In 2011, our family of six visited extended family in Bangladesh for Christmas. What an amazing two weeks! New sights and sounds arrested us from the moment we got off our plane in Dhaka, a city the size of Orlando, Florida, but with sixty times the number of people. We have unforgettable memories of that Christmas--rickshaw rides through overcrowded streets, haircuts with Bangladeshi head massages, wide smiles with teeth stained red from betel nuts, cinnamon rolls and coffee latte art at a local café, and the sound of car horns and bike bells ringing day and night!
One place we visited in the heart of the city was Basha, a house of hope for women at risk. There we met an amazing group of women--the Basha artisans. These women had lived hard lives of trafficking and abuse. But they had the courage to leave the only lives they knew and make better lives for themselves and their children. At Basha the women are taught a trade that provides a sustainable living so that they don’t need to depend on charity or government. The kantha blankets they make from recycled sari cloth are their chance for a different life, and the fair trade of their craft gives them not just their livelihood, but also respect, dignity, and strength.
Basha is now nine years old and employs over 160 women in five different locations. In addition to its centers, Basha has a home for children of artisans who are not yet able to care for their families, a transitional home for artisans who need extra recovery care, and a men’s program to train husbands how to care for and heal their broken homes. My family wanted to be a part of encouraging Robin, Basha's director, and the artisans. So we started Open River Imports in 2017 to open up more opportunities for the women of Basha. Since we believe that trade is the best way to give aid to people in need, it is our goal to give the hope and help of trade to as many women as possible . . . one blanket at a time.
If you're reading this, then you probably want to give hope to Basha too. Thanks for joining us! We love having friends along for the journey!