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By Heather Moore, Digital Marketing

Traveling to Africa with a six-month old was never something that was on my bucket list, but if there is anything that working at Parker Clay has taught me over these past few years, it’s to just say yes. Say yes, and see what happens.

This is how my husband and I found ourselves on a plane to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia with our six-month old daughter this past March. We had the opportunity to go, so we said yes with open arms, eager to finally meet the artisans who we had heard so much about and see if the coffee was really as good as everyone says it is.

Spoiler alert: the coffee exceeded our expectations - I will never be the same. But beyond the coffee, beyond the incredible food and hilarious little rickshaws called bajajs we used to get around the city in, I found a deeper sense of community, of togetherness and family that could never be experienced through just the photographs.

Up until I started working at Parker Clay, the word factory always held pretty negative connotations for me - images of poor working conditions, abusive employers, and dark windowless rooms would immediately fill my mind. But stepping into the Parker Clay factory in the heart of Addis was the complete opposite. Bright, window-filled walls lined the workroom, where our artisans were grouped together at long wooden tables, quietly chatting and giggling together as they meticulously handcrafted the bags that I had only ever seen completed. They immediately began gushing over my daughter, passing her around the room from one person to the next, making faces at her and taking selfies.

During our first day, we got to join in on a team lunch where all of the 50+ employees came together to enjoy pizza and coffee. Seamstresses and management staff alike all gathered, and one by one, each person stood up to introduce themselves. Two of our employees were pregnant at the time, scheduled to go on maternity leave soon after we left.

As a new mother, I would do just about anything to ensure my daughter’s safety and happiness. In getting to sit down with these men and women who handcraft the bags that I am so familiar with, one thing became clear: we are all the same. Whether it is a child, spouse, sibling, parent, or extended family that our employees are providing for, a job at the Parker Clay factory means that they are able to support themselves and their families. It means quality employment, where individual needs are met and community is celebrated. Those two women who were pregnant while we there? They are now on three months paid maternity leave, able to fully embrace this incredible time with their new baby without fear of whether or not they will have a job when they come back.

While these rights may seem normal to us here in the US, unfortunately they are not in Ethiopia. Every day I am honored to work for a company like Parker Clay that is working to change the standard. I am honored to work alongside our artisans, no matter how far apart we may be geographically. I am thankful that my daughter will grow up from a young age knowing that there is incredible inherent value in each and every person, and that we always have more in common than we may think.