What do you do if your cousin is on a mission to take a community of 700 people living on the streets in Mumbai India, and turn them from “very poor” to “middle class” in just eight years? If you’re Pepe Heykoop, you set about designing products that they can make and teaching them the skills required to make them, providing them with the income they need to escape abject poverty. It was an honor to meet him at IMM Cologne.
He was showcasing two products; the Leather Lampshade and the Paper Vase cover – which uses simple folding techniques to provide a decorative cover for bottles which are thrown away all over India, turning them into something useful.
Pepe’s cousin is Laurien Meuter, founder of The Tiny Miracles Foundation, an organization which believes they can make the world a better place, but that in order to do so, they need focus. So they have picked one street in Mumbai’s red light district, home to the Pardeshi community.
Their ambition is that by 2020 the community that currently lives on the sidewalks of this street will be self-supporting, have the education and healthcare equivalent to the middle classes and an income of at least $8 per person per day. But perhaps most importantly; that their children will grow up with happy memories.
The community’s economy used to rely on selling cane baskets, but the market for these products has dried up. There simply aren’t other jobs in the area, so Dutch designer Pepe Heykoop has set up his workshop right in the middle of the community and from there teaches people the skills they need to make the products he’s designed for them – products for which there is a market. In so doing his is providing the people in the community with work and a steady income.
The resulting products looked perfectly at home alongside the high end designer accessories on display at IMM Cologne. The only difference being that buying these products will change somebody’s life. What an inspiring story!