April 2022: Designing with the Red Yao
On top of the original local ornaments, the Red Yao women are also very much interested in including some of their patterns into products which will appeal to a greater audience and useful in a modern setting. The Viori team has been brainstorming many different ideas and test-trialed several new products. We hope to be able to share these beautiful designs with our audience soon! (sneak peak below!)
March 2022: School Donation
This month Viori got the chance to make it's first donation towards the local elementary school in Longsheng.
Each classroom received a whole new set of high quality chairs and tables - a need which had been high on the agenda of the local schoolteacher (previous tables were in decay and didn't mathc the student's height causing physical discomfort while studying.
Like with all the community work we do in Longsheng, we are grateful to our customers for making this possible!
Feb 2022: New partnerships with Longsheng's rice farmers
Rice growing season is about to start again!
Viori continues growing its local partnerships with the rice farmers of Longsheng.
This involves getting new farmers on-board and discussing issues such as: natural farming concepts, improving crop yields, updating agreements, and more.
With some new families interested in joining the project, Viori's team made several trips over the last weeks to make sure all the co-op members were on the same page and motivated for the upcoming rice growing season.
It's exciting to see the local team of rice farmers grown each year!
January 2022: Rice Factory upgrade!
After months of preparing we finally were able to purchase and install the equipment for the new Rice production facility. The rice facility is a donation made by Viori towards the local rice farming cooperative. The improved facility will make it easier for them to store and eventually market their all-natural rice.
To get a full update make sure to read the BRI all natural rice report here or check out our 2021 Impact report here!
December 2021: Local Survey & Cold weather
The end of the year is approaching meaning colder weather and time for reflection. Viori will be writing it's yearly 'Community impact Report' soon. A crucial part of this report will be the surveys done among the local community which was the focus of this trip. Spread out over 3 days, the CSR team interviewed of 60+ randonly selected villagers in order to hear their voice and find out where we stand in terms of our local impact work. An exciting moment! To read more about the results, be sure to check out our social mission page where you'll be able to download the report.
October 2021: Day in the life series
With harvest complete, things are more quiet in the village.. A great opportunity to spend quality time with the Red Yao and work on more 'day in the life' videos. Be sure to check out our Social Media channels to find footage of these shots!
September 2021: Workshop and celebrations!
Viori hosted a full day workshop inviting all the partnering rice-farming families and professional farming mentors. The purpose for this event was to have farmers share their experience of switching to 'natural farming' and discuss ways in which next years' rice cultivation can be improved. The technical knowledge of the mentors together with the experiential knowledge of the longsheng farmers brought about some very interesting insights! To read more about this day make sure to check out this BRI's ongoing report here.
After the workshop we made sure to stay in Longsheng in order to witness the remaining rice harvest. Having documented the whole process from the start: from planting the seeds until harvest, made experiencing the harvest even more unique and appreciative of the unique connection we have with the Red Yao community.
August 2021: Documentaries & Ready for Harvest.
In order to support the local tea farmers we are documenting their processes and creating media to eventually help them promote this unique Longsheng wild tea!
With the rice harvest coming up we also interviewed the rice farmers and rice mentors to hear their thoughts and feelings about this years All-natural BRI project. With all the hard work they put into growing this year's rice they deserve to be put into the spotlight like this!
July 2021: Clothes Hanging Festival
This month's trip was a bit different than usual as we were so fortunate to participate in the yearly Red Yao 'Clothes Hanging Festival'. This is the most important event of the year, especially for the Red Yao women, as all the surrounding Red Yao tribes gathered to celebrate their embroidery tradition.
To read a personal account of this unique day be sure to check out this blog post!
June 22, 201: Interview and workshop
We've gotten quite some new questions from customers who are interested in our social projects and the Red Yao culture. This trip we made another round of local Q&A's to get some answers to these questions.
We also hosted a workshop for the embroidery program. Specifically, we made sure the Aunties were well equipped in their participation in the embroidery program by going over the logistical details and making sure name tags were attached in similar ways.
To learn more about the background story on this Beautiful Reason Initiative please read here!
June 13, 2021: Tea plantations visit
The purpose of this visit was to learn more about Longsheng's unique wild tea plantations.
In order to support Longsheng tea farmers in creating their own Tea brand (this years BRI program), it's important the foundations are in place. This means preserving the soil and tea trees that make Longsheng tea so unique.
During this trip we visited several tea 'plantations' and discussed with locals what it would take to secure their preservation for years to come. We're excited to have found several ancient plantations from where this years project will start. Stay tuned for more on this BRI!
Additionally we visited some potential sites for the tea factory the villagers are in need of. We want to ensure that the chosen site is agreed upon by the community as a whole while at the same time respects the requests of the hosting family. Hopefully we can find something before next tea season!
May 25, 2021: Seedlings are growing
Before the mountains turn into endless fields of green, lush rice terraces the rice seedlings need to be grown in a protected area with the perfect circumstances and under daily supervision.
To increase our understanding of rice cultivation we decided to make a visit and capture this important step of the process.
May 2, 2021: BRI Kickoff
The BRI All-Natural Rice Project is now underway, so we visited to learn how things were going and see where the rice farmers needed support.
Our natural farming expert sat down with the growers to share ideas and answer questions. It was a productive meeting.
And we should note-- it was exciting and encouraging to see how far word has spread about this initiative-- many more farmers are now interested in joining the project!
We're looking forward to expanding the program and working with more farmers in the near future.
To follow this specific Beautiful Reason Project, click here!
April 23, 2021: Ornaments Project + Rice Season Has Started!
Our team is back in Longsheng again. As you might have read, we learned a lot about Yao embroidery during a previous visit.
Well, after receiving a lot of positive feedback about the Yao handmade ornaments we've been sending to our loyal customers (thank you!), we decided to turn this experiment into a full-fledged Beautiful Reason Initiative!
To follow this specific Beautiful Reason Project, click here!
What else is going on in Longsheng?
The new rice season has started!
And that means-- our first Beautiful Reason Project (All-natural Rice Project) has kicked off. If you missed what/why/how of this first BRI project of the year, you can get all the details here!
In short, our first BRI project focuses on partnering with farmers who have agreed to use only natural growing methods. That means the rice they grow is entirely free from any pesticides or chemical fertilizers.
And we've guaranteed to purchase what they grow at a 100% markup.
To further support the success of this initiative, the Yao farmers recently sat down with a natural farming expert to share ideas and ask questions.
This BRI initiative aims to empower farmers to earn a comfortable living while responsibly working the land and preserving it for generations to come. We're so excited for this project to take shape and can't wait to update you on our progress soon!
To follow this specific Beautiful Reason Project, click here!
And something else happened on this visit that was a little different for us...
We were humbled and honored to be invited to attend a local funeral. As sad as it is to lose someone, experiencing the warmth and intention with which the Red Yao approached such an occasion was very inspiring and something we won’t soon forget. Perhaps we’ll write a more detailed account of the experience in the future.
April 4, 2021: A Trek Across Longsheng Inspires New BRI Project
We were fortunate to have Tea Master, Mr. Chen, accompany us during this trip to Longsheng.
Mr. Chen is a Taoist Tea Master who has dedicated his life to growing all-natural tea and educating local tea farmers about the health, environmental, and financial (!) benefits of growing tea without using chemicals.
To fully understand the current state of the Longsheng teas, we accompanied Mr. Chen for an exploratory tour across the whole Longsheng region.
Along the way, we visited hidden, wild tea plantations, talked to several tea farmers; and even worked deep into the night to create several batches of Longsheng 'wild' tea.
*** We've returned from our most recent trip to Longsheng with inspiration for our next Beautiful Reason Initiative: Longsheng All-Natural Tea project. ***
The trip left Mr. Chen (and us!) in awe. He has been all across the country and has visited countless tea plantations, including others with 'wild' tea trees like those found in Longsheng.
Nevertheless, his experience in Longsheng was unique-- he had never seen anything like this before. The history of the tea trees (some hundreds of years old) and the pristine environment in which they grew made him realize that this was a special place that must be preserved.
This eye-opening trip planted the seeds for our next Beautiful Reason Initiative. Stay tuned to learn more!
And this week also brought new lessons...
We are always learning, and this week brought new lessons about engaging in Social Responsibility work in China. We'll be writing more about the challenges and opportunities we face while doing this type of work in the near future. Stay tuned!
March 5, 2021: Introducing the Longsheng All-Natural Rice Project
During this trip, we revisited some ideas discussed during our previous trips and in several of our CSR meetings.
We knew we wanted to double down on our commitment to supporting the rice farmers of Longsheng-- as they form such a crucial part in the healthy development of the whole region.
So, together, we came up with a plan to help them improve their income from rice cultivation while at the same time preserving the health of the ecosystem by promoting all-natural farming practices.
This quickly turned into our first Beautiful Reason Initiative: Longsheng All-Natural Rice Project
Throughout this process, we’ve learned a lot...
Working with the community to develop our first project for our Beautiful Reasons Initiative has helped us clearly define our role and responsibility when engaging in CSR work. Learn about our approach and how we evaluate projects here.
And on our next visit, we’ve got something special planned...
One of our longest and dearest friendships in the village is with Mr. Pan. As it's nearly tea season, we spent some time talking with Mr. Pan about the challenges local tea farmers face while growing and selling tea.
We soon realized this might be a good fit for a new Beautiful Reason Initiative. To help evaluate the current situation and identify opportunities, we've decided to return with a tea master who can provide valuable insight. Stay tuned!
March 1, 2021
Viori is thrilled to be back in Longsheng!
Our last trip left us inspired to dig deeper in the beautiful culture of Yao embroidery, especially since preserving the Yao culture is one of our top priorities.
The depth of this tradition was far beyond what we could have imagined. We’ve written all about it here. Enjoy!
February 17, 2021: First Time Back
This was our first trip back to Longsheng since the start of COVID and travel challenges/restrictions.
We've stayed in touch with local families throughout the year, but not having our team be on the ground in Longsheng felt unnatural, to say the least.
Especially while our company was rapidly evolving to adjust to the circumstances.
So, this trip meant a lot to us...
And it was amazing. We are so grateful to have reconnected with our Longsheng friends in person and reaffirm our commitment to supporting their culture.
We're also grateful for the stories and the laughs. We always have a great time on our visits.
This was such a unique trip that we wrote a separate article about it called 'Coming Home.' Read it here.