Ellen Aggers of Tammachat was in Wolfville recently to explain fairly-traded textiles at the farmers’ market, as well as literacy work in Laos. There is a unique sale coming up Nov. 7 at the Anglican parish hall. W.Elliott
BY WENDY ELLIOTT
Kings County Advertiser
Tammachat Natural Textiles, a South Shore fair trade social enterprise that works with weavers in rural Thailand and Laos, is putting books into the hands of children in Laos.
Partnering with Big Brother Mouse, a young Lao publishing project, Tammachat now gives a child in Laos their very first book for every textile product it sells.
The two-woman firm will be in Wolfville Nov. 7 with a slide show about the literacy project and a sale of fairly-traded textiles. “We’ve been volunteering with Big Brother Mouse since 2006,” says Tammachat co-founder Alleson Kase of Mahone Bay. “In a country where poverty rates are high and literacy low, Big Brother Mouse is planting seeds of change by bringing books to children in Laos in their own language. It’s the first project of its kind in the country.”
Kase says they are particularly interested in providing literacy opportunities for girls, who don’t get the chance to attend a temple school. “Many women, especially older women and those in certain ethnic groups, have not been to school and cannot read. This includes some of the rural weavers Tammachat supports through its purchase of their handwoven textiles.”
With no school boards or teachers’ associations, Big Brother Mouse was challenged to create innovative ways to distribute its more than 60 colourful books. They’ve created “book parties,” where staff visit a village school, play games and sing songs that send the message reading is fun. At the end of the day, each child gets to pick a book. Big Brother Mouse also leaves behind a mini-library of books so children can swap their book for another after they’ve read it. “Some kids have never seen a book and don’t realize that the story continues when you turn the page,” says Kase.
Organizing book parties is no simple matter. Laos is designated a “least developed country” by the UN. Many of the more remote villages are reached first by road, then by river, by foot through the jungle and even by elephant. Funding for book parties, and for Big Brother Mouse to publish its books, is donated by individuals from around the world who have been touched by the difference bringing first books to children can make, notes Kase.
Tammachat’s textiles – silk scarves, handbags, cushions, table cloths and more; all coloured with natural dyes - are fairly-traded so weavers are paid fairly for their work.
Tammachat will be in Wolfville from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Nov. 7 at St. John’s Anglican Parish Hall on Main St. At 1 p.m., they will present a free slideshow about Big Brother Mouse and basket weaving in Laos.