Roz bākhair! Good evening! In this post I would like to introduce you to an absolutely amazing "little something" a Pakistani friend of mine from started. Well, he called it "little", but I am sure that you will all agree with me that it is definitely more than that once you have finished reading this post!
The friend of mine I would like you to meet is Farjad, he is 19 and currently lives in Lahore, Pakistan. Farjard and I first met in Summer during the Yale Young Global Scholars (YYGS) Program on Grand Strategy and I was struck by his love and passion for his country and his people. Besides sharing a similar culture and also a good friend (my co-year Malika from Pakistan), we also shared interesting conversations, discussions and memories together with our YYGS friends, making our departure at the end of summer quite hard, but at least I was able to take back lasting friendships with wonderful people, postcards and a scarf from Pakistan.
Farjad is - to express it in simple terms - a pretty cool guy: He's done somefield work with multiple NGOs and public service agencies including the World Wildlife Fund, the UNDP, The Sarhad Rural Support Program, United Nations Women, the 1122 Punjab Provincial Emergency Service and is nonetheless quite down to earth! Today we had a little chat during which Farjad told me about a company he had started in order to share the beauty of artisanal crafts while at the same time preserving culture and heritage: Ralli.
Ralli was officially launched in May 2014. It has four main objectives that became the fundamental base for the company: promoting arts and crafts and the craftsmen and artisans who make them, women empowerment, education and environmental sustainability. Today Ralli is a fair trade organization that focuses on providing the best quality, artisanal and ethical products to its customers. Ralli's products are absolutely beautiful, even more so because of their background. They blend modern and contemporary designs with a touch of culture and striking colors.
Because I absolutely love decorating myhome with artisanal crafts takingmy mind to far-away places every time I look at them (oh, good old "fernweh") our conversation about Ralli turned very deep quickly. I thought that you all should definitely get a glimpse of Ralli and would appreciate reading about this great project Farjad started:
What inspired you to start up Ralli?
"My father was in the Pakistan army and before he passed away, he instilled a certain sense of responsibility in me. He told me to not waste life and to do something with my life. Be someone and work for the greater good. Having spent all his life serving Pakistan, he told me that it was my duty to serve humanity in any way I can. My mother was an artist and hence was brought up with an appreciation of the arts.
Having spent my life moving from cities to towns to even small villages because of my fathers job, I got a close view and a first hand experience of the various socio-economic problems that the Pakistani citizens face and as I grew older, I got a deeper sense of what was actually going on. Today, because of what is happening in Pakistan, no body has the time or even gives a thought to the Pakistani culture and heritage. This has resulted in Pakistan's various craftsmen and artisans to leave their crafts and to take up domestic jobs to make a living and provide for their families. This caused an epiphany inside me and thinking back at what my father had once said, I developed the idea behind starting a company that would cater to such people who have been long forgotten."
In many of the conversations we had during summer you often mentioned that you wanted to help your people and do something for your country. How does Ralli achieve that goal?
"70% of the profits Ralli makes go directly to the artisans themselves. Ralli also employs about 50 women who design and make various products for us. This is to instill a sense of independency in them as well as help them through the economical challenges they face. 15% of the profits go to The Citizens Foundation which is an NGO that provides education to the less fortunate. Currently Ralli is sponsoring 30 children and we have funded their education for the next 5 years. Ralli has also partnered up with WWF Pakistan by funding their tree planting campaigns across the different areas of the country. Wealso provides assistance to our artisans who have had a history of drug abuse: we fund their stay in rehab and correctional facilities and we are proud to say that none of our artisans have had any problems with drugs or other substances since they became a part of the Ralli team."
Do you have a vision for Ralli?
It is my vision to promote arts and crafts all over the world. South Asia is the first step of a long journey. We hope to expand to other areas of the world and to increase our operations in Pakistan. We want to help as many people as possible and to put them on their feet and make them independent.
And last but not least: What is the meaning behind the name "Ralli"?
"I came up with the idea of Ralli about a year and a half ago. I was at my grandmothers house and was going through old boxes to find a beautiful ralli quilt. Ralli is an ancient patchwork technique that was used by women in Sindh and parts of Punjab. In ralli, different colored patches of cloth are stitched together in order to make something. I found a ralli quilt which was basically a multi-colored quilt consisting of patches of cloth stitched together."