Working with indigenous people
Since Pekula and I worked with the women in the rural areas in Suriname we’ve learned a lot about ourselves and others from different cultures. Although our parents are from Suriname, we might look the same, but our culture and way of living are a lot different from theirs. In this week's blog, I will tell you more about our experience of working with them.
Let's start with the biggest challenge: Talking two different languages. In Brokopondo they speak Saramaccaans. I was told that this language is a mix of Portuguese, Surinamese, English, and African. When Pekula and I started 5 years ago we couldn’t understand a word. Communication with these women was very difficult. We could speak a little bit Surinamese but to be honest, it was bad. Over the years we have learned the basics of the Saramaccan language but I’m sure you can imagine how difficult it was to explain ourselves. Also, the women don't speak so much, they are not used to giving us their opinion when you ask for it. Their body language was also something we had to figure out. They don't give so much facial expression. After sharing our vision and plans with the most energy we have, they still would give us a guarded attitude. So we had to dig deep to get to know the women a little bit better. We started to spend time with them by going to the village every week, we stay for the weekends, cook together, get to know their family. Along the way, we find out this was also important for them to get to know us.
The women are living isolated in the villages. They don't come in contact with a lot of different people and cultures other than their own friends and family. It took almost 2 years before they opened up to us. In the beginning, we had to show our intentions. were pure by showing up and making sure that we did what we say and vice versa. Today the women are our second family and the villages feel like a warm and welcoming home.
There is also a different understanding of almost everything between the women and us. We have different perspectives, backgrounds, and education. Most of the women didn't have the opportunity to go to school or have an education. Although that doesn't say anything about their capability, it's sometimes hard to explain things to them so they understand. We had to think on their level which is more difficult than you think. For example, to explain to them the importance of deadlines was very hard. Planning and communicating about it is something they never did before. We had to begin from scratch. It took a lot of patience and perseverance which is something we had to learn. Today we are more patient with them and learned something new to add in our personal life as well.
Pekula and I have chosen this path of what we call slow fashion very consciously. The main goal of our brand is to help others. Although it's sometimes challenging, we stick to what we believe in. We hope that our clients and followers also believe in our vision and passion to support others.