Tuesday, November 3, 2009

There are no mistakes, save one:
the failure to learn from a mistake.

-- Robert Fripp

My ladies have a history of laziness. No, I take that back. They have a history of being dependent on their PCV. As much as they gained from the previous volunteers, these ladies have been sheilded from the true realities of owning a business. Throw in conservative Moroccan culture and risk adverse behavior into the mix, you get an ugly result. Let me explain.

December 2008, Taroudant. In December 2008, they threw me into the fire. There was a ten-day exhibition in Taroudant. That's an hour away. They wanted to go. Although no one could stay for the whole duration, they figured out a system to tag-team back and forth. That's what I thought. Saturday rolled around and suddenly no one could go. Do I man the stand by myself? I almost wanted to but did not. That's not my role.

I tried explaining all this with my then chicken-scratch language. What did the ladies learn? 1) It's hard to understand her language and jumbled up thoughts. 2) Joy or "Touria" still isn't adjusted to Moroccan life. 3) We missed out on an opportunity because she backed out. In otherwords, they didn't learn anything.

October 2009, Fes. Fast forward to June. I committee of PCVs, spearheaded by Lynn, organized MarcheMaroc. This consisted of workshops, two-day exhibition and individual product quality consultations. I told them about the event before the Women's Center closed its doors for summer vacation. Great! They wanted to go. In late August, the officers showed signs of hesitation. The summer passed and most ladies did not make their assigned quota. We didn't have stock. Ok, that's not a problem. I ran around town ordering bracelet production. I checked back in with them individually mid-September. We have some product- not great but not bad. Who can go? After a headache week of running around town, I got excuses and more excuses. They backed out of an expenses paid-for training and craft fair. Wow.

That's two strikes. They need to learn. Good development work empowers local counterparts. Therefore, I sat down with the officers. I walked them through the event's photos. I talked about the workshops, the feedback I received, exhibition and who sold what, who made how much, product consultations, concert... everything. Before I finished, the Association officers told me they regretted not going.

Ok. That's a start. Now I want to see different results. Did they really learn? Or was all that just talk?

December 2009, Rabat. AIWA organizes an incredible craft fair each year in December. This bazzar has built a reputation for heavy foot traffic. And what do the customers want? Small, cute products to stuff in stockings. And what do we have? A blooming line of crocheted jewelry, which fits in their price range and a Christmas stocking. AIWA always waves the fee for a handful of artisans who work with Peace Corps. We need to go. I'll ET (Early Termination) if they tell me they aren't interested.

I mentioned this opportunity the same week as my MarcheMaroc lecture. They want to go. The Association president even orders ladies to make stock after they finish thier portion of the Mushmina order. That's a good sign. Nice! In following conversations, I explain that all expenses must be covered by us. Can I give them a financial gift? No! (Now I have no problem yelling at them or being blunt.) They're a business. They need to learn how to cover their expenses in full. I explain the concept behind wholesale prices and retail prices. We work through some costing and pricing. They take a microloan from me. I am shielding them from a certain degree of risk. But they need baby steps. This might be the necessary stepping stone to taking out a "real" microloan.

By the grace of God, we were selected to attend AIWA Craft Fair. We secured one of four places! Incredible. And they ladies are halfway done making the necessary bracelet stock. I had a training of the trainers workshop on crocheting with copper. Monday, I will start all the ladies on crocheted copper bracelets. After that, we'll make similar earrings (both thread and copper wire). Two women are fighting over the right to attend this fair. I couldn't be more happy.

Lessons learned? Guilt works. Persistance pays. And now I cannot wait for December.

Currently appreciating:
*The magic of adding baking soda to boiling chic peas and making hummus from scratch.

*Great visit from my Progam Assistant, complete with a chicken tagine and locally made fur hats!

*Productive day in Marrakech. I had a working lunch with Mushmina, meeting with Marrakech's Artisana Delegate, successful bead shopping and spice hunting, trip to the supermarket, topped off with a hot shower and beer to end the evening. What's impossible?

*Being on the PST (Pre-Service Training) Panel. I got to meet the new trainees. They're a tremendous group, with great depth of experience and variety of expertise. Moroccan artisans are lucky!

*Lunch at the Cascades with those on the PCV Panel. Awesome day, awesome lunch, beautiful smiles from beautiful people.

*Natural dye and color workshops in Bzou. Lynn and I prepared most of the natural dye. It's not as hard as it seems. I cannot wait to teach this technique to my ladies!

*Halloween in Bzou- complete with ridiculous/creative costumes and a carved pumpkin! Tim and I carved the pumpkin. Rebecca's neighborhood kids then went nuts.

*Good conversation with my counterpart and Association president, Aicha. She's too good.

1 comment:

faye cassell said...

The picture of the copper bracelets from an older post looks fantastic! Let me know when your ladies start selling them because i will definitely pick up some!