So much has changed in all our lives the last couple of weeks. We have been sailing through rough seas and against strong winds because of this global pandemic. But these trying times is not only a public health emergency, it is also a social and cultural crisis that has challenged each one of us to the very core. We are beyond grateful for those at the forefront in the battle against this invisible enemy. Their bravery and dedication remind us of the resiliency present in the stories of our community artisans when they also face uncertainties and hardships.
For us Sesotunawa, now more than ever, it is vital that we go back to our most powerful and fundamental resource as a social enterprise - the people behind the business. Our foremost priority at the onset of this crisis was the health and well-being of the people comprising the community of Sesotunawa: the artisans in Lake Sebu and the remote support team. Physically, everyone is well. The artisans are doing the best they can to ensure that they all eat healthy, wash their hands regularly, and also inform others in their community how to keep the virus at bay. The support team is also safely working from their respective homes and maintaining regular communication with each other and with the community in Lake Sebu.
Nonetheless, these difficult times has affected the sustainability of the artisans’ main livelihood. Finding people to buy their brass and beaded products, and selling them has been quite a challenge. Fortunately, there is the savings program of Sesotunawa, an emergency fund which can be tapped in times like this. For now, this safety net is helping the artisans mitigate their loss of income. It is keeping them afloat as they are able to still buy food and medicines. In the past, some of the artisans recall tougher times when they had no such refuge.
It is moments like this that we are affirmed of the value of investing in programs that develop our community partners’ ability to be sustainable and reinforce their resiliency. We are now seeing the impact of the mentoring sessions with the artisans on financial management, in particular. It is our hope that many other small businesses are also reflecting on similar practices that empower and give more life to the people in their enterprise, especially in this time of social and economic turmoil. As ANTHILL, our partner, puts it, “people over profit.”
We believe in the strength that exists in each person and their ability to bounce back from every hurdle. Though we are currently forced to distance ourselves physically, we continue to put to heart the core value of Sesotunawa that only through connecting with each other and working together are we able to overcome this great challenge ahead of us.
Words and photos by Gabs Sagaral