Hearts and Hands has undergone some changes recently. Several workers have moved on to other situations. Jian Mei and Hong Ju found good jobs in a pharmaceutical company, Zhao Yan and Cui Li needed to return to their home towns to take care of their children who are now of school age. Xiao Zhang is returning home to work with his brothers.
We feel so privileged to have had all of these people working with us over the past years, to have come to know them and see them grow and develop. When we first knew Jian Mei, she was fresh out of school. Now she’s married with a beautiful one year old daughter and she and her husband are both involved in leadership in the Deaf Church here. We are glad all of these leaving workers are moving into good new situations.
We have, for now, downsized our work slightly, and are beginning to feel like a small family business again. Our remaining workers are enjoying a new sense of closeness and solidarity. This is provision for us in an increasingly difficult economic environment. We are also pleased to have the Rehabilitation Department from Bless China International join us on our premises. Building work is slow on the new residential development near us so we may have more years in our current location.
Susan Wang's husband is well. His last scan showed no further cancer growth so the doctors felt no need for more chemo but will check him every two months from now on.
Several new products have been developed and will be added to our web site soon. They will make nice Christmas gifts and will support the Deaf and disabled workers of Yunnan Province.
All this is good news and we are aware that we are being taken well care of.
June 2012 News
We were sorry to see Louise, our American quilting teacher, leave at the end of last month. However,
she did leave behind some beautiful new products which will be appearing on our website soon. We
hope that she comes back soon!
We also had a Hong Kong friend design some new very elegant Chinese clothes for us to sell.
This month we have been catching up by increasing our inventory and preparing for this year's
Christmas products. Christmas is always our busiest time of year and preparation starts now.
Susan Wang’s husband, Guo, has been going through chemotherapy. Although he has had some
discomfort, the side effects have not been as severe as expected. He continues with two more
treatments. The doctors may change the medication to a kind made outside of China which will cost a
great deal more. Susan and Guo are so grateful for all the donations that have been pouring in for them.
So far, they have had all they need and more.
April 2012 News
Normally the first quarter of the year is slower and less stressful than the busy holiday
time. The first months of 2012 have been like riding a roller coaster with both good
times and bad times.
Despite the continued international economic situation, Hearts and Hands had more
orders than usual. One large order that had to be completed by the end of April kept all
the workers including the administrative staff working overtime. In the photo, Deng Xiao
Zhang is carrying a load of foldable totes to be prepared for packaging.
Presently, H&H has 28 staff in the handicraft workshop and store. The woodcraft shop
has 7 carpenters and have also been busy in the first quarter with many orders.
An American quilter came as a volunteer for three months to teach new skills and
methods to our handicraft workers. The knowledge and expertise passed on to our staff
will help in developing new products.
April 2011 News
Apologies for the lack of news recently. Hopefully we can catch up now.
In our last news we showed a picture of the dividing wall between our work shop and the area designated for demolition. The wall is gone and this is now the view from our work shop window. This time our landlord has promised 6 months of rental but can’t guarantee a year. So… watch this space!
Zhang Xu, one of our long-term workers and good friend married recently and returned to her home town to set up her own business. This is good news and is always the aim of our work but at the same time we are sad to see her go.
At Christmas several of our workers took part in a Signed Song performance in the official Chinese Church. There was great excitement and encouragement to sing in front of thousands of people.
Hearts and Hands has had good sales throughout Christmas and hopes for another successful year in 2011.
Thanks to those of you who support us in so many ways!
Remember Jane Ramsey, the special products coordinator of H&H? She went back to the States in April and has returned to KM this month.
During her time in the States, she and her husband visited several Deaf Churches, spoke about the work at H&H and showed the video. Many people in the States are really interested in our work here and send their encouragement and love to us.
She also had an interview with the Charisma Magazine. So there will be a feature story in the Charisma November issue both in print and online. Be sure to buy one and check us out.
Because of her visa situation Jane is not able to live long-term Kunming anymore. But she will still be our advocate in the States and other countries.
Another piece of good news is that we do not need to move our workshops to a new place until later. We have been looking for a new property for a long time but never found anywhere suitable. Then we were told that the area our woodworking and handicraft workshops are located will not be torn down for at least a year. See the wall in the picture; it is the dividing line of the area to be torn down and the area to be razed at a later date. We are on the good side of the wall so we can keep renting our building for a longer time. This is really a blessing since we are getting busy for Christmas. This has lifted a great burden for now.
February was a month of celebrations and fireworks. The Chinese New Year/Spring Festival was loud and long. A special event for Hearts & Hands was the wedding of our Tibetan carpenter and one of our former handicraft workers. It was a large, festive banquet with many of the Deaf community attending. The bride was beautiful and the groom very handsome.
March continued the pattern for all of Yunnan and much of China to be a month of severe drought and endless wind. Millions of farmers are suffering because of the extended drought and the heavy dust in the winds is causing health hazards for many. The demolition of large blocks of buildings just adds to the heavy air pollution.
Our workshop extended its lease but the uncertainty of our building stills hangs over us. No suitable place has been found.
Our special products coordinator, Jane Ramsey, is going to the US for three months beginning the first of April. She and her husband will begin their trip in Seattle, Washington and then travel to Texas, Florida and California. If you would like to know more about H&H, she will be carrying some products and a video describing the Kunming Deaf program. If you would like to contact Jane, her email address is <heartsjane@Yahoo.com>
Many thanks to the family members of our director for raising the funds to purchase a mini-van for Hearts & Hands. Chen Gang is on the far left of the photo of the new van with two of the Deaf carpenters and the woodworking shop manager. Chen Gang oversees both the woodworking shop and the H&H store.
The van is already proving to be a blessing. Now deliveries can be made without hiring trucks and being dependent on availability. Two staff members have driving licenses so the van will be used for deliveries, transporting products between workshop and store and bringing material purchases back to the workshop.
Plans to increase sales and orders of H&H products will be introduced after Chinese New Year holiday (Feb. 6-21). A former volunteer who now lives in Zhengzhou is showing the H&H catalog and taking orders at her monthly fellowship gathering. Her efforts have given us an idea of recruiting people in cities in China that would be able to do something similar. We plan to develop a set of samples of our best-selling items and send them along with order forms and price lists to people that would be interested in promoting our products and program. They could show our products to their friends and possibly host “Hearts & Hands Party” similar to Tupperware parties. We may also include a video of the work.
Another plan is to have a sale the first weekend in May to encourage the local community to visit and see our new products. We will offer refreshments, discounts and gifts for customers who purchase over a certain amount.
If anyone has ideas that would help us market our products, we'd like to hear from you. We need to be creative as our larger orders have stopped because of the world-wide economic situation.
Good things are happening in Kunming. Hearts & Hands participated in the annual Nordica Christmas Fair and sold a large amount of products at the two-day event. It is always a good time to show new products and remind the community of the work of H&H. Our carpenters also had a booth and have begun to get orders from the Chinese community.
Also during the month of December, funds were received for the Deaf program to purchase a minivan. I will post photos next month. This vehicle will greatly help with deliveries and in the transport of fabric, supplies and products to and from the workshop.
Our staffing situation is improving. An accountant has been hired to do the books at both the store and workshop. A possible candidate for office manager has been interviewed. The individual is qualified and experienced. We are hopeful to work out a good contract and have a new office manager shortly after Chinese New Year (mid-February).
Staff are still searching for new property to move both the woodworking and handicraft shops. Since many areas of Kunming are being razed (see photo), many businesses are looking for new property and the prices continue to go up. Our best solution may be to build our own 'barrier-free' facility for handicap people. Plans are to search for organizations that provide grants for this type of project. Any advice would be appreciated!
October proved to be a month of surprises and a slight improvement in orders. Not certain if the international economic slump is abating but Hearts & Hands is getting more messages concerning our products. Ingrid Chen, H&H director, has been busy working on samples to potential new clients and also sending orders to first-time customers. Our work force is down by about a third. As people have left, we have not replaced them. We are hopeful that we can begin training and hiring once again.
Chen Gang, director of the woodworking shop, took over management of the H&H retail store. He has been training the three workers that were transferred from the workshop to the store. The store has a new look now because one of Chen Gang's plan was to have new displays built to better show our products.
A big surprise was the marriage (see 'Our Stories') of Susan Wang Su Mei. She returned to Shandong, her home province, to take a driving course in September and got married Oct. 2.
She returns to Kunming with her new husband in November.
Another highlight of October was a trip to Osaka, Japan for two H&H staff and two Deaf to attend an international Deaf conference. Ingrid Chen and Jane Ramsey (see photo) sold almost all the H&H products brought for the exhibition. The conference was a time of encouragement and gave us opportunity to see what other Deaf organizations were doing in various parts of the world.
Leadership staff continue to search for a new location for both workshops. Kunming is in a building frenzy and tearing down whole neighborhoods to make way for high-rise apartment and commercial buildings. Finding suitable factory space for both the craft and woodworking shops is proving difficult and time-consuming. There has to be consideration for our disabled staff in regards to commuting to work and/or finding affordable housing nearby.
Please tell your friends, neighbors, colleagues and families about Hearts & Hands and place orders! We need all the help we can get! All our products are made by Deaf and disabled people who most often would not be employed by other businesses. We continue to work towards giving our staff 'a hope and and a future'.
Autumn in Kunming is always a special time. People who have gone on holidays are returning for the start of the new school year. There are also new faces in the crowds that have come to replace the 'old China hands'. “Hungry Ghost” festival was observed the first week in September. Special places were set aside to burn paper money to appease the ancestral spirits that may not be happy in the afterlife. The next holiday will be Mid-Autumn Moon Festival on the night of the full moon the October 3. Moon cakes in many varieties are on sale and families will gather to feast and watch a beautiful full moon. Chinese say this holiday is their Thanksgiving. Its origins come from Ancient China when the Emperor and his entourage would go to the Temple of Heaven. The Emperor would mount the steps to the top platform and pray for a good harvest.
Hearts & Hands staff have continued working on Christmas items. New items are being suggested and designed. The woodworking shop has been very busy with new orders for furniture. The H&H store has three new staff members that are doing a great job. None of them speak English so three foreigners volunteer one afternoon a week to teach English. The young women are excited (see photo) to have an opportunity to learn English.
Changes will be be taking place in the next six months. The area where the workshop and the woodworking shop is to be razed for new developments. Soon we will need to find suitable buildings for both workshops within an area close to where our workers live. As H&H has grown from a small handicraft to a much larger business, there is a need to change our business registration with the government. This may be a time-consuming, expensive and difficult procedure. We are researching our options at the moment.
The foreign population in Kunming diminishes during the summer months so store sales at Hearts & Hands have slumped. There does not seem to be as many teams coming through the city to conduct summer language camps. So we have not had a boost from groups buying items to take back to their home countries.
One bright spot was a visit from a Hong Kong group that wants to partner with the Deaf program in Kunming. Three leaders came for a tour of the workshop, woodworking shop and the store. They invited a member of H&H to come to Hong Kong in August and share about the work.
Recently contacts have been made by companies about possible future orders. Nothing definite but gives us hope that the summer slump and the economic downturn will come to an end!
The highlight this month was having an exhibit at a large international conference in Hong Kong the first week of June. Almost all the items were sold and many contacts were made for possible new sources to sell Hearts & Hands products. This was our first effort too promote our products on a large scale.
Contacts are also being made to sell our products through organizations that help disadvantaged people groups. Not too much is happening presently since many countries are suffering from the world-wide economic situation.
The workshop staff continues to work on catalog items, new product designs and maintaining the store inventory. The store was recently remodeled to make for a more attractive presentation of products.
MAY 2009 The large US order was completed and shipped this month. Now some of our staff are taking well-deserved vacations while the others are working on our catalog products. Several samples are being made for a new line of baby/new mother products.
Hearts & Hands will have a booth at a large international conference in Hong Kong the first week of June. Not only will promotional literature be distributed but we will be selling H&H products. One of our volunteers along with her husband, are going to the conference and will be working the H&H booth. The photo shows our hearing staff in the store, changing price tags from Chinese Yuan to Hong Kong dollars. This is a good opportunity for Hearts & Hands to get more recognition and more orders!
April 2009 This month the staff continues to work on products for Great American Opportunities. They are
making different types of bags in a pretty brown paisley fabric. If you have a child in an American
school which promotes the Great American fundraising catalog, you will be able to purchase our
products through them.
We are also working on some new Easter products, including two new wall hangings, a set of
decorative eggs which enclose the true Easter story, a standing cross with additional items which
also tell the story and some Easter cards. These items will not be available for mailing this year
but will be on the website soon!
The girls in the design room are also working on some other new products so keep an eye out for
them on our website!
(In the photo is Xiao Hong meeting with a customer that needs her baby blanket quilted by our
MARCH 2009 There is not much news this month. March is a slump-time for us after the busy holiday
season. The staff has completed the first part of the US order and is working on getting
the next shipment ready.
All of us are trying to get ideas how to generate more orders within China. Friends took
our catalogs to distribute at conferences held across Southeast Asia during the
holidays. We are hopeful some special orders will result from that effort.
The world-wide economic situation is a major concern for us. We trust that there will be
a change in the future outlook and we will be able to continue with the work force we
employ and be able to hire more.
Feb 2009 Fireworks are still exploding nightly in Kunming. The Chinese new year holiday actually lasts until the 15th day of the lunar year. The first three days are usually the worst and then there is a big finale on the 15th day. There does not seem to be regulations on the amount of gunpowder in the fireworks and it sounds like bombs going off. Friends who have experienced war situations in London during the blitz and in Lebanon, said the fireworks brought back vivid memories.
Our staff was off for several days during the holidays for a much needed rest. They returned to work the first week of February and began working on a large order for a US company and making more catalog products to have in stock.
New possible staff are being interviewed. Because of the economic downturn, many people are being laid off and looking for work. We are hoping to get some experienced staff to help us.
A British couple, teachers in Shaanxi Province, visited Kunming and toured our workshop. In this photo, Jan Mott is looking at the handwork of one of our staff while Susan Wang Su Mei, manager, holds up “Welcome” banner.
Happy New Year and Spring Festival (Chinese New Year, Jan. 26) from the Hearts & Hands staff. As expected, December was a very busy month. The Nordica Christmas Fair was again a good time for us with an income over $1200. The next weekend, we were invited to put up a display at Metro, large German-owned superstore in the north area of Kunming. Sales were $370 for just a few hours and we sold 14 reindeer. We hope to open a second store in the north and this gave us a good idea of what sells among the people who live in that area.
We have been searching for new staff and hired 6 disabled workers in December. One of them is a young woman with one leg that worked part-time when she was a student at the school for the disabled. She graduated and is working in our store. She introduced 5 of her classmates that were searching for work. One has only one leg, two are missing one hand, one has no hands and the other has a cleft pallet and is very difficult to understand. It is amazing and humbling to see the dedication and the work accomplished by our new staff.
Christmas Eve the staff enjoyed a dinner and party to celebrate Christmas. Several groups performed skits and songs before playing games and having a gift exchange. Everyone had been working very hard and it was nice to have an evening of good food and fellowship.
Merry Christmas from the Hearts & Hands staff. We trust that your holidays will be a special time of blessings for you and your family.
December is always a special and busy time for the staff of H&H. The month begins with a large Christmas fair in Kunming where H&H's booth is always popular and many items are sold. Also the month begins the summer holidays for the southern hemisphere and many groups come to Kunming and buy souvenirs and gifts to take home.
One of our biggest needs for the workshop is for more staff! One of our long-time, experienced workers had an appendectomy at the end of November. We continue to search for more experienced workers and others to place in our sewing training class.
Many of you have children and grandchildren in public schools in America. Some will have brought home a fund-raising brochure from Great American listing items to sell. Look closely and you will see that three organizations with products are from Kunming, China. H&H was requested to make custom items for GA. Threads of Yunnan and Eden Ministries also have their products featured. We sell both Threads of Yunnan and Eden Min. products in our store and have been involved with both organizations. If you know of school groups using the GA fund-raiser, we would appreciate you encouraging them to buy products from Kunming organizations.
The GA order was one of the biggest we have ever filled and was a challenge and a blessing. The income from large orders likes this helps us expand and hire more Deaf and disabled people. Next year we will be looking for a larger workshop and hope to open a second store.
November 2008 Welcome to the Hearts & Hands website. The new H&H catalog is printed and about to be mailed soon. (click here to download our pdf version) This new web design reflects the changes in our logo, format, new products and also includes the prices!
October was an extremely busy month for us. There was a large order to be completed and mailed to the US. Because of this we hired extra staff and our regular workers put in many hours of overtime to complete the order. Though this was a challenge for us, this type of order will enable us to have the needed funds to train and hire more staff.
In late October, six people from Yunnan Province attended an international deaf conference in Alexandria, Egypt. Two H&H deaf employees and one hearing-impaired staff volunteer represented the Kunming Deaf Program. At the conference there were 220 people from 32 nations and the majority were deaf. The conference was conducted in English and translated into eight different sign languages. The China delegation gave a report on the work in Kunming and Dali among the deaf community. The trip gave the H&H staff a good opportunity to see what others were doing to help deaf and disabled around the world.
Presently, all Hearts and Hands staff are in full Christmas production. Two large craft fairs are coming up in the next few weeks. Hearts & Hands will have booths at the International Christian School Craft Fair in Hong Kong on November 28 and at the Nordica Christmas Fair in Kunming on December 5-6. If you are in either city on these dates, drop by our booth and pick up some Christmas gifts and our new catalog.