In a heartwarming initiative, several non-governmental organisations (NGOs) namely the Project Exodus Aid, Lamka Artcon, The Centre for Community Initiative (CCI) and NEST collaborated to organise the “Winter Hope Market” with the theme “Rebuilding Displaced Lives” for the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) began on Wednesday at ten in the morning. The organisers and the collaborators were some of the prominent NGOs in the district who had been providing assistance to the IDPs in education, relief and health. The event aimed to provide a glimmer of hope and a fresh start for those affected by ethnic violence in Manipur since May 3, 2023, allowing them to showcase their handmade products as a means to rebuild their shattered livelihoods.
The “Hope Market” served as a platform for the resilient IDPs to exhibit their skillfully crafted handmade products ranging from traditional crafts to artisanal biofriendly goods like seng (bamboo baskets), lohpi, sahou bawm, stool, toukhom (a traditional stool), and others indigenous items. The event, held at Rayburn High, New Lamka, witnessed a vibrant display of colourful textiles, intricate handicrafts, traditional artworks, various locally produced items and the environment was soothed by acoustic serenades from local artistes. The market also witnessed participation from various IDPs in different relief camps in and around Lamka town.
During the market, Sakhi One Stop Centre, (Lamka) Churachandpur also participated by opening a stall in order to spread legal awareness among the participants community and the IDPs in particular. The Thangching Herbal Enterprises also participated in the event, showcasing their value-added aromatic products like lemongrass, peppermint, and lavender. The enterprise has been assisting the IDPs by employing the IDPs at their lemongrass farm during harvest seasons. Khankho Lom Producer that also participated in the event sold value-added goods like sling bags and others made from banana fibre by the IDPs. The IDPs involved in the production were trained through their skill development training programme.
Amidst the vibrant atmosphere, the IDPs, who suffered displacement and a complete loss of their home and livelihood to the ethnic conflict, expressed their gratitude for the opportunity to exhibit their craftsmanship. Many shared stories of perseverance and resilience, emphasising their eagerness to regain self-sufficiency and financial independence through their skills. One IDP who set up a food stall, in an interview expressed his thankfulness to the community for showing their love and support in times of their hardship, as the stall is his only means of supporting his family.
Representatives from the collaborating NGOs highlighted the significance of supporting these individuals by providing avenues to showcase their talents and products. They emphasised the importance of empowering the IDPs to rebuild their lives and communities after the turmoil of ethnic violence.
Visitors and patrons who attended the “Hope Market” were deeply moved by the quality and diversity of products on display. Many expressed their solidarity with the IDPs by purchasing items, contributing not just financially but also symbolically to the cause of rebuilding hope and livelihoods. The organiser- Mung Guite from Project Exodus Aid stated, “We have been assisting the IDPs for months now, at one point of time we realised that assisting them only is terms of ration and goods is not the sustainable way, we need to give them hope, a hope that will give them an opportunity to earn a sustainable income, this market is part of our Hope initiative”.
The organisers reiterated their commitment to continue supporting the displaced individuals by creating more such platforms and initiatives in the future. They emphasised the need for sustained efforts to ensure that these talented individuals can reclaim stability and prosperity in their lives.
The “Winter Hope Market” stood as a beacon of resilience, showcasing the unwavering spirit and determination of the IDPs to rebuild their lives through their craftsmanship. It also served as a reminder of the culturally deep rooted Zo community’s solidarity and support in the face of adversity, fostering a sense of optimism for a brighter future for all involved. One community leader Lian, present at the market stated that, “We are an indigenous community without the vocabulary of a beggar. This shows that it is our duty to ensure that no IDPs should be left to starve. Community welfare and altruism is our Zo way of life.” With this strong atmosphere of emotional and cultural bond ended the initial day with the hope of a larger community participation on Day 2 (Thursday).