The old adage goes, give a man a fish, he eats for a day, but teach a man to fish, and he eats for a lifetime. Hector Tito Alvarez and Paty Lucero took this to heart in creating beyondBeanie, a business inspired by the need and desire of local Bolivian women to support their families and eradicate the system of begging that’s so harmful to local children and local industry — all while highlighting local craftsmanship and design.
How Did beyondBeanie Get its Start?
Paty was driven to do something to help the women and children in her native Bolivia. She and her business partner Hector originally considered responding to the need they saw with donations; however, this approach soon went out the window.
“We (…) realized that if we wanted to make our model a sustainable option that could generate a long-term impact, it would become a bit more difficult to rely on constant donations,” Paty says.
It was from this ambition to create a long-term solution to the problem that the team decided to turn to the locals themselves for help — in this way, local women would be agents of their own success: women artisans who already had the know-how would make clothing and the company’s namesake beanies. Every item sold would benefit children’s orphanages and schools. Voila, the plan was hatched.
How Does It Work?
Coming up with the idea was only part of the battle. Hector and Paty had to come up with a way to make this project viable in the long-term; something that starts, to a certain extent, with the women with whom they work.
Paty explains that she personally selects the artisans who work with the project based on the needs that they have, such as women who have been victims of family abuse, single or abandoned mothers, or HIV- victims. These women work with their own designs to create products that are then sold by the company.
They decided to have the women work independently from home, a solution that benefits them and their family units. Because the women are paid by item and are not contracted with the company for a number of hours worked, they remain flexible and can continue to care for their families, all while generating income.
“It is our goal that all our artisans can work from home and take care of their children, instead of going out on the streets and try to make a living while leaving their children unattended,” Paty says.
In fact, this element of the project is so important to Paty that she personally visits with the artisans at their homes to ensure that they and their children are working towards a better future. “I make sure that they understand that a brighter future begins with education,” she says. “Our aim is to continue to establish close relationships with the artisans that we work with and expand our network as our business grows.”
The Future Of The Project
As the project moves forward, some artisans are able to be trained to participate in other activities, largely agricultural. This all continues in the vein of allowing artisans to help themselves.
Paty explains that upcoming plans include even more ways that artisans will be agents for their own success, with help from the program. “We have plans to begin giving several workshops in conjunction with social workers to provide the women with different skills, such as math, reading, as well as for them to learn other work skills (for example, to give them lesson to become nurse assistants, which a few of them aspire to become.)”
And of course, the future of the program largely depends on outside help — that’s where you come in.
How You Can Help Bolivian Women?
beyondBeanie works with interns throughout Europe and Bolivia in order to develop graphic design, social media and e-marketing sides of the business, though they are also currently working to develop internships in other fields, like project management, social work, product design, communications and languages, photography and videography. In other words, there are tons of ways for an interested student to help out with this project.
Paty says that they have also been thinking of proposing a tourism internship, an idea that came about thanks to supporters abroad who want to reach out and help even more.
“I’ve been lucky enough to meet with wonderful people from Europe, North America, Australia and South Korea,” Paty says, “To whom I’ve personally showed a little bit of my country, our work, introduced them to our artisans, as well as to the children whom we support.” Sharing this piece of her homeland with others is one of the greatest additional benefits Paty gets from her work with beyondBeanie.
Of course, you can also use your dollar to help by making a purchase. Use the code epicureandculture for 25% off of the company’s selection of beanies, ponchos and more.
Your money will go in part to sending school supplies, meals and uniforms to orphanages and schools in Bolivia. And of course, your purchase will continue to create work for the local Bolivian women artisans supporting their families.
All photos care of Paty Lucero
By Emily Monaco
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