Oct 31, 2013

Jun 14, 2013

Graduates Galore

Mary & Martha have a small core staff and employ students part time during their studies and full time during their vacations.  Over the last 3 years all students have come from Ulaanbaatar University and all major in "Training to be English Teachers" or training to be English translators.  Our arrangement with the University is mutually beneficial; we have a flexible sales force, the students have regular income and the University sees major improvements in the student's spoken English after working with M+M for 3 or more months.  We think it is significant that most of our full time staff started out part time when they were students and chose to join us on graduation.

This year has seen three of our students graduate from Ulaanbaatar University; two as English Teachers and one as a Translator.  All have chosen to work with us during our busy summer season.  All three still have to decide "what next".  Then we have a fourth graduate, who has done a fast track accountancy diploma, whilst working with M+M and learning to do M+M accounts. 

We're proud and grateful to be involved in the lives of all these students and we hope we are a real encouragement to them.
Tsegii and Uyunga our graduating English Teachers
Deligat (Translator Graduate) with her proud brother
Badmaa (Diploma in Accounting) with a proud boss
M+M Staff with new graduates - we all celebrate together
M+M Staff with our artisan friends from Asylmura and Deligat

Jun 8, 2013

UB Walking Hazards

It is that time again - summer is here and the foreign visitors are arriving.  As temperatures rise just doing the most simple things can become more difficult and tempers also reach explosion point more quickly.

Walking around would seem the most natural thing to do when visiting a new city - but beware of the UB Walking Hazards.

Walking on pavements
Culturally the space you occupy when walking is not recognised by others.  Anyone of any age and gender is likely to walk through you at any time.  So if you do not have a tough frame, watch and give way as much as possible.

Pick Pockets
Pick on you when you are at your most vulnerable.  Your arrival or first day on the street and you think the best of everyone.  The pick pockets use the "we do not recognise your space" as part of their ploy to jostle you - usually one in front to slow you down and 3-4 behind to close in, relieve you of your valuables and then drift away again.  Back packs / day packs are an easy target as are mobile phones on belts and even items in front and rear pockets.

Crossing Roads
Only pedestrian crossings sequenced with traffic lights give any hope of crossing without incident - and this only about 80% of the time.  All other crossings offer open season on pedestrians.  You may have "the green man" to cross but traffic will also have green to turn across your path or with no traffic lights drivers do not recognise pedestrian crossings.  Might is right and bigger trumps smaller.  If you are a good judge of speed and believe a driver can stop, make clear eye contact with the driver - they will stop - but again only 80% of the time.  Go for safety in numbers when ever possible; the herd can intimidate drivers - but again only 80% of the time.

The Dislikers
There are a small minority of local folk who simply dislike foreigners.  They seem to have the need to lash out by kicking, hitting and verbally abusing the ones they dislike.  And guys, if you are with a Mongolia lady, you will be a target.

So don't get paranoid but DO keep your wits about you and you'll have a fantastic time here - and once out of the city the friendliness and generosity is amazing.

May 29, 2013

WFTD Been and Gone

Well, we wonder if Mongolia is actually ready for Fair Trade.  We held World Fair Trade Day (actually over 3 days) and were supported by the "faithful" members of the Expatriate community and a number of interested tourists.  For that we are grateful.  However, there is a sense with elections coming up and position changing over foreign investment laws, Fair Trade is of little importance to most people.

We continue to tell our artisans and staff that what we do is of value, even if it seems small compared to life's problems and insignificant in a land that sees mining solving all life's problems.

The good news is sales were on par with WFTD 2012 and in the process about USD 200 was raised for projects supported by the International Women's Association of Mongolia. And several people won prizes in our WFTD draw.

We celebrated a successful WFTD with our staff highlighting all the hard preparation work we have done ready for our main sales season.

We have taken on and are now training extra staff for the summer - helping them to learn about Mary & Martha, our Artisans, Fair Trade Principles and how to be Unashamedly Ethical ... more on that in a future Blog.

May 8, 2013

11May - World Fair Trade Day

Mary & Martha are celebrating World Fair Trade Day over 3 days - so that no one will miss the opportunity.

This year the focus is "Strengthening Fair Trade Relationships with the 10 Principles of Fair Trade.

The International Women's Association of Mongolia do great work supporting those in need through their projects.  As a thank you for all the trade they give to Mary and Martha, we are donating 5% of our sales income over 10, 11, 12 May.  We are hoping for bumper sales in Ulaanbaatar.

So funds to projects; but what about the customers.  We don't give discounts as our margins are about paying our Artisans a living wage.  However, we are running a free prize draw - for every MNT 20,000 spent, a customer receives one Free Draw ticket.  Prizes are from our product range.

We're using WFTD as an opportunity to introduce many new products - especially felt products for I-Pads, Tablets and E-Readers; some new embroidered products and other surprises.