As a fair trade company, we’re seeing the contrast between what is happening within the US, Peru and Costa Rica during this health crisis and the impact in all of our lives. As with everyone else around the world, this virus is changing every aspect of life and work for our teams and artist partners. Fortunately, our team members in the US and Lima, Peru, as well as our artists in Peru and Costa Rica remain healthy. Founders, Alessandra and Don have been in Peru since early March, and were there when the borders closed 6 weeks ago and our teams started working remotely. Even though there are rumors of an opening in both Peru and Florida, most likely we will stay put for a bit little longer.
With the Florida stay-at-home restrictions easing, we aim to begin shipping again a few days a week with most of the team continuing to work from home. As of now, we don’t have an estimate of our next shipment from Peru, but luckily many of your favorites may still be on hand! So check them out by looking at the "quantity available" shown under every product on our website.
The Peruvian government, recognizing a shortage of hospital facilities, was an early adopter of the stay-at-home policy, which is scheduled to go until May 10th. And although this effort to keep people safe was a good thing, results have been mixed. In a country with such diversity, the population response to this crisis has been mixed. Unfortunately, a large segment of the population, mostly in economical depressed areas, either due to economic pressure, lack of education, rebelliousness, or just plain disregard for authority have not taken the lockdown seriously enough. Sadly the curve is going up and at the same time, the country can't barely take it any longer.
On a national level, while there is some basic healthcare system, Peru lacks unemployment help. This is a country where at least 50% of the population works informally and so has no benefits. The Peruvian government is giving financial assistance to the poorest of the poor. On March a special payments of 380 soles (~$115) was delivered, but this help has not really reached our network and is so far insufficient. There is another bonus coming this month, with a target of 8 million families and still to be seen who within our 250 artists may qualify. With all this, the economic pressure during this pandemic, for the most vulnerable segments of the population is enormous. Only time will tell, how our society will respond to the needs to come.
Artists in Peru
In Cochas, our gourd workshops have slowed down considerably since mid-March as a result of the country-wide stay-home order. But there is something remarkable about this little community. They really took things seriously, and on their own hands implementing efforts to protect the whole community. One gourd artist, Alejandro is part of the patrolling team, he starts his day at 4 am to guard the streets of cochas making sure people respect the curfew. With money collected among them, they hired a disinfecting truck to spray their roads. Families have been equipped with disinfectant backpacks to spray their homes. At the roads into town, there are special crews ready to clean your shoes, offer you soap and water to wash your hands, and even will disinfect your car before letting you enter Cochas! As far as food, to avoid going to Huancayo for essentials, a truck now delivers them food twice a week. We also heard, that luckily, many of our gourd artists have fields to attend. Also, the food program Lucuma Designs is proud to support is now delivering food baskets to the poorest families in the community. Good job Cochas!
In Puno, the land of our puppet knitters, things are not so certain as our knitters live all spread out and they are not so easy to reach or gather. We continue to send orders as we can, although due to the lock-down, not everyone is able to work right now, or pick materials. Many outside the city has fields to work on. We hope to learn more about the individual situation once the restrictions are lifted.
Artists In Boruca, Costa Rica
Luckily, Costa Rica has done a really great job at containing the spread of the virus launching it seems an effective educational campaign. Most likely the people also listen and followed the rules better than in Peru. Early on, we learned from our mask artists in Boruca who suddenly found themselves without the income they normally get from tourism this time of the year. This village took their own safety also on their hands, and mostly locked themselves off from the outside world installing road controls and not allowing people to go out. We heard that we government has helped with some supplies and essentials. Regardless, our artists are starting to notice the importance of becoming more self sufficient, and the need to grow their own food is now more evident. As their production season has shifted, we hope to find new opportunities to keep collaborating with them in new ways.
Efforts Under Way
With our operational teams under lock-down, we are all trying to be creative on how to keep moving forward. One way we have been keeping our teams busy has been staying in touch with our artist partners and finding ways to give them a hand as we can. In Peru, we are actively helping them navigate the different relief packages and programs the government is offering, including some special loans. Although it is too early to know if they may qualify or be able to take advantage of them for their small workshops. We see clearly how the laws and new measures are not at all designed to help the little ones, and that highlights even more the importance of the fair trade we do, now and into the future.
How can you help?
- Like most other fair traders, now more than ever early planning is key. So your current and future orders allow us to keep our artists working during these difficult times.
- Please share your ideas on what you feel may be a hot seller this year! With time on their hands, our artists are ready to develop something new.
- If you want to hear more about what our artists are going through, check out our Gratitude Project, in our blog for March and April.
- Keep your spirit up to continue to build a beautiful world!