Additional Craft Information:
When we hear the name Romania, we usually think of gypsies, Transylvania and the famous Vlad Dracula. But, more than these, Romania is a small European country that has gone through centuries of civilization and culture.
DIY Craft Essential #1: Washi tape
DIY Craft Essential #2: Needle nose pliers
A territory where humans have lived for thousands of years, today, more than ever, Romania needs the assistance of countries from around the world to cultivate trade, education and democracy.
Why would a European Union member state need assistance? Well, in spite of its EU membership, Romania remains one of the poorest countries in Europe. But, precisely because it is an EU member, Romania is finding it difficult to gain fair trade status in Fair Trade organizations!
According to reports, up to 44% of Romanians are living in poverty – that's 6.5 Million people. The most vulnerable citizens are those who live in the rural areas, women and children. One out of five Romanian children are exploited. This means that approximately 5 million children in Romania are forced to work, many of them in work requiring hard labor. As a result, millions of children are not in school and grow up illiterate.
Romania's suffering is a legacy of 40 years of communism and intense persecution of its population – Jewish, Christian or Romany — during World War II.
Today, the most basic civil structures are still being reconstructed – government, health care, infrastructure, education, are works in progress and remain tenuous at best.
In many rural regions of the country, up to 95% have no running water. Ten percent have no supply of electricity and thousands of people are without access to basic medical care. Eighteen babies out of 1,000 die and there are no provisions for care of the physically challenged, sick and elderly.
Despite these grim statistics, Romanians are skilled and talented people with rich traditions, arts and culture. Romanians in some rural areas still enjoy a time-honored way of life that goes back generations. Horse-drawn carts and carriages are seen more often than cars. People go about their daily lives in traditional dress and celebrate weddings and holidays with age-old practices.
DIY Craft Essential #3: X-acto knife
DIY Craft Essential #4: Spray paint
The country is a tourist's dream – famous for its beautiful architecture, picturesque landscapes and grand churches. The strong artistic tradition in Romania has produced glorious monasteries which are known for their frescoes, elaborate religious icons, intricately-carved wood products, ornate jewelry, decorated holiday masks and national clothing made out of rich fabrics and embroidered with designs passed down through generations.
Romanian linens have made up part of many royal trousseaus while baskets made out of indigenous materials such as willow are also well-known in Europe. And, among all countries, Romania is the only one that can boast of the little-known art of decorating eggshells with wax, thick paint, beads and various motifs. Although egg decoration is not exclusively an art form to Romanian custom, some of the most beautiful specimens are from Northern Romania in Bucovina.
To help the Romanian people get back on their feet, fair trade groups have tapped these numerous national arts and crafts to show the world what this proud nation can do. Interest groups such as CHF International and Transrural work with Romanian artisans, providing them with training, skill updating and the venue for bringing their products to market.
The money and aid that enters Romania can go a long way in helping citizens in many different ways. Much needed funds can enter rural areas to bring vital infrastructure. Money can go through legitimate interest groups and get to where it is meant to go, most especially to groups that fight the exploitation of children.
Not only are thousands of Romanian children exploited, there is a growing epidemic of children being orphaned and placed in institutions that don't have enough to care for them.
Groups like Heart of Romania's Children Foundation benefit from the income from baskets that make their way to the UK, Europe and the US.
In Romania, entire families work on arts and crafts, helping one another rise above difficult circumstances. More than food on the table, what fair trade does is to ensure that centuries old traditions are not only keeping up with the times but they are still alive long after their current crafts people have gone.
1. CHF International. “Success Story from Romania: Fair Trade Opportunities through Crafts.” CHF International. Article online at chfinternational.org/node/21156
2. Transrural Trust. “Project Profile: Craftwork in Romania.” Transrural Trust. Article online at transrural.org/moldavia-crafts.htm