AVPE has generated over a dozen projects building bridges between American and Palestinian business people.

Bethlehem artisans forge pathway to U.S. markets

Bethlehem and the surrounding villages are dot-ted with small workshops where artisans craft unique olive wood icons, arabesque-painted ceramic dishes and a variety of embroidered clothing and home decor products.

Working alone, and facing restrictions on movement, difficult transport, lack of capital, and other challenges of living under military occupation, most of these artisans would find it difficult to eke out a living from their products.

But Bethlehem Fair Trade Artisans (BFTA), an umbrella non-profit organization, has found a way out of the closed-off West Bank for its producers. Using AVPE’s services, it has forged a path for Palestinian goods into the homes and offices of the vast U.S. market. And for these craftspeople, every sale is a lift up—out of poverty and into opportunity.

“BFTA planned a promotional trip to the U.S. with the goal of meeting great new clients,” says BFTA Executive Director Suzan Sahori. “When I landed in NYC and began my mission by attending the B2B Trade Fair in Dallas, the disappointing outcomes made me very pessimistic. BFTA only received small orders.” The organization could not stand out in the fray, and Sahori feared that the costly trip had been a waste.

It was only after the fair, when AVPE set up face-to-face meetings for Sahori with 13 different fair trade partners across the U.S., that she saw the possibilities for her organization and the crafts-people it represents.

“I met the most wonderful people,” says Sahori today, “kind and hospitable, especially with the support of Layla Kaiksow, who arranged days full of different meetings in different cities. Without her dedication, I would have been lost.”

The results were even better: six new American customers and a partner to assist BFTA with storage and distribution of its handicrafts in the U.S.

Working together, BFTA and AVPE have been able to magnify the reach of the small enterprises that characterize the handicrafts industry, helping them gain a foothold in an export market. And bigger, better markets means more Palestinian families with food on the table.