From Cow Bells to School Bells
CEO and founder
I remember it was a dry summer morning in 2011, and I was walking into a small village on the India Pakistan border. It was the first time we were meeting our artisan bell makers. I met Kasim Bhai in his house. His family has been making bells for generations, passing down the art form and mastery to each new generation. Kasim Bhai is the current bell maker in his family and works out of his workshop that’s located in his home.
Originally, bell craft was developed as a way for farmers to identify their cows and livestock. Farmers would have bells made that were tuned to a custom and unique identifying tune. As farming prospered, bell makers prospered as well, handling the high demand for bells. It was a good system for a while. However, consecutive droughts over the years severely impacted the cattle industry and the demand for traditional bells dropped significantly, impacting the livelihoods of bell artisans. Partnering with our organization, connects remote artisans to the global market and provides them with higher demand for their products.
During our first meeting in 2011, I observed Kasim Bhai's 13 year old son learning how to make bells in his workshop. My initial reaction was frustration towards Kasim Bhai for not sending his son to school, and instead encouraging him to work at home. Kasim Bhai told me that he had 3 sons and in his village school ended at 8th grade. After 8thgrade, children must go into town to further their education, and that is very expensive for families. He said he did not make enough money to send all of his sons to school. However, if his eldest son joined him in bell making, he would be able to send his younger 2 sons to school.
"That was a rude awakening for me. I realized that simply providing employment for Kasim Bhai wasn’t enough. "
We had to work on improving his productivity so that he, and artisans like him, could make bells more efficiently and therefore, be able to make a better living. We studied the bell production process, and after a lot of hard work we were able to install new kilns in the village to firing the bells. The new kilns increased productivity and reduced fuel consumption, making the process quicker and more sustainable.
This past April, we traveled back to India to visit and meet with our partner artisans again. I stopped by Kasim Bhai's home and met his younger sons, Suleman and Imran.
I asked them if they were going to school in the next town and with a smile, they both nodded yes.