Be The Change Awards

It is with great honour and pleasure that we announce that Lost in Samsara is one of the finalists for the 2019 Be The Change Awards for "Brands that Give Back"!

Our work wouldn't be possible without you and we are truly grateful to all of you for your constant support. 
We will now be judged by another panel of experts. In the meantime, our short video is also running for the People’s Choice Award!  Public vote is now open until 12th April. Just give us a thumb up on Youtube if you like it! 
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Cambodia - A Week With the Artisans

15/01/2019
Three years have passed since our last trip to Cambodia to visit the two small projects we work together with. After a flight of over twelve hours we reach Phnom Penh. It is about 7:30pm local time. The heat and humidity await us at the exit of the airport. We grab one of the remorque, what everyone calls tuk tuk. A two-wheeled carriage pulled behind a motorbike and a really fun way to go around Phnom Penh. 
We glimpse at the still busy streets on our way to the hotel. The city is still lively, people are eating outside at stalls sitting on small chairs. There is a gentle breeze and the ride is smooth. After little less than half an hour we reach our destination. We decide to go to bed, get some rest and be ready for the day after.

16/01/2019
It always proves really hard to sleep on the first few days trying to adjust to the jet lag. So we are awake pretty early and after breakfast we decide to get around the city. Today we get to relax and recover after the journey and, despite temperatures are over 35C, we gladly head to visit the National Museum as we didn't get the chance to see it the previous time. The outside is remarkable, it's a terracotta structure of traditional design, almost in contrast with the inside which is very humble with its old and not really looked after display cases. The pieces shown are beautiful though, old Khmer artefacts, sculptures, statues and pottery. There is even a lunar fragment donate by US President Richard Nixon in 1973 as wishes for goodwill among "all mankind in the future."

After the museum we head back to the hotel to rest for a while and in the evening we go back to watch a show of Khmer dance organised by Cambodian Living Arts, an organisation that supports the art sector and creates uplifting employment for artists. The show is beautiful and the costumes magnificent. Exhausted, but nourished in our spirit, we decide to call it a day and go back to rest for, hopefully, a full night sleep.
17/01/2019
Today we are meeting Chamroeun (below) founder of Smart Crafts, the small producer group that makes all our recycled wallets and bags. He comes and picks us up on a tuk tuk and together we head to the workshop where the artisans are preparing our recycled from cement bags and motorcycle seats backpacks.

There are four artisans working and with Chamroeun, who helps us as translator, we have a nice chat and discuss adjustments and future designs. 

Prom Raiy (above) is the oldest. He was a former hair dresser, but it wasn't an enough remunerative job for him. Now he is passing on his skills by teaching the others in here how to sew.  

 

Ming Sall (above) comes from outside Phnom Penh and she was a former garment factory worker making dresses. She has no family and she says that she is now happy being here and work in a better environment and earning more. 
We also meet a new little friend who really likes being photographed and to discover the magics of a camera. 

   

After few hours we need to leave and get back to our tuk tuk to visit another group of artisans based just outside Phnom Penh. They are the ones making all of the recycled tyre wallets and women bags. Before leaving we manage to get a group photo where everybody actually looks at the camera!

The journey to get to the other artisans is almost an hour so we decide to stop for a brief lunch for which we are also joined by our fun tuk tuk driver. 

 

Rice is not missing as you can see!

We arrive at Sokha and Korng's house which is where they work. Korng is the main artisan and he taught his wife Sokha to sew and work with the tyres. She was previously working at a souvenir shop in Phnom Penh and that is where she learnt english. Korng doesn't speak english and he seems to enjoy his wife conversations with us by smiling from time to time. They show us our new designs that are now almost ready. We discuss some more details and then we just keep talking with Sokha whose stories and smiles makes us feel welcome and home away from home. But it comes the time to leave, it is another hour to drive back to Phnom Penh. Tomorrow we'll be meeting Chamroeun again. 

(Alessia looking at the new bags)

(Sokha & Korng)

18/01/19

Our morning is free today before Chamroeun comes to pick us up in the early afternoon to go and choose some new fabrics for the bags. 

We take it easy and go for lunch at Romdeng which serves local dishes, including the tarantula (well..subject to availability!). The most important thing about Romden is that it belongs to the Tree Alliance which is a social business with the ultimate goal of providing young people, many of them former street youth, with the skills they need to become employable in the thriving hospitality industry. So after a restoring lunch is time to go. Chamroeun brings us to a market where there are different shops selling fabrics. We settle for some new colours which will be also used for some of the wallets. We are not going to disclose here what colours would those be, but you can look at Marvi trying to choose carefully!

We say Chamroeun goodbye and thank him for being such a wonderful host in those two days. 

Another day is gone, tomorrow we are meeting with the other producers group, Craftworks Cambodia, the one that makes our recycled bullet cases jewellery.

19/01/19

 Vichet is the manager of Craftworks Cambodia, we meet him at their showroom 20 minutes further south of the Russian Market, the most famous and touristic market in Phnom Penh. We arrive there in the early afternoon. Vichet greets us with a big smile and after a brief chat we all head to visit Chenla the artisan that together with his wife produces our jewellery. 

 (Craftworks Cambodia showroom)

Chenla leaves outside Phnom Penh, it is over an hour by tuk tuk and this time it feels like a really long drive. He also works from home where he has a little workshop. He and his wife greet us and invite us in. Chenla tells us a bit of his story. How he learnt to make jewellery thanks to an NGO that trained him when he was younger and gave him the skills to provide for himself and for his family. Chenla is 39 years old now and he has two daughters. He is Christian and the only one of his faith leaving in his area. Every Sunday he and his wife prepare lunch for the kids that live in their neighbourhood. His dream, he tells us, is to earn more money so that he can build a bigger workshop and teach his skills to others and give them a better future, like the NGO has done for him before. 

Chenla is a very smiley and positive person with a strong can do attitude. Alessia shows him the new designs she has in mind, while outside a chickens fight takes place.

It's late in the afternoon now and we need to head back. We are very grateful to Chenla and his wife for their kind hospitality and the much appreciated bottles of water they gave us for our journey back.

We jump again on our tuk tuk while waving goodbye.

(From left to right: Vichet, well you know..Marvi, Chenla and his wife)

On our way back, we get stuck in traffic. We pass in front of the garment factories and the shifts are finishing. It is peak time. There are loads of trucks carrying the workers. Their salary improved slightly since the last time we came, but there is still a lot of work to do. They travel up to three hours everyday each way to go and come back from the factories and most of them work seven days out of seven to make enough money to survive. We are told that they also pay for the trucks to bring them to and from work around $40, a third of their monthly salary.

(A shot of one of the trucks passing by our tuk tuk)

20/01/19

It is our last day here in Phnom Penh and before we leave we decide to visit another project that employs artisans with disabilities. It is a local social enterprise that is called Watthan and is by the temple that goes by the same name. Watthan was set up in 2004 and managed to train and provide work to many, including Chamroeun who was once working for them and now is collaborating with them. 

We get to see the workshop and look at the wonderful textile that is handwoven in the Takeo Province, south of Cambodia, with which they produce bags and accessories. 

This is all very inspiring and what made us fall in love with Cambodia. People's resilience, their will to build a better future for them and for others. It is all a life lesson for us.

 

(Watthan Artisans Cambodia workshop)

After our visit, we get back to the hotel to prepare our suitcases. It is time to leave Cambodia until next time. We had a wonderful time, we have learnt more about the people that make our products and we hope that with us you did too.

 

 

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What we have accomplished together

January is when we all stop to reflect on the year that has just passed by and start putting together all our dreams and hopes for the year to come. It is that time when we can be proud of our achievements and learn from our mistakes. 
We wanted to share our accomplishments with you because through your support, enthusiasm and participation we managed to achieve some big results. 
Here is our work at a glance towards the achievement of some of the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

 

GOALS IN ACTION:

We have also donated to Surfers Against Sewage through the sale of our special edition keyring to help them protect our coastlines and keep fighting against plastic pollution. 

2019

We will start the new year by visiting our producers in Cambodia to design our new collection and bring back some stories and inspiration.
All of this couldn't have been done without you and we hope that 2019 will bring even more amazing results.
 
Thank you everyone!
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Ditch Black Friday: Shop Ethical Instead!

We are really happy of being one of the sponsors of Ethical Hour's campaign Shop Ethical Instead. 

On 19 November, before Black Friday Ethical Hour will be hosting a Twitter chat and running a social media campaign with the theme #ShopEthicalInstead. The aim of this campaign is to encourage people to shop from smaller ethical brands over the festive season and give gifts with a positive impact.

Black Friday is the busiest shopping day of the year and it is our chance to show with our wallet what kind of businesses we want to support and send a clear message that people and the planet must come first. By shopping from smaller ethical brands we vote for a different economy, an economy that doesn't put profit over everything and everybody. 

We firmly believe that by shopping ethically we can unlock the power of business for good, a business that empowers communities and cares about our planet.

Our daily choices really matter and we can all join our forces this Christmas. If you want to be part of the conversation join us and Ethical Hour for an evening of discussion on Monday 19 November. Tune in at 8pm on Twitter and use hashtags #ethicalhour and #shopethicalinstead!

#EthicalHour is the world's largest online ethical network. They are building a supportive, ethically-focused community, facilitating positive change and growing the ethical economy. #EthicalHour connects people, businesses and bloggers that are ethically-minded and passionate about creating a better world.

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It's Social Saturday!

This year Lost in Samsara will be joining Social Saturday, a nationwide campaign designed to raise awareness about those who are doing business differently, putting people and communities first.
 
Social Saturday will start on Monday 8 October and will finish on Saturday 13 October. 
There are over 80,000 social enterprises in the UK – businesses which trade to meet a social or environmental purpose and which reinvest the majority of their profits back towards meeting their social mission and we are really proud to be one of them. 
The campaign, organised by Social Enterprise UK, encourages consumers to use their spending power to support social enterprises. From coffee and beer to fashion and toiletries there are social enterprise alternatives for everyday consumer goods.
Peter Holbrook CBE, CEO of Social Enterprise UK, said:
“Social enterprises are creating equality through business – they are offering quality products but are set up in a way that directly addresses some of the biggest social and environmental issues we face. Whether it's coffee carts creating jobs for the homeless, bottled water funding clean water projects abroad or soap manufactured by people who are with disabilities – there are social enterprise alternatives out there which show that there can be more to business than just the bottom line.
They are more diverse and more innovative than mainstream businesses, creating jobs and opportunities where they are needed most. We encourage consumers to unleash their spending power and support social enterprises on Social Saturday and beyond.”
 
WAYS OF GETTING INVOLVED!
Social enterprises are making a difference in your community and around the world, set up to trade for a social purpose and using business to create a more equal society. They are creating jobs where they’re needed most and tackling some of the biggest challenges we face from homelessness to climate change. They are changing the way we do business and you can support them. 

Find a Social Enterprise near you

There is a very useful Social Saturday map  that features social enterprises that are open to the public during the campaign as well as events that will be taking place between 8th-13th of October, from pop-up markets to community fun days.
We will be at Spitalfields Market if you'd like to have a chat!

Share on Social Media

If you visit a social enterprise, buy a social enterprise product or just want to shout out loud about the social enterprise movement and the impact it's having, you can help get #SocialSaturday2018 trending on social media! Make sure you're following @SocialEnt_UK on Twitter and Social Enterprise UK on Instagram and Facebook.
We hope to see you around for a week of celebration, campaigning and fun!
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