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The Humble Soybean

Tofu, that easy target for humor and deprecation to many in the US, has been popular for thousands of years in Asia, but you might not expect to find it in the highlands of Guatemala. The story of how it got there is an inspiring look at one community reaching out to help another with a simple solution to a terrible problem.

When carpenters travelled from the Farm Community, an intentional community in southern Tennessee, in 1976 to respond to a devastating earthquake in Guatemala, they encountered more than buildings in need of repair. Many children had been left orphaned and were desperately in need of care. More volunteers were recruited from the Farm, and six women went to Guatemala to help set up an orphanage, providing care for 37 children and preparing daily meals for over 90 people. The children themselves were severely malnourished, a condition not limited to those who had been orphaned; in fact, most children in the area suffered from malnourishment. Continue reading


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Delivering a Baby in Guatemala by Amy Kay

I’m not always very attentive to how I am feeling.  More accurately, I don’t notice I’m sick until it has been brought to my attention by those around me.  Thankfully, I’m a relatively healthy person.  I’ve got a little bit of this and that, but it’s all good.

It’s all good because I have great health care.   In fact, I realized that I have been dragging a lot of this summer and decided to call the Lindsborg Clinic… at 3:45pm on Friday afternoon.  I asked to speak to my doctor’s nurse and was able to do so.  She suggested I come right in and have some lab work done.  I did, had my insurance information updated, saw the nurse and doctor, had more lab work done and was headed out the door at 5:10pm with a prescription in hand!  Then, on Monday, the doctor called to let me know the results of a test and left a message.  Just to make sure I got the message, she called back at the end of her day.  SERIOUSLY?  That’s amazing health care.  And I’m not even really sick! I’m just anemic and have a little infection – no big deal.

While we were in Guatemala, we visited the group of women who make jewelry out of broken guitar strings.  On the way, we were told that one of the women had started blog3laboring and would probably deliver her baby that day.  These are indigenous folks who live in a remote village with basically vertical roads.  They don’t just call up their local health care clinic and get assistance within an hour’s time.

A Midwife was somehow summoned and came to the village to deliver the baby.  The family moved the momma, Rigoberta, away from their home because her laboring was loud and they didn’t want to disrupt our visit.  Goodness!   I was SO sorry for our bad timing.  They never let on that it was bad timing, however.  If we hadn’t been told about the laboring, I would’ve never guessed anything unusual was happening!  They hosted us with a great willingness to show us their craft.

blog2Thankfully, our Fair Trade Importer, Sharon, and the woman who helps with jewelry design, Prema, talked the artisans out of preparing lunch for us. Lunch would have taken two or three hours because they would have had to kill a chicken, prepare it to be cooked and so on.  A meal for guests is not a quick or easy process in rural Central America and this was a time that they needed to be attending to other much more important chores… like helping the Midwife!

Apparently Midwives in Guatemala now have some formal training.  Thank goodness.  There were some terrible stories about birthing before the country had much support for these ladies.  I don’t even like to think of the situations and certainly won’t share them here or anywhere.

After we left the village, the baby was born.  Both she and Rigoberta were healthy.  A miracle, it seemed to me, had taken place.

I’m not going to lie.  I thought a miracle had taken place on Friday too when so many medical professionals attended to me so quickly and skillfully.

Here’s to accessible health care in a small town in Kansas and a rural village in Guatemala.   May it all continue to evolve in such ways that there are only good stories to be shared about minor health care needs as well as the major happenings that bring new life.

**Thank you Amy Kay for allowing us to share your blog this week.  Visit Amy Kay’s website Connected**

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Artisan Profile: Kamibashi

sdmake_pplUnraveling the story of Kamibashi is as much fun as learning about their collection of whimsical String Dolls.  The journey began when founders, Kristen Doherty Daniels and Chris Daniels, went abroad to teach English in Japan. When they left their hometown of Chicago to work in the city of Kyoto, they never imagined that their encounters with talented young Asian artisans would ultimately lead them to a new career, a new company, and life in the scenic mountains of North Carolina, but life is full of surprises!  Unique Batik teamed up with Kamibashi at a 2011 trade show, and we’ve been carrying by the String Dolls ever since.

Kamibashi’s products range from cute to quirky, and all are packed with personality.  Made by artisans living in the hill country outside of Chiang Mai, Thailand, the String Doll Gang is a lively collection of characters that also function as keychains.  Each has an embroidered tag with its name and lucky “power.”  Kristen and Chris discovered String Dolls when they first appeared in the markets of Thailand in 2004, and they have worked diligently with the Kamibashi artisans to create characters that appeal to customers all over the world. Each string doll is handmade using one continuous piece of string then embellished with a face and various accessories to give it its own unique personality.  Whether you need Some French Guy to remind you that good food and wine feed the body and the soul or Astroneil to encourage you to take the first step, there’s a String Doll for everyone.

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Trashy Bags: Fantastic in Plastic

WatersachetSometimes, innovations that solve one pressing problem cause another.  This is the case with the inexpensive and readily available sachets of drinking water for sale all over Ghana.  The sachets look like little pillows, and to drink one, you just tear off the corner with your teeth and squeeze the water into your mouth.  This product has made safe drinking water widely available and affordable.  This has greatly reduced water-born illnesses, which according to the World Health Organization, are the leading cause of death and disease worldwide.  They also provide an income to countless street vendors.  There is a never ending demand for drinking water in this country so close to the equator. Continue reading