Through family living in Manila, I was introduced to Berdabags. These bags are made from discarded rice sacks. The project was started by expats in Manila and gave employment to a village that had experienced a disaster. They were previously employed in shoe factories, until a cyclone swept through in 2004 and flattened them. They were never rebuilt.
This project gave full time employment to eight families and supported the schools. At the beginning of the school year, all children were given a school bag and all the school requirements for the year. Through sponsorship, this project was able to extend the school program and also supplied equipment and other benefits to the village.
The rice sacks are large bags and very colourful. All the factories discard the leftover sacks at the end of a season, then look forward to new designs for the next season. These were collected and reborn into allsorts and sizes of bags, all well designed, durable and colourful.
At this time I had a friend working in the Philippines, fly in fly out with an 8 week turnaround, so I always had a good supply. The bags were easy to sell. They were colourful, sturdy, well made, professionally sewn and best of all, cheap. My best seller was a craft caddie. This was made at my request and I am sure I sold hundreds.
My quilting friends loved these bags! I loved the shopping bags too, so large and light to carry. I must say I personally own quite a variety of Berdabags.
Sadly, there came a time when my courier was no longer able to bring bags. I think I had probably almost reached saturation point too. I had been selling berdabags for 4 years and had been able to help the village. Mareene Aitkin, from True Blue Exhibitions, gave me space to sell at the Woodturners and Craft Fair, for three years running. Time has dimmed my memory to exact results, but in the 4 years I sent money back to the village. The second year I had a stall at the Craft Fair, I was well prepared and had a good supply of assorted bags. They were also a new product at the Fair. This was my most successful sale, taking $3000 to send back to the village. I have visited this village and met the bag makers. They are indeed poor, but a happy village.