Justin is a supervisor in the villages of Halwan and Kotli Siddique located in Northeast Pakistan. His job differs from that of other village supervisors who look after the rug making needs of the artisans. Justin on the other hand concentrates totally on the social welfare of the artisans in the villages. Justin monitors the artisans’ health, interpersonal relationships, financial challenges, food supplies and family concerns such as sickness of a family member, a wedding or funeral of a family member.
While Justin supervises 120 villages, his normal day looks something like this. Starting at 9 AM, he makes calls to the village supervisors to learn of social issues that may exist in their villages. He then may travel 120 kilometers in a day visiting 10-15 villages where he sits down with an artisan to hear what issues are affecting the artisan’s family. Justin relates that the biggest problem artisan’s face is the rising costs of oil causing gas prices to be $4.00 /gallon and affecting all aspects of an artisan’s life. Justin serves as a mediator as artisans sometimes experience problems with interpersonal relationships. It is his job to listen carefully to the problem and then communicate this to the JAKCISS central office in Lahore, Pakistan. There, decisions are made which relieve the problem at hand, including one or more of the following: a raise in wage, an advance of salary for a wedding or funeral, time off given to care for a sick family member, or additional counseling for interpersonal problems. As Justin visits with artisans throughout the many villages, he hears about families in great need of work, visits with these families to hear their needs and skills and in this manner adds new artisans to JAKCISS thus helping more families. Employing Justin full time to solely address the social concerns of the artisan families, illustrates that JAKCISS is more than a job creation project. It is a project that involves advocacy, welfare and networking for the artisans to achieve the best quality of life possible.
When asked why he chooses to live in the village and work in this capacity having left a very lucrative job, Justin said, “There are many people who live for themselves. Living for others..not very many people do that.” He knows that living in the village affords a much higher quality of life for the artisans than in the city since it allows them to live in community where networking can happen to improve their lives. When we asked Justin, Who do you view as your community, he explained that “When people are poor it (community) extends beyond differences in religion.”
When asked what working for JAKCISS does for artisans, Justin said, “The character of JAKCISS is above all other companies in showing the artisans great respect. Wages are higher than any other company as well. Schools are supported and infrastructure built by JAKCISS in the villages. Perhaps most notable is that JAKCISS cares about the social well-being of artisans and helps them with their problems of daily living.
We’ve been preparing for several months for our annual Oriental rug sale at Villages of Austin. By simply looking at the rugs, anyone can see how beautifully made they are. What you don’t see at first glance is the story of the people behind the rugs. This week we are profiling JAKCISS, the artisan group in Pakistan that handknots every rug we sell. Enjoy!
From the Ten Thousand Villages website:
JAKCISS Oriental Rugs was founded in the late 1960s by a Pakistani pastor concerned about the welfare of the rural poor around Lahore. As farm labourers, rural people often needed to make extra money to survive. Those who weave carpets often ended up having to sell them to middlemen for less than the cost of the materials. They are also in competition with carpet factories that employ and enslave thousands of young children aged 5 to 14. By banding together and seeking out their own markets, JAKCISS ensures decent wages for all their artisans. Families who are unable to supply their own loom are provided with one for their home. This enables adults to schedule work around their other activities of farming, childcare and household duties. Christians and Muslims, Pakistanis and Afghani refugees are all involved in this rug-making venture, thus building bridges between different cultures and religions.
JAKCISS includes more than 400 families in 69 villages around Lahore. Sales have enabled them to build and staff schools and to support a variety of village development initiatives. There are now 1500 students in classes, over half of whom are girls. This is a marked achievement since the literacy rate for women in Pakistan is only 37% and substantially lower than that for women who live in villages. These schools represent a phenomenal change in a predominantly male-oriented society. The young men and women receive a good high school education and even aspire to go on to college and university. They have dreams of being teachers, doctors and other professionals. Because of JACKCISS, these are dreams that can come true.
JAKCISS has received enthusiastic endorsement by Rugmark International as an exemplary rug producer employing fairly paid adult-only labour.
Ten Thousand Villages of Austin’s annual Oriental rug sale is right around the corner! Our rug sale will feature beautiful, heirloom-quality, handknotted Oriental rugs made by fairly paid adults. The rugs are exquisitely designed and crafted by JAKCISS Oriental Rugs, an artisan group in Pakistan.
Your purchase at the rug sale will directly benefit the families making them. JAKCISS now includes more than 800 families in over 100 villages across Pakistan. You can have a tremendous impact by helping to create sustainability and hope in these communities.
These rugs will travel the country and will only be available for purchase in Austin for a limited time! Join us anytime between Thursday, September 18 – Monday, September 22 for this exciting event. Come by on Thursday, browse the collection, sleep on it if you wish, and come back to make your final selection.
Location – Holy Cross Lutheran Church, 4622 S. Lamar, along the 290 access road
9/18, 10:00am – 7:00pm
9/19, 12:00pm – 9:00pm
9/20-21, 12:00pm – 7:00pm
9/22, 12:00pm – 5:00pm
For more information and to view photos of available rugs, visit http://rugs.tenthousandvillages.com.
Check out these photos of a rug purchased at last year’s rug event…
See you soon! …Taylor