In partnership with the Catholic Relief Services (CRS), The Holy Land Handicraft Cooperative Society (HLHCS) The Holy Land Christian Ecumenical Foundation (HCEF) implemented a joint project to improve health and safety conditions of artisans in Bethlehem area with the generous financial support of CRS- Fair Trade Funds, followed by SERRV International, Ten Thousand Villages and Initiative Christlicher Orient
The Handicraft Workshop Development Project intervened in response to the crucial need to the handicraft industry in Bethlehem area where it is a source of pride and economic welfare for the Palestinian people, handicraft workshops need help in preserving their vital tradition. Unfortunately, while artisans produce beautiful works, their health and safety are put at risk by their work environments. They utilize inefficient equipment, operate amid poorly configured and exposed electrical works, and breathe in fine particles as they work, leading to large health costs down the line.
The renovation of handicraft workshops creates a sense of pride in the workers and attracts new generations to the craft, allowing Palestinians to sustain and revitalize their handicraft tradition. These workers can now work in safe, healthy environments without fear of long term health risks, and this also leads to high productivity and better quality products. And parents in the surrounding neighborhoods can breathe easy knowing their children can play outside in clean, fresh air. Additionally, Palestine is able to maintain an essential aspect of its economic viability since olive wood and mother of pearl production are unique to the area, attracting local and international buyers alike.
From 2013 to 2018 we were able to renovate 14 handicraft workshops in the Bethlehem area, creating job opportunities and changing the lives of direct and indirect beneficiaries.
Worked done was suction systems, painting rooms, renovations, which prevents the fine particles of olive wood and mother of pearl production from entering workers’ lungs or polluting the local environment. It is estimated that over 1000 members of the local communities will benefit from the reduction in pollution.
For this reason the Holy Land Handicraft Cooperative Society would like to highlight the importance of this Project “Handicraft Workshop Development” in applying one of the FT ten principles “Principle One: Creating Opportunities for Economically Disadvantaged Producers, Principle Seven: Ensuring Good Working Conditions, Principle Ten: Respect for the Environment.
1. Yousef Habash, olive wood workshop owner, said: “We were working in miserable conditions, as if we were in the Stone Age. That’s how crude my shop seemed. In fact, it got so bad that my workers started asking to take their projects home. But now, with the renovations and new system installed, it is a thousand times better. My workers are actually excited to come to the shop, feeling a greater sense of dignity under the new working conditions!”
2. Jeries Al–Atrash, also an olive wood workshop owner, shared his feelings about the renovation: “The main change my workers and I have noticed is the affect the new system has on the shop. Everything feels much cleaner as we work, and there’s no longer a lingering sense of anxiety about how our health may suffer. We have peace of mind now.
3. Waseem Musleh, stated, “When I went to my workshop, I was feeling as though I was going to die there. The sawdust was piling up, the building structure was unstable, and I was operating dangerous machines with very little lighting. But now everything is well organized, the building is secure, there’s plenty of light and ventilation, there’s electricity. I want to thank everyone who was involved in making this dream a reality for me and my family.”
4. Majed Odeh, commented: “We had no suction system in the painting area. I didn’t want to expose any of my sons to the toxins—I’m old, but they still have their lives ahead of them. So for years I was doing the painting by myself, inhaling the toxins. Now, with the suction system, we can do our work without worrying about getting sick.”
5. Nicola Sansour, a school teacher and workshop owner also commented: “I just got a new order for olivewood crafts, and I’m really excited to work on it in my new workshop. This rehabilitation gives me hope for life.” Until the project, Mr. Sansour had been working in a makeshift workshop made of tarp and corrugated metal outside his home.
6. George Gareeb Workshop “During winter and summer seasons, I used to face real temperature problems, since I have serious kidney problems. However, after the installation of the ceiling and change of the windows, lighting system improvement, painting of the workshop, I now live a healthier place and I thank god as this will nourish my work and keep me safe”.
7. Raja Banoura Workshop “My employees were suffering from breathing issues, and they used to refuse to paint in the small room due to the hard smell and they used to paint outside which severely affected the neighbored and caused problems. However, after adding the suction system, my employees are working and painting in a more comfortable and healthy way without affecting the neighborhood. I really thank everyone who supported and helped me in all the changes”.
8. George Al Atrash Workshop, My workshop environment used to have negative effects on my employees. Less productivity, humidity and working away from each other has taken a huge toll on my employee’s health and productivity. But now, a more clean, well-organized and safe atmosphere has emerged after the renovation. I am now aware of safety systems needed. Also, the sun perfectly shines from the windows and the lightening has been much better for work and productivity. I really appreciate what has been done and I will do my best to maintain and improve the current situation”.
9. Hanna Iseed Workshop, Before working in the shop was very difficult. It would get too hot and the dust would make breathing very difficult. But now after the new installations, I can breathe easy as I work and it doesn’t feel as hot with new installation in the ceiling.
10. Naji Qumsieh’ Workshop my workshop was small and it was not easy for the workers to move among the equipment. Even the dust made it not safe for them to work so close together. Now that the workshop is expanded, it’s given my workers much more space to work their projects. The new electricity work has made the lighting much better and safe. After the floor was resurfaced with concrete and the walls and ceiling were plastered, the dust is much less than before. Also, a new W.C was installed, Overall, the work environment is much more enjoyable for everyone,, my God, this changed our way of life.
11. Attalah Ghareeb
12. Karam Iseed