Ambassador / Wednesday Wisdom

Shop with your Heart. Fund a Revolution.

valerie72-750x750-750x750Today’s post comes from Valerie Lemke, founder of Jjangde, a cross-cultural collaborative movement with a shared vision to build sustainable development models around the world. After receiving a business degree from Michigan State University, Valerie went on to teach in South Korea for two years inspiring her passion for education. Today, Valerie’s desire to help influenced her masters in Nonprofit Administration from the University of San Francisco. Valerie realized in order to have the greatest impact on the world you must empower people of all ages. She combined her nonprofit know-how with a for-profit model, co-founding Jjangde: a social enterprise that is not-just-for-profit. As a successful business women she likes to spend time cycling,  (she completed the 545-mile AIDS lifecycle two times) watching documentaries, playing with her two dogs, and eating at local vegetarian restaurants. 

Who knew there was so much hope in hay? Basket weaving is more than tradition in Senegal; it’s a practical necessity. For several decades, Senegalese women have refined this traditional craft, capturing the eye of artists and designers from all corners of the world. Their baskets incorporate local hays and grasses, and more recently, strips of reclaimed plastic prayer mats for color accents. The artistry is instantly recognizable, and each basket is as unique as the woman weaving it. But until now, the bulk of profits sailed far away from the towns where they were needed most. Enter JjangdeBy encouraging conscious shopping, we created a cycle of employment designed to keep resources in the communities they come from and help give children the opportunities they deserve through education.

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How it works: one community at a time 

Our vision of a self-sustaining model began with one village in Senegal, West Africa. From here we saw that this idea had the potential to grow and serve multiple communities in need. The model is simple: local, hand-made goods employ local entrepreneurs, Jjangde connects the handmade goods from rural communities to global markets, and profits go to fund schools in the communities where the goods were made. As the schools succeed, we hope to grow across communities, countries, and even cultures. With a governing board of women from Senegal and Ousmane Gaye, Jjangde’s COO and Founder, our programs are managed and owned by the people in Senegal, West Africa.

Connecting as Humans

Our community-run programs are dedicated to giving people a hand-up and not a hand-out. Our vision of a self-sustaining model began with one village in Senegal, West Africa. From here we saw that this idea had the potential to grow and serve multiple communities in need. The model is simple: local, hand-made goods employ local entrepreneurs, Jjangde connects the handmade goods from rural communities to global markets, and profits go to fund schools in the communities where the goods were made.

Obstacles: Creating a Culture of Education

Nearly 50% of rural Senegalese children drop out of school before the age of 12, and a mere two percent of girls attend high school. With the additional income from the Jjangde model, families can send their children to school rather than keep them on family farms due to lack of resources. Because half of Senegalese adults have never been to school, this process will also help to establish a culture of formal education. Providing Senegalese children with the opportunity and culture to stay in school remains a challenge but key to opening up their futures to other avenues and changing the prescribed expectations of low wages for livelihood.  It turns out that endurance in education starts with women, too. We have an agreement with all of our artists that as long as they are employed by the Jjangde cycle, they agree to keep their children in school.  Not only that, but these baskets’ profits, directed back into the community, can fund full-time schooling for over 100 children for an entire year.

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Want to learn more about how Jjangde works? Love what they do?

Check out this video below, and help support Jjangde at their Indiegogo campaign here!

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