I should say from the beginning that this is a story that has a little bit of a personal angle to me. John Hart, the Peace Corps volunteer who’s involved in the story, is a friend of mine from college. But that doesn’t make this story any less worth sharing.
In the village of Berd, Armenia, life is pretty hard all around. The village is near the border of Azerbaijan, and war has about halved the population, leaving few viable options for people who don’t want to join the army. There are even fewer options for women, and unemployment is high.
At least that was the case before Hart and Timothy Straight got together. Straight is the founder of Homeland Handicrafts, an organization that employs women making craft items that are sold overseas. When Straight visited Berd he was attracted to a knit bear one of the women brought, and about 30 women in the town have been knitting the bears since.
The bears were being sold through Kickstarter, and more than $17,000 was raised. Straight is looking fora a more stable way to get orders for the bears — perhaps by connecting with an upscale American toy store. There’s also a project in the works to make the bears the stars of an animated television show that will talk about environmental issues. How cool is that?
[Photo by Berd Bears, via Kickstarter.]