JAKCISS: A day in the life of an artisan

Justin Chowdry

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.