The Terres Karens fundation is a micro projects incubator. But what is an incubator? A structure, which guides the different initiatives trying to develop the most isolated Karen villages. How? By providing advice, expertise, financial resources. For which projects? The association Terres Karens contributes to the development of three main separate but complementary projects: two weaving cooperatives and one sewing workshop.
The Mae Woei Clo weaving cooperative
The Terres Karens association has been supporting and developing the Mae Woei Clo cooperative since November 2010. The cooperative gathers weavers from the village of Mae Woei Clo, which is isolated in the jungle and counts around fifty families. The cooperative enables the weavers to avoid commercial intermediaries and to access new markets. The project is based upon traditional weaving.
Two kinds of activities have been set up:
- A cooperative store: the association buys thread in bulk quantities in the valley and sells it in the mountains at retail price. The savings enable the association to offer a 40% discount to the weavers without losing money. In November 2010, the shop sold around ten references of thread. It now offers more than a hundred.
- A sales cooperative: weavers gather to answer fabric orders coming from the valley, either from fair trade associations or directly from Terres Karens. Isolated, those weavers would have been unable to answer those orders. The cooperative completed the first order of 20 pieces in December 2010. Today, on average, it produces 120 pieces a month!
The weavers’ cooperatives development
Since February 2017, Terres Karens, strengthened by the experience gained in Mae Woei, has started to support the development of two cooperatives in other villages. Those new cooperatives have no physical stores yet.
Meanwhile, Terres Karens regularly provides the weavers with orders from the Mae Woei cooperative: some in the area of Ponouaypou, which has around ten weavers in two villages, others in Maetowo, which counts twenty weavers between three villages.
The sewing workshop
In 2012, observing the good development of the weaving cooperative, Terres Karens decided to develop a sewing workshop in the village of Mae Woei Clo. For six months, Claire Scaramus, a MEP volunteer, trained four seamstresses to sew. A year and a half later, Bleshri, a young Karen girl, started to manage the sewing workshop which has now gained its autonomy and employs five seamstresses.
The orders come from Terres Karens in France. In 2012, Laure Macé de Lepinay, a fashion designer, came with the association to visit the Karen people and created her first collection, the “SWAI” collection which she afterwards gave to Terres Karens.
In 2014, Lily Lafleur, a dress designer, joined the sewing workshop for six months. She designed new products and improved the seamstresses’ techniques.
Today, if the cooperative produces 100 % of the fabrics used for the products sold in France, the sewing workshop produces 15% of the collection, the remaining being produced by our historical partner in the North of Thailand, in Mae Sai, in the Holy Family Catholic Centre sewing school, which trains young women belonging to different ethnic minorities (Hmong, Akha, Karen, Lahu)./vc_column]
Terres Karens commits itself and supports other initiatives.
Beside its own projects, Terres Karens collaborates and supports other punctual initiatives (building project, Christmas projects, etc…)
Find more about the different initiatives supported by the association and contribute at your own level!