her work.

“I have children going to school, and my husband is unemployed,” she said. “The job is a big help for me.”

She wants her three children to be educated, as well. Perhaps, through her job as an artisan, she can see her dreams for herself and her family come to fruition.

For each of these women, and the others like them, working for WorldCrafts not only has given them a glimpse of life outside of continuous war and poverty, but also allowed them a chance to achieve it.

As the group's leader said: “We all are very happy with this job. It helps us to forget our family problems for the hours that we are working together, laughing and talking. When we are together, we talk and learn what is going on in the world.

“Being together makes us brave and gives us courage to fight for our rights.

“When we see that our children are happy, that we have money to put them in school and buy clothes for them, it makes us happy. Thanks be to God for giving us this job. Thanks to the people who try to provide work for us.”

Since 1996, WorldCrafts has imported handmade crafts from artisans worldwide, providing them and their families with hope and income for food, shelter, education, and medicine.

WorldCrafts works with 70 artisan groups in 38 countries and has expanded its product line to about 370 items. Visit the WorldCrafts website, www.WorldCraftsVillage.com, for more information.