I was drawn to this trip because I was craving experiences with a greater sense of adventure and authenticity. Naturally, I entered knowing that I would be challenged, but the experience itself would far surpass any of my expectations. Traveling with Operation Groundswell is unlike any other travel experience I have had. The way you are immersed in the culture extends beyond the food you eat, or attractions you visit, it is ingrained in everything you do. Our coerced initial discussions about consciences interactions and local politics quickly shifted to thoughtful conversation about solving problems on grassroots levels and utilizing privilege for good. We learned in ways that posed questions instead of preaching answers, and it lead me to a deeper broader understanding of other cultures as well as my own.
In regards to the fashion specific perspective of this trip, I will say that the issues we covered were much more human rights focused than textiles or industry focused. As a result, I think this trip can really be applicable to anyone regardless of their interest, or lack there of, in the fashion industry.
While we did spend a good amount of time exploring the practices of textile manufacturing at the Thanapara Swallows Development Society in the Bangladeshi countryside, much of that time felt more like a deeper observation of the culture rather than an sewing lesson. Much of the discussions took place from human rights and political perspectives rather than the perspective of the craft itself. That being said, one of my favorite things we did was take part in the natural dying process at Aranya, an all natural clothing and textiles line based in Dhaka. The founder, Ruby, was absolutely inspiring, and the dyed silks were beyond stunning.
From the welcoming nature of the Bangladeshi culture, to the stunning landscapes of the subcontinent, to the awesome people I got to spend two weeks with, in its entirety, this trip was an incredible reminder of how beautiful this world is. The topics are certainly heavy, and I left Bangladesh with more questions than answers, but I feel so lucky to have had the opportunity to witness that amongst all of the darkness, there are so many incredible people in the world working selflessly to do amazing things for others.