Back when the sun was still shining and the days were a little longer (August, to be precise) I took a little well-timed visit to the land of Romania to see what the Dece (or Melk, as it was then known) hat-making project was all about. In a small town in rural western Romania four hard working women spend their days caring for their families, looking after their own children and children of absent neighbours (many of whom have gone to find work in Spain where prospects are better) and hand crocheting winter hats, for which they receive a fair wage. This work allows them to make money in a respectable way and to help feed their families. As I visited the very basic homes of the four women I was amazed by their vivacity, their sheer hard work in looking after so many children, and their drive to do all they can to provide for their families through meaningful work.
A project like this provides so much for all the people involved. The women can work as much or as little as their home life allows, without needing to arrange for childcare, or leave the home. However for this very reason projects like this cannot bear the ‘FairTrade’ mark as they do not fit with the regulations deeming the need for a place of work and regular hours, but these are the very reasons it works so well for the women involved. It allows them to do what they need for their young children and still contribute to the income of the household, helping to provide a better future for their young ones.
I really want to see this project grow, and see more projects like this happening in similar poverty-stricken areas. I was certainly all-the-more keen to stock the gorgeous hats the women were so carefully making, and advise all I could about colour, shape and style. But most of all I was touched by these ladies lives, their stories, their families and their homes, though more basic than many homes I’ve visited in even the most poor parts of India and Africa, so full of hope.