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Blooming Hope

By Alexa H. BacayNovember 19, 2017

Lumago Designs enriches women’s lives

IT ALL STARTED when Whitney Fleming was working closely with the Candauay community before the deadly Typhoon Sendong hit the country in 2011, devastating the area.

Resilience being one of the Filipino’s most admirable traits, a group of women from the community sought ways to find another source of income by learning how to make beads from paper.  This group of women, determined not to be beaten by the devastation left by the storm, took it upon themselves to start producing and designing jewelry, which Fleming sold to the local resorts.  However, the demand could not keep up that they needed to reach out to other markets so that the project would be sustainable. This was how Lumago Designs, a social enterprise was born.

“Lumago Designs was born as a way for the mothers to earn another source of income during the relief efforts. They live surrounding the city dumpsite and so we had many recyclable materials at hand. The Philippines and its people have always been close to our hearts and when Whitney left to go back to the States to start a family, we were able to help Lumago continue and thrive,” said Becky Stanbridge, one of the owners.

Currently working with 10 women artisans, Stanbridge added that they hopefully would employ more women and have plans to start training soon. From the company’s signature element of rolled paper beads made from recycled paper, Lumago Designs have expanded to include other upcycled materials which includes polished pull-tabs form cans, patterned fabric from discarded clothes, soft leather from old purses, recycled bamboo, and torn out magazine papers. Of course, everything is cleaned and sanitized prior to upcycling, to ensure safety of the crafters and the customers.

It is through recycling that the community manages to sustain itself, as several tons of trash are brought in everyday. Residents would intercept this to try to find recyclable materials that can be reused, before it reaches the dumpsite.  With these efforts, Lumago not only helps women earn extra income, but does its part in reducing waste as well.

“The community we work with surrounds the city dumpsite and some of these families are very poor. We would love to be able to help and employ more women but our first challenge is to establish a significant market for our jewelry to ensure regular sales and to make it fully sustainable for our current artisans,” said Stanbridge.

“It’s very common for families in these circumstance to have adhoc, unregulated and underpaid work which only keeps them poor. Lumago provides a steady and reliable fair living wage for our mothers so they are able to plan ahead, put their children through school and eventually through the help of other social benefits that we are able to connect them to, they will be able to bring themselves and their families out of poverty.”

Lumago ships its pieces around the world and its lady artisans see the profits. Profits from the business are voted on within the Lumago Co-operative, and dispersed to one of these categories: health care, education or entrepreneurial ventures. The members could also go for a loan, which does not charge any interest, further helping the women with their needs.

The common theme among the women featured in Lumago’s website is how it has changed their lives, as they are now able to provide or help with providing for their family’s needs.

“Lumago is important to me as I was unable to work before and now I can help my husband to support our family,” said Narcelyn, one of the artisans. “I am also proud to reduce trash from my community by transforming it into jewellery.”

“Before Lumago, I was unable to provide for my three young children,” said Anabelle, another Lumago artist. “Now, I am able to make them happy with the things they need. I love working for Lumago and it feels good to make products made of recycled materials and be able to give back to Mother Nature.”

Stanbridge, who now leads Lumago, together with her partner Spencer Dempsey, said that the artisans have taught her so much about love and acceptance.

“There’s a lot that connects us but so much that makes us different. To them their hopes and dreams for the future are for their children. A mothers’ love knows no boundaries and I hope to experience that myself one day. So my message would be to love unconditionally. I think we only hate out of fear. There’s always more than one side to a conversation or story. We should listen to those we don’t understand and maybe we will learn something or even make a connection.”

Lumago can be reached at lumagoproducts@gmail.com or through www.lumagodesigns.com.