The Cre8ive Artisans Pod was founded by sister-out-laws, Jenni Parker and Linda Penny. We visualised the concept of artisans supporting artisans during the first Australian COVID lock-down in early 2020. Jenni and I have similar philosophies in seeking to assist people to be able to support themselves and their families. So we wanted to create something that would help empower people and give them a hand-up, rather than a hand-out. We are both crafty people and the idea for a community online handicraft shop was born from our love of making handmade items. Jenni does crochet and glasswork while I do quilting, embroidery and dressmaking. Well, we do have other crafty interests but this is mostly what we do!
Jenni has been volunteering with Ability Fair Trade Village (AFTV) a social enterprise in Cambodia since 2018. In February 2020 I joined her on a trip to Cambodia to explore the Kingdom of Wonder. We landed in the capital, Phnom Penh and visited Kep, Kampot and Koh Rong Sanloem on the west coast and Mondulkiri Province near the eastern border before heading north to Siem Reap. In an endeavour to be responsible tourists we travelled on local buses, stayed in locally owned and run accommodation and spent our tourist dollars supporting local businesses and social enterprise activities.
During the trip, we could already see the impact the COVID-19 economic crisis was having on the local tourism industry in Cambodia and only a few weeks after we returned to Australia international tourism ground to a halt around the world.
Initally we focused on raising funds to help feed hungry families in Cambodia. But it soon became evident that their journey back to financial independence would be a long and difficult road.
We wanted to do something more sustaining to help support the artisans and their families until they can become self-supporting again.
Australia has been one of the lucky countries with low infection rates and the medical and financial capacity to support our people most affected by the ravages of the pandemic. Cambodia is not so lucky. During the first wave of COVID there was minimal infection and no deaths in Cambodia. However, the economic impact had a devasting effect on families that were already living on the brink of poverty. Cambodia is now experiencing a second wave of COVID and current reports indicate over 11,000 people have been infected and 82 people have died (end April 2021).
This is just one space where West Australian artisans can work together as a community to provide economic security for vulnerable fellow artisans. We hope many WA-based artisans will join the Cre8ive Artisans Pod to assist their global neighbours.