I am back from Bangladesh, and I can honestly say that it was the most meaningful trip of my life. After three years of emails, Whatsapp messages, and Zoom calls, we were finally able to meet our Bangladeshi team in person!
700 Rivers supports the employment of 22 artisans in Bangladesh and we finally got the chance to meet and speak with everyone in person. We were greeted with friendly and excited smiles and felt immediately welcomed.
During our visit to Mymensingh, we got to see a batch of soap being made and better yet, we got to see all the soaps from our post-holiday order drying as we wait for them to be ready to be packaged and shipped to us in the USA. This was so cool because I had previously mentioned that the 2022 holiday season was our best sales season yet, which meant we got to place our largest order to date. All our soaps from this one order took up an entire room where they sat to dry. Our magnitude of growth has been astonishing.
One of the highlights during our discussion is that I found out that 700 Rivers has become the third largest source of revenue for our artisan partners! I was amazed to hear that in just 3 years of business, the 700 Rivers community has become one of the top sources of funding and stability for our artisan partners, namely throughout the global pandemic and in today’s current day. We did that together friends. Your sales, sharing the soaps with your friends, and spreading the word about our mission drove this small business to becoming a top financial source for 22 families. That is beyond incredible.
The best part of the visit was speaking to our artisan partners! I had the chance to speak with everyone as a group where I got to hear about their favorite parts of the job, learned their children’s names and favorite things, asked about their hopes for the future, and even found out each of their favorite soap scents. This was so special because we were able to speak together in Bangla, share stories about their personal lives and my own, and even joke and laugh together. Modern technology has come so far, but there isn’t anything better than laughing together face to face.
Some women were willing to speak with me individually where we got to dive in a bit more personally about their lives and dreams. I loved strengthening our bonds through these conversations as we got to dive in deeper about their thoughts on our work together, their goals for the future, and how we could meet them together. We never ask any artisan about their past, but some were willing to share openly of their own accord about the trauma they had faced and how their lives have improved since obtaining a fair-trade career. We cried together and hugged. The bravery and strength entrenched in each woman leaves me in awe and I’m honored to be able to play any size role in their life journey.
It was so special being able to deepen our relationships with our artisan partners. We also got to discuss new products that you helped us design! We brought all your new scent requests and product requests that you shared with us before our trip to the table and started to lay out plans and timelines to bring your requests from the design table, to the production floor, and then eventually into your homes. We are all so excited to bring your designs to life!
I’m back in the USA now with such a full heart and big dreams about our future together. I’m so honored to walk this journey with you too.