Christmas in Cambodia, is there really a such thing?
It's so interesting for our staff to consider Christmas in Cambodia, among the women we love and are deeply invested in. You see, Christmas in America for most people comes from the celebration of the birth of Christ. We've all heard the story of a baby born in a manger many, many year's ago and whether or not that's still why families in our culture celebrate Christmas, those are the true roots of Christmas.
In Cambodia, the religious history is much different. The belief system and worldview of many have historical roots in Buddhism that don't include a Christmas story like we know it. Their holidays look much different from ours, and yet, whenever the Christmas season rolls around, I often think of the women in the LandMine Design program.
I imagine what it would be like to see a small Christmas tree wrapped in lights and garland in one of their small bamboo huts with dirt floors. What would that be like? Did that family decorate their tree together? Do the kids want to sleep under the tree like I did when I was a kid?
One of the most beautiful parts of the work we do, the work you so kindly and generously join us in, is that we get to share our lives with people who grew up and live much differently than we do. We find this to be one of the most enriching parts of our work. We share with them who we are, what we believe and the traditions that surround us. The women in the program do the same. We love hearing them talk about the holidays they celebrate and how they celebrate them; how pay day at LandMine Design is really important during certain months because they need to buy a new dress for an upcoming celebration!
This year as you consider an intentional pursuit of conscious buying, we encourage you to share your life with someone as well; like the women in Cambodia share with us and how we reciprocate that to form a bond and friendship that goes beyond our differences. Sharing who you really are and allowing someone to share with you who they really are could be one of the greatest gifts you give and receive this holiday season.
Gift a LandMine Design necklace or bracelet, and this Christmas, let it be a celebration of a bond that cross's the barriers of differences and distance between us.
Written by Amreitha Jeeva, Director of Advocacy
A Conscious Christmas
We survived Halloween, we’ve put away the masks, and we now turn our attention to what’s next - the holiday season.
I love the holiday season, I am no scrooge and have never minded some early Christmas music playing through the speakers. I do struggle, however, living in the juxtaposition I often feel this time of year — the gratitude of the Thanksgiving season coupled with the often insane consumption that follows as Christmas approaches. It can be difficult, right? I want to celebrate the many blessings in my life, I want to show the ones I love just what they mean to me, and I want to be merry and festive - but never at the expense of my beliefs.
You see, at Landmine Design, we don’t believe in more, more, more.
We see the global issue of poverty first hand in the children we love, in the women we humbly serve, and in the utter lack of resource available for their success in a minefield. These families have never even had near enough, while generally speaking we, as Americans, are so great at consuming more. We consume, we indulge, and sometimes this may unintentionally come at the expense of someone's well being.
This holiday season, what if we committed to a conscious Christmas? What if we committed to asking the hard questions, what would the impact be?
I think it would look like individuals receiving gifts possessing rich story, companies of profound integrity generating profits for good, and all of us turning a new leaf saying “hey, we can shop and gift better.”
If you’re in, it can be this easy:
1. Commit to a conscious Christmas
2. Ask the questions: Who made it, where does my money go, what are the success stories?
3. Gift story in your purchases, change lives in unmistakable ways.
Of course, we hope you’ll consider gifting with jewelry from LandMine Design this Christmas season and you probably have gift needs beyond jewelry. If you’d like some help, reach out! We’d love to share our favorite companies to support and lead you in the right direction and in the meantime, peruse the products we love deeply:
What is Impossible?
Four minute mile? Impossible.
Personal sized computers? Impossible.
Walking across the World Trade Center towers on a tightrope with no safety? Impossible.
Now we know that the examples above aren't impossible because people have accomplished each of those miraculous feats - but for a long time people believed in the impossibility. The truth is, we don't know what is impossible - things only seem impossible until someone proves that assumption wrong. The Earth needs people who will attempt the impossible. The Earth needs people who will step out on a limb, and pursue their impossible passion until it is a reality.
Five things to keep in mind when attempting the impossible:
1. Impossible or possible - it's all in your mind.
As Henry Ford famously said, "Whether you think you can, or you can't - you're right."
This has been proven by various scientific studies to be true. Thoughts can actually shape your abilities - for good or for bad. So decide to believe in that thing you wish to accomplish. That is step one.
2. Find the thing you love, that also loves you back.
What are you passionate about? What are you also gifted in? I believe that it is when the answer to those two questions align, magic happens. This is where a hobby becomes something that could have an impact on the world.
3. Decide you aren't going to quit.
When you decide to go about doing the thing that seems to be impossible, chances are things will get rough from time to time. Make a promise to yourself that you won't quit. Each time you push past the difficulties and come out alive on the other side, you'll be that much closer to making the impossible possible.
4. Surround yourself with inspiring people who believe in you
Along the path from impossible to possible, you will need people there to love you, support you, and inspire you. If you try to do it alone, you'll burn out quickly. This does not mean that you should only seek out people who will say you are right no matter what - the people who will challenge you in love are your greatest assets.
5. Don't be surprised if your end goal evolves along the way
When we first decided to work with women in the minefield village, we first thought we would teach them to crochet hats that we would sell in America. That idea evolved into jewelry - which may not seem like that much of a difference from the outside, but the practicalities are vastly different. We knew that the goal was to protect, employ, and educate women, and so how we actually got there changed along the way. Hold tight to the thing that is most important, and be willing to let the less important stuff go.
You can do what's impossible - you just need to believe you can. The world needs you to try. We're here rooting for you!
It's Never Too Late.
We all have excuses for not doing the things we thought we'd do by now. We have reasons, some of us even good reasons for not accomplishing the goals and dreams we used to have in front of us. And then there's the reality that probably most of us don't have a good reason at all, just an excuse.
I've recently been pondering the crippling thoughts:
It's just too late. ---- I should've done that already. --- That window of time has come and gone. --- There's no use now.
One of the newest women we've hired in our LandMine Design Program was most excited about the possibility of learning to read and write. A grown woman with several children and years behind her. This was her dream.
The war and poverty in her life has kept her from ever being able to have the basic ability to read and write. I have to wonder how many times she must have wondered, "It's too late now." I wonder if she had already let go of that dream, not ever seeing how it could possibly be a reality for her? Even months before she was hired, among raising children and keeping up a household, did she think what many of us do, "that ship had sailed"...?
Today, we challenge you to consider, whether for understandable reasons like this woman or because of silly excuses, to revisit the time you said, "It's just too late." What was that thing you were going to do? What was it that you dreamed of and wanted to accomplish? Ponder with us. Revisit that moment and make a decision today to see it through. Make a decision to finish what you started, even if your starting point was just a thought.
Chances are, it's not too late.
To commemorate your decision, we want to encourage you to purchase a piece of jewelry from LandMine Design. Define this piece as something significant for your life and each time you wear it, let it be a reminder of the day you decided that it's never too late to accomplish the dreams and goals you have in your heart. We believe they're there for a reason.
May this new piece mark the day you put behind you the crippling thought that it was too late for you, because it's never too late. Just ask the women in our program...
Tuesday We Travel: Girls Will Be Girls.
I'm pregnant. And I had to see my girlfriends at LandMine Design one last time before I won't able to travel for a while. In fact, to describe the attachment me (and our entire LMD staff) have with these women; I have to admit that after finding out I'm expecting, they were some of the first ones I wanted to tell! What's it like traveling to a third world country 20-some flight hours away while carrying a child in your womb? It's crazy... and I would definitely do it again!
In the past when I've thought about the women in the LandMine Design program having babies, it has made me really sad. I thought about how epidurals DON'T exist in a MineField, about how they often give birth on the bamboo floors of their homes, how their husbands are probably out working to put food on the table and miss this magical moment in their lives, and how there's no running or clean water to wash that newborn off with. Heartbreaking.
But when I went to Cambodia pregnant just a few weeks ago, it quickly became one of my all time favorite bonding moments with the women in our program!
Girls will be girls no matter our economic status, our language, or cultural differences.....and I LOVE when that happens! Truly, only women can share what we share when we're expecting children, and of the differences that lie between us, this is not one of them.
Memories I will never forget...
The women in our program don't know any English, but like women do, we figure out how to ask the important questions! Every time I turned around, one of them was asking me, "Boy? or Girl?" It made me giggle a little bit every time because when any of us find out our girlfriends are pregnant, it's in our nature to figure out what the gender is, because we need to shop! Celebrate! And just be excited together!
At one point, I walked into the area where the ladies were making jewelry, and they were talking up a storm about something! They were laughing and I wanted to know what they were talking about so badly. I soon found out as one of the women pointed to my belly and took me by the arm outside to pick a leaf from a random plant. I had no idea what was going on! Was I supposed to eat it...?
I picked the leaf, was guided back into the mob of giddy girls and one of the other women read the leaf, like it meant something really important. After taking a few seconds to study, she announced, "Girl!" I couldn't stop laughing and soaking in every moment with each other because just like the time I've spent with my friends laughing about wives tales in America, I got to do the same with these women.
Girls will be girls. Moms will be moms.
It was rainy season during my time there, and as I slowly and carefully waded through the mud, so as not to fall (because if you don't know already, pregnant women CAN'T fall), one of the LandMine Design moms took my arm and walked with me over a mile, so I could arrive at my destination safely. She knew I needed that support and balance because she herself has walked that same road. Another woman sent her husband to pick me up on his tractor several days in a row because she didn't want me walking far. She knows, because she's done it. Mom to mom, we care for each other. We care for each other's babies like we would our own. Because we're women. We understand each other. We're moms and have a bond that only girls can have.
Never underestimate what you could have in common with someone so seemingly different from you. Because chances are, you'll need them. You'll be relieved to know, they know exactly what you're feeling. We girls get this. We're so lucky to have each other.
And just in case you wondered, wives tales are just that no matter where in the world you are...
We're having a Boy. :)
- Amreitha Jeeva, Advocacy Director
5 Rules to Creating More.
Happy October! As a creative, I'm always looking for ways to produce better work and further develop my self discipline. Any opportunity to turn a new leaf is usually something I'm about. So in spirit of a new month - let's do things better. I sat down to share five things I've learned through the years. I hope it's helpful and I'd love to hear yours - I'm a "team work to make the dream work" kinda gal. Let's chat and create more (and better!), Kristie@LandmineDesign.org. x
1. Ponder this: What is it you’re doing when you lose track of time?
Someone once asked me this question and my answer led me straight to the things that make my heart beat fast. The things that are, by my definition, distinctively me. Answer this question for yourself and write it down.
2. Stop gettin' ready to get ready…
This is a saying my dad raised me on. It means start where you are with what you have and stop waiting for the perfect circumstances (they don’t exist). Someone wise once told me “writers are not writers because they’re writers, they’re writers because they write.” The same goes for your trade, just begin. After all - we learn to swim in the pool.
3. Discipline is your friend.
Turn thoughts into actions and actions into habits. You’re not going to progress if you don’t first begin, and then begin again. Make a plan, write it down, tell a friend, and write your passions into your days. Wallah!
4. Find Your Fuel. And then fill your days with it.
I buy vintage jewelry because it’s pretty, I don’t usually wear it. While some may argue this is excess or far from necessity, I know my creative fuel lies in beauty surrounding me and people with passion - so I constantly seek ways to build it into my days. Identify your fuel and then take steps to implement it into your days - whether a good book, a favorite album, a tumblr scroll, or a mantra you hang on your wall. It can be so simple.
5. Go Public.
When you’re confident enough to bring your work to the public, seek feedback and find ways to make it better. While the work is personal, don’t make it so as you seek response. Take what you love, leave what you hate, and make sure it’s still stamped with your individual, creative mark. The world needs what you’ve got to offer, and I’m guessing it’s beautiful.
All my love,
Kristie (Creative Manager)
Tuesday We Travel: Sometimes our work is so unconventional we just have to share...
We work in a former minefield on the border of Cambodia, I was just there a couple weeks ago. It’s rainy season now so the road leading to our village is a complete mess of mud and puddles and is not accessible to normal vehicle travel. This meant two things: a lot to carry and disgusting feet as we made the mile trek into the village daily.
So in case your commute to work involves a muddy minefield - here are some tips.
Ditch the shoes. At first you'll try to be a dignified person and keep your shoes on, but the mud is laughing at you and trying to suck the shoes right off your feet. Don't give it the satisfaction. You'll never make it the whole way with them anyway.
Not all of the mud is made of dirt. Cows frequently contribute to the brown muck with unappreciated gifts. Don't worry, this misstep happens to the best of us.
- Absolutely no pedicures. If you’re headed to the MineField Village during rainy season, don’t even bother before the trip; it will be entirely wasted. You'd be better off tearing your money into little pieces and scattering it into the wind. No one is going to see your toes anyway - they'll be entirely caked in mud.
- Never turn down a farmer. If a village farmer offers you a ride into the village on his tractor, NEVER turn him down. Never.
Upon arrival back to the states, a pedicure may be deemed as mandatory - but please plan to spend a considerable amount of time cleaning your feet prior. Don’t make your pedicurist go through this process… that’d truly be unfair.
Life in a Minefield, it can mean so many things. Happy Tuesday!
-Karla Tillapaugh, Director
Two Worlds, One Purpose.
The entrance of Fall always carries a beauty that is familiar yet strikingly exquisite. We all know what to expect with the colors of autumn, yet the intensity of the hues seem to catch my breath in new ways as they explode from leaves, trees, flowers, and so much of creation. A season of change and vibrance to enjoy.
Our new F/W 2015 Collection is like that as well. The jewelry has familiarity to it, yet the colors and designs explode with a beauty and creativity we haven’t seen before. It truly may be our best collection yet. The launch of this Collection happened last week; it happened while I was on the ground in Cambodia working with the ladies in our LandMine Design program. The stark contrasts between these two worlds was something I already know, but couldn’t help but notice afresh.
As I scrolled through our LandMine website the day before launch, the winsome pictures, the clean lines, the lovely designs and intense colors captivated my focus. If you haven’t taken a look, I hope you will. It’s truly lovely. A mere hour after perusing and editing our website, I was trudging through several inches of slippery mud in the middle of a minefield to meet with the ladies who created the stunning pieces that so beautifully grace the pages of our fresh website.
In the muck of that muddy mess, I couldn’t help but ponder the contrasts between worlds. Here I was face to face with the amazing women who carefully handcrafted each and every piece that is now our FW’2015 Collection. The homes from which they craft such elegance are made of straw and bamboo, perched above several inches of sticky mud from a rainy season that doesn’t seem to relent. The beads, hand rolled from paper, took longer to dry this round because of the intense humidity. The fingers that rolled each bead and hand assembled the chains and hardware to create such loveliness were the same hands that cared for children living in the middle of a minefield. Those hands fed chickens, washed clothes in a pond, collected rain water and filtered it to drink, relentlessly cleaned up mud to prevent it from tracking throughout their meager homes, and worked tirelessly to feed the bellies of hungry family members. All this happened in the middle of a minefield that was now saturated by heavy rains.
And it strikes me that the pieces presented in our FW’ 2015 line are not just beautiful, they quite literally provide life for the women in our program. You see to us, the jewelry is stunning. To us, the jewelry is our final touch. Yet to the amazing ladies producing these intricate designs, it means considerably more. It means food for their families; it means clean water filters; it means education for their children; it means the ability to purchase equipment to farm the land surrounding their homes; it means charcoal to cook meals upon…and so much more.
I never want to forget the intense place from which these pieces come. From such a harsh location comes something so intricate and exquisite. The purchases you, our dear customers, generate are making a difference in the very lives of families living in such scarcity. For them, these pieces represent a way out of poverty. Thank you, dear friends, for joining us in this work…for choosing to purchase not simply lovely pieces of jewelry. Thank you for making a difference in the very lives of families living in a muddy minefield.
I hope you enjoy the F/W 2015 LandMine Design Collection from a fresh perspective as Fall enters the scenes of our worlds.
With love and gratitude,
When you think about education, odds are you think of learning subjects such as reading, writing, math and science. For many of us, these traditional subjects were at the core of our education growing up in school.
As a staff at LandMine Design we've posed this question for you, our customers and for ourselves: If you live on a minefield, how do you survive?
Our answer at its core is job creation and education. The intended outcome is for each woman in our program to become economically and holistically sustainable. A woman who has the ability to thrive, dream for her future, and care for her family and community.
But we've learned that the education these women need isn't entirely what we thought it was. In fact, it's not a traditional education from a first world point of view at all.
The women in our program live in severe poverty, a poverty difficult to explain in it's truest and most raw form. For as many times as we've traveled to these impoverished places, we discover more and more of just how deep the trenches of poverty truly are.
In a recent conversation with one of our managers who educates the women each week, she shared with us that her latest lessons have been on drowning, electrocution, and water related sicknesses. It was one of those eye-opening moments for us as we realized, math and science aren't the priority in education for the women in the program.
You see, these women live in an environment where there is no electricity, no running water, and homes made of bamboo walls and dirt floors. Since entering our program, they've only just begun learning how important it is to drink clean water. The problem is, they have to fight for it. There is no option to dig a well on a minefield. They depend on water filters and rain water. Many of them don't have electricity in their homes, and as villagers are becoming more and more aware of electricity and how to use it, they've never been taught the dangers that come along with it. These dangers are common sense for us - keeping electric wires away from water, electrocution and the harm it can cause. They haven't known how to help their children learn how to swim and that drowning is a reality for their little ones playing in bodies of dirty pond water. And what if that does happen? CPR is a training they desperately need for many of the above issues.
It's mind blowing that in the age we live in, people in the world are still living without electricity, let alone education on basic survival skills. It reminds our staff how vastly different our reality is from theirs and it fuels our passion to help.
This education is life saving. It's where we must start. The results are astounding because the effects of this education are multiplied as each woman teaches her children these basic needs so that when they become adults, their reality has changed.
How do women living on a minefield survive? We're learning that it's simply one life-changing lesson at a time.
Written by Amreitha Jeeva - Director of Advocacy
Our staff was delighted to receive a call from a boutique interested in carrying LandMine Design jewelry. As I began a conversation sharing the story of who we are and the women that are so impacted by their interest, something the person on the other end of the phone said really struck me.
It's like I heard that statement as though it was marked with a yellow highlighter. I can one hundred percent, completely relate and identify with this desire. A desire to be apart of something that matters; something that makes a difference in the world.
Here was a boutique owner who has an opportunity to chose among thousands of products to purchase, display in her store, and sell. Yet what narrowed down her search was a deep desire to have "something that matters."
It feels as though a sentence as simple as this reveals the true state of most of our hearts, our motivation and even our passion. Among the distractions, hustle and bustle of life and even the negativity that at times can surround us, I am encouraged to sift through the muck and discover that people really want to make a difference. They want to be a part of impacting other peoples' lives in a way "that matters." They want to purchase products that matter. They want to wear, showcase and show off something in the world that's greater than themselves, greater than ourselves!
In our case, something that matters, is something that makes a difference in the life of someone else. The impact is weighty. It matters significantly as we dedicate our product and story to empowering the lives of women in poverty.
A phone call like this deeply matters.
To those who proudly wear our jewelry, shop owners who want to share our story, and to you, who simply want to make a difference - we understand.
We know what it's like to crave something that matters and to do something about it.
So don't stop what you're doing, and what you're pursuing - because it matters.
- Amreitha Jeeva
Director of Advocacy
We had the opportunity to sit down with Miss Kayla Fruchtman of The Her Initiative and talk about something that makes our hearts beat fast here at Landmine Design. Her heart is felt, and not only felt - it's setting out to equip women in need and ignite the hearts of those around her. Our hope is you find something in these words that ignites a fire in your own heart - there is something you love and we believe that something holds great purpose.
You're a girl after our own heart seeking to empower women, could you share a bit how you're doing this?
Seeking is the key word here. I think it is all about that. Empowering women, or really anyone, is a life-long task. It takes commitment and an understanding that it won’t happen overnight. That can be really scary and daunting. But to me it is completely worth it. I am lucky enough to be a part of The Her Initiative - Healing Water’s answer to empowering women and children through clean water and health & hygiene education. Girls miss 145 million days of school each year due to dirty water and most girls drop out of school once puberty starts because of the lack of clean water and sanitation. Those are the dirty facts but they are true and they need to change. It is amazing to think that something like clean water can play such a vital role in how a girl’s life will end up, but it does!
What motivates you most in this journey with The Her Initiative?
There is nothing quite like watching a little girl giddy over the fact that she just learned to brush her teeth for the first time. Sharing in that moment with her, as she took the cup of clean water and learned how to swish around the toothpaste and then spit it out was a celebration. Seriously, we all cheered! And then she took what was left of the water in her cup and splashed it on her face, to cool off from the drastic heat. It’s a moment like that that makes me question so much and yet what lights the fire within me to tell her story, to raise awareness about the water crisis and the need for health & hygiene education.
The other motivation is seeing women here in the US wanting to be involved with The Her Initiative. As women we are longing to be a part of something bigger, to be a part of a community of other women, and to be a part of changing lives. It’s in our DNA. When I get the chance to bring women from the US to some of our project sites around the world, we are invited into a story that is so much bigger than our own. The women and children in these countries have so very little and yet they teach us about joy and love in the biggest of ways. To provide a place of intersection in the lives of women here with women in developing countries is an incredible thing!
Let me be selfish for a minute- I have already seen how my life has changed and how I have personally been empowered through The Her Initiative. I have a million struggles and insecurities. I can so quickly get caught up in wishing I had someone else’s life, or clothes, or body. But then I meet the most amazing women all around the world and have such open and vulnerable conversations with them and then I’m the one being empowered. It’s this amazing cycle of empowerment and I am so thrilled I get to be a part of it!
What is your ideal vision of Her? Chances are, we agree!
To see lives changed for the better. By providing clean water and health & hygiene education, a girl can continue going to school. She doesn’t have to worry about being sick. She doesn’t have to drop out when puberty starts. Instead of getting married far too young and having babies while she is still a teenager, she can finish school, get a good job, and provide for her family - whenever she chooses to start her family. She is self-sustaining and she passes that on to her children.
Then there is the her here in the US. Me and you. We have a vision for her too. That she can be empowered by not only empowering the women I’ve mentioned above, but that she can be empowered by the community of like-minded women she meets through this initiative. That she can be challenged, applauded, and celebrated as she thinks of her self less and thinks of others more. That she feels motivated to make a difference and keeps doing so.
If we can reach both her both there and here, I guarantee this world will be a better place!
We noticed you recently traveled abroad with an army of young doers! Why is it important to join together as women?
Oh my, I can go on and on about this! For some reason as young girls we learn to view all the other girls around us as the competition. We start to judge each other on what we say, what we wear, what grade we got in math class. How I wish I could go back and tell my younger self to just let it go and celebrate the girls around me, not criticize them! We can only do so much on our own, so if we can find a core group of people to support us, to be a part of a team, to speak into our ideas and dreams, so much more can happen. To be completely honest, I am the only person in my office working on The Her Initiative. And I’m not going to get the same advice or excitement by going to talk to one of my male coworkers that I would get if I was bouncing it off of one of my girl friends. It just so happens that some of these new girl friends I’ve made are absolutely phenomenal women who are using their platforms and their voices to share about The Her Initiative and be a part of the team. It has been the biggest gift to be able to call or text or email these women at any time of the day with a random thought or a completely out there idea and know that I’ll get their feedback. They aren’t just champions for the cause, they champion around me personally, and that is what every woman needs.
A girl that wants to change the world - what's your advice on making this oftentimes daunting desire obtainable?
Just do it. Whatever that crazy idea you have is, go for it. It's not silly, it's not dumb, it's your idea and it could work. Sure there is always refining that needs to be done, but if you don’t give up, it’ll work. Surround yourself with champions, with people who will celebrate you and call you out. One of my favorite quotes right now is “if you’re the smartest person in the room, you should be in a different room.” That is an incredibly terrifying idea but do it! Step outside your comfort zone and put yourself in a room with those people.
(...And at Landmine Design - we say AMEN!)
Okay last question! Why do you wear Landmine Design? We had to ask... ;)
I wear Landmine Design because it fully encompasses what I love. Women being given an opportunity to make a better life for themselves and their families, learning a skill set that will stay with them forever, and opportunities for them to tangibly understand love and grace by being a part of something bigger than themselves. I have a special place in my heart for the people of Cambodia so if I can continue to be involved in a small way, my heart is happy. And of course, the jewelry is absolutely gorgeous, simple and timeless pieces, that are affordable for any budget. And really, when you can wear something that is so beautiful AND has a great story, it’s the perfect conversation piece to continue to spread the love!
And from the bottom of our hearts, we agree. Thank you, Kayla! And thank you Jenna Kutcher for capturing the beautiful photos above. And to our dear readers, we challenge you to surround yourself with the champions that will ignite your heart and call you to rise to the potential you hold, for you deserve it.
We hashtag it, we talk about it, but I wanted to pause for a moment and share with you about why. Perhaps we've already told you, but it's nice to stop from time to time and reflect on our work, on the why, and most importantly - it's nice to do that with you.
Our greatest desire, our deepest dream, is that we may equip women to be educated and self-sustaining providers, dreamers, or do-ers contributing to their families, community, and raising up generations to come by combatting the cycle of poverty. We're working relentlessly towards this dream everyday, celebrating the army of do-ers we've been blessed to work alongside and the customers propelling this dream forward (you.)
To set out to change the world is surely discouraging in moments. I'm not saying I don't believe we can, but it's undoubtedly a task so vast and complex we may get dizzy or lose our way. But, what if we set out each day to change the life of one additional woman?
At LandMine Design, this is what gets us out of bed each morning. This is what keeps us working late at night. This is what's considered with every bead rolled from paper, every design sketched, every piece of jewelry made by hand, every tear shed celebrating the victories, and those shed for the heartaches. LandMine Design jewelry is a vehicle, a vehicle driving great change and creating an environment in which women may work, earn in income, experience community, receive support, remain safe, and challenge the status quo of what was.
The more jewelry that is sold, the more women we may employ. It's that simple. But it's much deeper too. The more women held in the safety of LandMine Design to grow into confident, self-sustaining women is one less to fall subject to the dangers we otherwise fear, the dangers of vulnerability that are too often defined as human trafficking, forced labor, lack of shelter, starvation, disease, and lack of hope.
Together, with every purchase - we're moving closer to the employment of one more woman. One more woman employed, educated, empowered, and saved. It is an invitation to join us in this fight.
I stopped into Whorl yesterday to peep our jewelry and style some looks I love. Partial to basics and timeless pieces that last, these looks feature the woman - for she is forever more important than clothing. There's nothing more attractive than confidence and poise, don't you agree?
Add the jewelry and remember lipstick never hurts - the ROI may be a few turning heads.
Clothes we must wear, it's the jewelry we choose.
Structural basics above, feminine necessities below.
Have you ever met anyone who's so fiercely loyal to their convictions that they will care for others at the expense of their own preferences in life?
And don't these people make you wish you were more like them?
We want to introduce you to Leakhena. She is Cambodian and used to live in her favorite city, Phnom Penh; it's where she grew up and where her family currently lives. It's also where Leakhena got her college education and where she felt alive in a city she loved so dearly. A few short years ago, Leakhena and her husband saw a great need in their country in an area far away from the thriving metropolis of Phnom Penh, their home. The dire need of a different city in poverty filled with darkness and injustice compelled their hearts to bring change. They knew they could offer the individuals in this city leadership, love, hope, and quite honestly, their lives.
It was in this city, during a great time of sacrifice for Leakhena that our paths crossed. The women in the LandMine Design Program live and work only 15 minutes away from Leakhena's new home in this new city. We had a great need for an in-country manager - someone who would become a pillar in the success of our job creation program. We met with her and as we like to call it, hiring her was a "no brainer." You see, LandMine Design exists to bring holistic care to each of our women. To us, it is about caring for the whole person. It's caring not only for women in poverty economically but also caring for what's important to them daily: Their families, their vegetable gardens, and the issues concerning their hearts. A holistic approach takes a very strategic and gifted person to truly be effective. This person is Leakhena.
Leakhena visits and teaches the women in the program two times a week. She teaches them that poverty doesn't define them. She teaches them how to dream for their future and that they are important and valuable creations - things these women have never heard before and something we often take for granted. The women share their struggles with her and she wraps her arms around them. She visits their homes, listens to the things burdening their hearts, buys popsicles for their children, and genuinely cares for each woman. She hires new women, assesses how the program is doing, problem solves and brings great perspective to our staff.
Leakhena is one of the bravest women we know; she has become not only a manager and leader, but also a friend - one we've come to deeply love and respect.
Everyone! Meet Leakhena! She deserves a round of applause.
We want to introduce you to someone special, someone who is crucial to LandMine Design operations in Cambodia. This woman is Leeta. When we considered who would be perfect for the position, we had no idea she existed, and was living in the cafe next to hotel we frequent!
Leeta is incredible. As our In-Country Production Manager, she is level-headed, mature, poised, quick to listen and slow to speak, and a great critical thinker - all the qualities necessary for managing the never-ending details of producing collections of jewelry in a minefield! We know that whatever task she’s given, she will complete it with the utmost excellence - and she’ll think of all the details we’ve failed to think of along the way.
Leeta is also a nurse, which is the icing on the cake. We had been looking for an individual who could make some movement in the village in the areas of health and hygiene - Leeta was who the program and the village needed. Each week, Leeta works with the women of LandMine Design to teach things that will help them and their families live healthier lives. Today, the women in the program know how to perform CPR, how to identify and treat hypertension, how to check themselves for breast cancer, and know the importance of using and drinking clean water - and we know Leeta is just getting started. Leeta has been with us for just six months and the women's understanding of how to keep themselves and their families healthy is vastly improved, something we're indescribably grateful for.
We're so thankful that Leeta was led to work with us. Her knowledge, heart, and passion are changing the lives of those that live in the minefield that we love. She shares our heart to see women educated, living sustainably, and being awakened to a life that is beyond mere survival. LandMine Design is about more than jewelry, it is about lifting women from the cycle of poverty. To have a staff in Cambodia that understands that to the core of who we are is nothing but a dream come true.
WE ARE IN LOVE
Our staff was recently reflecting on last months trip to Cambodia, on how far we’ve come, and the dreams we hold in our hearts moving forward. Through many topics and perspectives one theme rang true; we’re in love with what we do. And not only with what we do, but what we use to do it. One simple thing is the vehicle driving great change – jewelry.
We all wear clothes, only some wear jewelry. That’s the beauty of it; it’s expressive and oftentimes holds personal value and sentiment. I think we could all think of a piece of jewelry that is sacred, perhaps tucked away to hang onto and treasure. We’re honored to adorn you in something, to provide you with something you’re choosing everyday.
And for us, this jewelry is sacred. Designed thoughtfully, rolled from paper, and assembled by hand for you. Our hope is it finds its way into your life, into your routine, resting on your dresser, and on the ones who get it – the ones who not only seek to express themselves, but to do so in a way that is changing the game, to do so in a way that is ending the cycle of poverty.
LandMine Design employs 11 women in the MineField Village in Cambodia. I want to introduce you to one of our newest hires. Her name is Chan, and she completed the training phase of the program on July 1st, and is now full time with LandMine Design. This June I interviewed each woman in the program so that we can continue to keep track of and improve where each individual woman is in the areas of health/hygiene, finance, literacy, and spiritual development.
Here are a few things about Chan:
+ She is 30 years old.
+ She has four kids, and a fifth on the way.
+ Her money is spent on food and gambling.
+ Her husband has a very dangerous job on a fishing boat in Thailand. He won’t be able to come home for two years.
+ Her family drinks water from a dirty pond, and they never boil the water. Chan says she knows she should, but doesn’t. Her children are often sick.
+ She owes money to a nearby food store. She doesn’t have a plan to pay it back.
+ She can’t read or write, but she wants to be able to. When she was young, her parents made her stop going to school so she could help them farm.
+ Before she was employed by LandMine Design she was working in Thailand cutting trees, and had to leave her kids in the village without her.
+ She has no dreams or plans for her future.
You know this interview is, on the surface, depressing. Why would we hire someone with this sort of resume? But honestly for me, this was the most exciting interview of all 11 interviews. When I think of where Chan is in comparison to the women who have been in the program for a year or more, the contrast is striking and hopeful. This program is working!
Landmine Design is pulling women and their families out of poverty, setting them on their feet, and giving them an education that no one can take from them. Women, like Chan, are in desperate need of a job, and even more desperately in need of education. These are the women LandMine Design exists to serve.
Women like Chan have no options and they’ve never had an opportunity for anything more. All she knows is surviving day to day and doing the best she can to care for her kids - which currently doesn’t even include clean water. We all need people in our lives who see what we may become, who see who we truly are. I started to dream for Chan - I dream that she’ll become an educated advocate for the health and hygiene of her family and community. I dream that she’ll learn through finance training how to save for the future and how to pay off her debt. I dream that she’ll stop gambling and start to use her money wisely, and for the good of her children. I dream that she will be able to stop struggling to survive each day, and that she will thrive in her community. I dream that she’ll become a testimony of success to the entire village, and that her success would spread like wildfire to those around her. I dream that she will start to dream for herself and for her family.
Right now, these are just dreams, but they’ll soon become reality. We can’t wait to continue to share Chan’s journey with you. These are the reasons I loved Chan's interview. Not because of where she is, but where she will be. It won’t be easy, but no one ever said this would be.
This is why we do what we do.
Here are some photos of Chan, her home, and her kids.