Artisan Organization: Ahmad
Country: Bali and Java
"I was born in Lombok in 1967 in a small town where many artisans were born. My parents were farmers at that time, and I used to help them in the field and also took care of our cows. Mostly I spent my childhood helping my parents, and I even worked daily labor when harvest time came.
"When I was 15 years old, my father died. That moment changed me, and I decided to go to Bali to try to get a job. I was accustomed to working from a very young age, and I didn't do well in school. So I dropped out in the third grade of primary school. Because I wasn't able to rely on my education, I learned and developed many skills. One of them is making round woven handbags. A friend taught me how and I developed my skills, not only how to craft the bags, but also how to market and sell them.
"The first time I sold my handbags, I also sold slippers. From the results of my sales, I saved bit by bit until I could rent a shop in Bali. Thank God, after renting a shop my sales increased and I was able to open another shop in a different location. Shoppers like to go there because I never run out of designs, thanks to my friends in Lombok who can make hundreds of bags. We're no longer just friends, but also partners. They weave the bags in Lombok and we do the finishing, like adding the lining and attaching the straps.
"Today, I am married to a beautiful woman and we are blessed with two beautiful daughters. The first has already turned into a lovely lady and the second is still a teenager. Being a father changed my perspective on everything. Even though I'm a third grade dropout, I thank God my daughters have a different perspective on education. Now, I hope I can provide for their educational needs until they accomplish what they dream of.
"When I look back to those years when I struggled, I feel thankful that today I have what I didn't have back then. I remember when I first came to Bali, I worked in a shop without a salary. They paid me only with food and a roof. I walked on foot from one village to another to sell slippers.
"Nowadays I can give a proper salary to my workers, and help young men from my town by giving them jobs in my shops. One of my joys is when I can help men from small towns like mine to have a better chance. And one of the happiest moments with my wife was when we went to Makkah. As Muslims, that moment gave us peace.""