The city of Poipet, Cambodia, is known as a border crossing point for Thailand and is a hot spot for those cycling through Cambodia. The city offers many things for tourists including local cuisine and a range of social work projects such as the Cambodian Hope Organization. Between the bustling markets and the whirling tuk-tuks there’s a jewelry creation enterprise. This is why you should visit ethical jeweler LandMine Design at the Poipet border town.
THE SOCIAL ENTERPRISE AND COMMUNITY-BASED TRAVEL EXPERIENCE
The jewelry making enterprise was started in 2013 by American entrepreneur, Karla Tillapaugh. Tillapaugh felt a strong connection with the Minefield Village on the outskirts of Poipet. The village got its name after being badly affected by the Khmer Rouge and the aftermath with many landmine calamities. The villagers said their desire was to educate their children. Tillapaugh came back with an idea to start an education and income generation project in the village in 2009.
Each LandMine Design bead is unique—like the women who made them. The beads each have a different story and design. Consumers know who created their necklaces have the chance to meet the artisan who made their jewelry and hear their life stories as they observe their talented craft making. To know who your purchase impacted is a unique and beautiful venture and to have full confidence that the women are being paid a fair wage and being treated with kindness. 100% of revenue is reinvested in our mission to help these women transform their lives. The women attend classes about health and hygiene, financial management, literacy, English, and spiritual development given by a local Khmer woman.
EMPOWERING WOMEN AND CHILDREN
The program started in 2009 when LightBridge International started a primary school for the children of the Landmine Village. In 2012, LandMine Design started as an income generation project to help villagers have streams of stable income by creating beads for jewelry to be sold locally and overseas. The enterprise is primarily for women in order to help the most vulnerable families in the village. They’ve found community in their craft making. “I’ve learnt to build community and communicate with the other women. There’s a real sense of community-ship within the production,” said Lita, a craftswoman in the group.
LandMine Design began with a few ladies who rolled paper to craft beads. The craftsmanship grew as the enterprise expanded allowing more women to be employed. The female beneficiaries could work from home which was truly transformational for their lives as previously women would cross the border to Thailand to find work, usually on construction sites or farms. Most promised pay but the money would usually never appear.
Most of the ladies who work for LandMine Design have young children. Being able to work at home and care for their young children has changed their family life. “Before working here I’d have to take my child to work as there was no one else to look after her, it could be quite dangerous but now I can work from home and look after my child,” said Mona, one of the LandMine Design members.
THREATS AT THE LANDMINE VILLAGE
A major threat to the Landmine Village is human trafficking. According to ECPAT Cambodia 75% of the country’s victims of sex trafficking are children. LandMine Design aims to lift at-risk members of the community from being vulnerable by taking a preventative method through the acquisition of skills and opportunities so they’re less likely to search for unsafe employment. Without an education, children may join gangs, be forced into begging, stealing, or being trafficked.
Many travelers have seen children beg tourists for money to give back to their leader. The long-term solution to help these children is to support organizations that give children a future of their own through education.
DISCONNECTED WITH CAPITALISTIC CONSUMPTION
It’s rare in today’s global market to know who made your items and whether they receive fair treatment and wages. Production has been out of mind and out of sight since the 1950s and reallocated to places with lower regulations and ultimately cheaper labor. Fast fashion companies are infamous for unethical supply chains. One such horror story that resulted in senseless tragedy is the Rana Plaza fire in 2013. Workers had been telling their bosses about the perturbing cracks growing in the infrastructure before the building ultimately collapsed and killed 1,138 innocent people — mainly young women. The crisis became a physical symbol of the many issues linked with the clothing industry and launched the Fashion Revolution “Who Made My Clothes” movement. Supporting enterprises such as LandMine Design is integral, they are changing the model of production and putting people first.
Melisa Gooding is a blogger focused on sharing good and encouraging stories. She writes about sustainability, travel, surfing, and her love of nature. Gooding is always on the lookout for the next adventure and loves spending time with local people in different places around the world. Follow her journey on her blog and Instagram.
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