November is a month when we reflect often on peace, and remember the people who sacrificed their lives to help achieve it. Peace could be had. But as we have been continuously reminded in this troubled decade, war is something that never quite leaves this planet, though sometimes it is occurring in a land far away.
Cambodia has its own wars to remember, and Ten Thousand Villages works with artisans there who are engaged in an unlikely task, creating pieces of jewellery out of bombshell fragments purchased from local fishermen.
Following decades of war, Cambodia’s countryside is littered with spent bomb and artillery shell casings. But now the artisans in the Rajana Association of Cambodia are transforming this material into works of peace and beauty. And the bombshell jewellery is just one of the innovative pieces produced from unique materials by these creative Rajana artisans.
Ten Thousand Villages has named the earrings shown on this page, “Be at Peace”. They are hand crafted from one of the many bomb casings still found on the land. “When we make jewellery (like this) then we know our country has peace,” one young silversmith commented. Ten Thousand Villages carries a variety of earrings, bracelets, necklaces and rings made from these casings.
The recycled material is 100 per cent safe and free from any contaminants. The bomb casings are collected by a demining agency, the Cambodian Mine Action Center, and then boiled and cleaned before its Rajana artisans shape and finish them into jewellery.
Owned and operated by the Khmer people, Rajana (meaning “design” in Khmer”) provides skills training and income generation opportunities for young Cambodians, rural and urban poor, and other small producers.
The basic salary with Rajana is well above the area’s minimum wage for Cambodians working in the garment sector. While the artisans work eight hours a day, six days a week, they also receive holidays and training in management, leadership, reading, writing and computer skills as well as free English lessons. Artisans also receive interest-free loans and help with their health services and education costs.
As we move through November and approach the holiday season, gifts of bombshell jewellery not only support the artisans in Cambodia but can also be thought of as supporting world kindness. These jewellery pieces reflect how something terrible can transform into something beautiful, while the artisans’ lives are transformed through a fair trade model of business.
Gwen Repeta is Canada rug program co-ordinator and interim program manager at Ten Thousand Villages in Winnipeg. Check www.tenthousandvillages.ca to find a store near you.