Thursday, June 23, 2011

Getting Involved in the Community: Basket Weaving

One of the highlights of the project for many volunteers is taking a basket weaving class from a village elder. Volunteers work together to make a large basket, which in the Karen tribe is typically woven by the men. The elder who conducts the class is at least 80 years old, and has a stern and serious face, but when volunteers mess up he is quick to laugh. While he doesn’t speak any English he teaches by example and then has volunteers copy his actions. The baskets are woven out of strips of freshly cut bamboo. When the bamboo is fresh it is still pliable and easy to work with, but once it dries out it becomes rigid and makes for a sturdy basket. The classes are held at his home and other villagers often drop by to see what we are up to. Volunteers pay the elder a small amount for his time and effort, and this is one way GVI is helping provide alternative livelihoods to community members while supporting village traditions. The finished baskets are used at base hut as rubbish bins, recycling bins, and firewood collecting baskets. Basket weaving has been a great way for volunteers to get involved in the community, learn a local craft, and contribute to creating alternative livelihoods.