HSBC Mexico’s “Adopt A Potter” Program Takes On Urgency After Earthquake

HSBC has launched a unique “Adopt A Potter” program in support of Pure Earth’s work to reduce lead poisoning from the widespread use of traditional leaded pottery in Mexico.

Under the program, corporate volunteers visit artisans who have gone lead-free under Pure Earth’s Barro Aprobado program to see how their pottery workshops are run. The volunteers then work in teams to develop a plan for the artisans, providing help in administration, sales, marketing, finance and any other business skills that are needed to grow the lead-free businesses.

But before the meeting could take place, the earthquake struck.

The artisans were heavily affected by the disaster. Pottery workshops were damaged, and the community sadly lost a few members.

To help them get back on their feet, HSBC volunteers brought much-needed relief supplies to the potters and their families.

They also decided to forge ahead with the “Adopt A Potter” program. Now, more than ever, the help volunteers could provide would be invaluable as the potters worked to re-start their businesses.

In October, one month after the earthquake, volunteers packed a bus and headed to Tlayacapan.

Barro Aprobado artisans met the volunteers when they arrived with a proud display of their works.  Their pottery is made following traditional methods, and resembles much of the beautiful pottery produced across the country in every way but one — they are lead free. Barro Aprobado potters are leading the charge to produce and promote pottery made with lead-free glazes.

The volunteers visited several workshops, where they watched the potters work. Below, they are watching a demonstration by the talented Doña Rosario, who won the top prize in a recent national ceramic competition.

Doña Rosario encouraged the volunteers to try their hand at her craft.  One by one they took turns to touch and mold the clay.

They also got a close-up look inside a kiln, where the pottery pieces are fired.

After the workshop tours, the volunteers even lent a hand with some repairs to the earthquake-damaged buildings.

Children are a constant presence in many family workshops. That is why children of artisans across the country who are still using leaded glazes are often exposed to high levels of lead.

But here in Tlayacapan, many of the children are now protected from lead exposure because their parents have gone lead-free. It is a good reason to celebrate…

… with a piñata!

The visit was a great success.

Now that the volunteers have made contact with their artisan families, we expect the collaboration to continue as the artisans and volunteers work together to promote lead-free pottery.

Pottery Fairs

In December, two months after the volunteers and artisans met,  HSBC held pottery fairs to introduce the artisans’ lead-free pottery to consumers as part of the “Adopt A Potter” program. Not only did the fairs give potters the opportunity to expand into new markets, but they were also a much-needed boost to business following the earthquake.

In Tepozotlán, potters from Tlayacapan were invited to participate in the Christmas Bazar that took place at Xochitla’s Natural Reserve, close to Mexico City.

In Torre HSBC, potters from Tlayacapan, Morelos and Acteopan, Puebla, took part in a  sustainable Christmas fair at the HSBC headquarters in Mexico City, where employees were able to buy lead-free pottery and talk directly with the potters from the Barro Aprobado program.

In Tecnoparque, Barro Aprobado’s lead-free pottery was sold to HSBC employees, who were also able to purchase kits to test the pottery they use at home.

Invisible Epidemic

Just a few months before the earthquake, about 90 staff members at HSBC in Mexico City gathered to hear about our Barro Aprobado project, and many were surprised to learn that the pottery used in many homes and restaurants across Mexico was the cause of an invisible lead poisoning, with children being most vulnerable victims.

“Most of the attendees were unaware of the problem but all of them seemed eager to help by either volunteering or buying lead-free pottery. Traditional Mexican pottery is a part of our culture that we appreciate and we want to keep it. We just want to make it safe,” said Daniel Estrada, who heads Pure Earth’s program in Mexico.

Speakers at the event included Dr. Mara Tellez from the National Institute of Public Health in Mexico, who spoke about the high incidence of lead poisoning that her Institute and Pure Earth’s research work uncovered in the state of Morelos; and Jorge  Romero, Commissioner of Health Promotion at COFEPRIS, who told the audience about efforts to solve the lead poisoning problem in Mexico.

We would like to thank HSBC’s Miguel Laporta for his support of our Barro Aprobado program. HSBC’s outreach is helping to raise crucial awareness about the link between lead poisoning and traditional pottery in Mexico, and the solution offered by our Barro Aprobado potters.

Check the Barro Aprobado website to learn more, and to get a list of lead-free potters, stores and restaurants in Mexico.

From the Project Page: HSBC Mexico’s “Adopt A Potter” Program Takes On Urgency After Earthquake

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