notes from the frontline

notes from the frontline

Working to transform the livelihoods of the marginalized and to bring change in the lives of poor producers is at the heart of Polly and Other Stories social innovation ethos. Artisanal craft represents a particularly fascinating opportunity to be involved with this sort of livelihoods generation by displaced individuals. Materials, patterns, and other techniques are often unique to specific groups and represent deep cultural affiliations that have been passed through generations, surviving conflicts and disasters. Engaging in support for artisanal craft is an opportunity to preserve culture, create cohesion and reinstall identity during displacement.

Polly and Other Stories has been working with Afghan refugees and artisans in their host communities in Pakistan in collaboration with the UNHCR to develop a range of products that allows these artisans to work together, showcase traditional skills and support themselves and their families. It's been such an amazing journey and we are so excited to share this collection with you!

For our blog post today, we thought it might be nice to share the thoughts of our design team on the ground. Working with diverse groups and getting to be a small part of their story is a huge privilege for us. Our interactions leave us overwhelmed by the talent people have and their resilience in very trying circumstances. We are regularly awed and motivated by our hardworking partners and the incredibly talented artisans we meet. 

Read, enjoy and be inspired!

"I shall be telling this with a sigh and yet a song in my heart. Somewhere ages and ages ago, two roads diverged in the woods, and I (and as fortune would have it, the team that now makes Polly!) took the one less travelled by and this has made all the difference. There are times when you forget the larger purpose of what you have set out to do and find yourself worn down by the mundane, the administrative (necessary but uninspiring work!) and spending hours doing accounts or filing taxes. And suddenly, something happens! Something amazing. And you are reminded again of why you set out on this journey and why the choices we all make matter so much. 

This visit to Haripur was the last one for the year. We were all tired and looking forward to a break but there was so much to still be done! I needed to go meet some of the incredible women we started working with earlier in 2016 and touch base on how we'd done so far. I also wanted to document where some of the workers lived, and the overall impact that our project with the UNHCR will have in the coming years. 

After completing the necessary visits and discussions and taking care of the ensuing paperwork, I asked one of the group leaders to take me to the village where she worked. The village was fairly high up in the mountains and after a short while, my car was unable to go up any further. We got out and walked the rest of the way on foot and like the most unlikely Piped Piper were accompanied by a convoy of chattering, excited children who followed us every step of the way.

Just seeing them smiling and laughing was so heartening -  despite the many adversities they faced, they were happy and closely monitoring the 'baji' who brought work for their sisters and moms. Even happier to see us were the women. Swarming in droves to show-off their handwork, toddlers perched on their waists. I could see how much the work has improved in just a few months, but also how much intervention and practice is still needed. I left with my heart full and my head brimming with more ideas.  Our story is unfolding still and I am so happy that Polly and Other Stories will be a part of these women's story too. I suppose this is not the end; it is just the place where I will stop my story - Frank Herbert."

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