I began my travels in Africa, Europe, and Central America in my late teens and twenties ...Always wanting to understand others though a shared experience rather than as a tourist, I traveled far distances, away from the cities, to find Indigenous groups who have retained their language and still pass along skills and talents unique to their people and place.I have enjoyed many suppers of local plant-based foods in outdoor kitchens, having my hair braided by Mayan women in the highlands of Guatemala, washing my clothes with villagers in Nicaragua, and planting trees with children in Ethiopia.All this has led me to be an active participant in the Fair Trade Movement for over 20 years.
On September 11, 2001, I opened a fair trade retail store in Washington, DC. I called it Sangha, in part because we employed Tibetan refugees, and, especially after the tragedy on that very same day, I wanted it to be a place that promoted peace through meditation, music, conversation, and, of course, through fair trade. Sangha is a Sanskrit term used in describing a Buddhist tenet and is broadly defined here as providing a safe and suitable environment for advancing toward enlightenment and liberation.
As friendships deepened with refugees in Washington, so did my concern for their families they had to leave behind…It became an imperative to understand what I could do from where I am.I contacted the Peace Corps and other non-profits as well as groups of refugees based in Washington to create relationships with artisans and jumpstart fair trade sewing circles worldwide. I honed in on one product that is symbolic of peace, the traditional Indian zafu or meditation cushion, and strengthened its design so that I could send it directly to artisans as a completed prototype. The simplicity of the Sangha Peace Cushion lent itself to a relatively easy launch of many artisan sewing circles in Guatemala, Madagascar, and Tibet.Aside from the economic security families can rely on, funds also go toward other priorities in the village such as water access, education, and community gardens.
We are excited to finally participate in the “ONLINE COMMUNITY” and begin with four very popular colors from our friends in Tibet. Since we work directly with all artisans, we will provide pictures and reports from this village and others throughout the year. Subscribe to our blog for updates and purchase Your own Peace Cushion Now!