Goodwill: Brain Trust

The Baobab Collection continues its work in Madagascar with a new candle collection inspired by the ancient Mikea tribe. A portion of their sales is donated to the Mikea people.

In the Philippines, indigenous artists are joining forces to market their products, while in Nicaragua, locals learn the hospitality trade working at a five-star resort. Though the efforts may seem worlds apart, both focus on local needs – and solutions.

“For-profit business investment can have an impactful, lasting effect on an entire region where years of charity work alone would fail,” says Atlanta-based developer David Allman, the brainchild behind Pacaya Lodge & Spa, which employs 35 local Nicaraguans and reinvests part of its proceeds into the newly-opened, 300-person, local technical high school. The 26-villa resort, located in the hills of the Laguna de Apoyo Nature Preserve, is designed with locally crafted furniture and bed coverings and the restaurant features local cuisine. All the items are available for sale, with proceeds going back to the artist.

“This model makes money with the poor, not ‘for-the-poor’ or ‘on-the-poor’,” Allman states.

It’s the same approach embraced by a dozen groups that form the Philippines Lifestyle program. This collective, led by the government, brings home and fashion items from the Philippines to the rest of the world, with proceeds returning back to the native artists and communities.

One member, Agsam Fashion Fern, was featured at NY NOW at the Jacob Javits Center in 2016, an exposure the talented women of Surigao del Sur’s Manobo tribe never could have imagined a few years back.

Craft Mill (Process image of weaver working on photo frames). Relying heavily on accessible and sustainable indigenous materials found locally, the weavers at Craft Millwork on creating T’nalak fabric for their diverse offering. craftmillinc.com
Corazon necklace with coral chips in Crimson Red. Effortlessly unifying exquisite craftsmanship and style, Corazon by Agsam Fashion Fern, is delicately made by hand, using traditional weaving techniques that showcase the ingenuity and skills of women native to Surigao del Sur, Philippines. agsamfashionfern.com

They have been weaving from the wild Agsam fern plant for generations, but it wasn’t until Gina Nebrida Ty visited the area with her native husband, that the opportunity for worldwide sales became a reality. Now tribespeople gathers the fern, and the indigenous women weave the products and the final jewelry, adorned with pearls, shells and seeds. Even animal horns are assembled by women in metro-rural areas.

“I am driven by empowering marginalized women by making them productive via sustainable projects,” shares Nebrida Ty. “This helps them restore and affirm their self-worth.”

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