Gogo Kick Start Something June 28 2015, 0 Comments

My friends have been busy, and I've had a fun couple of months trying to keep up with them. It started with a small butterfly on San Bruno Mountain, just a few miles south of San Francisco. My Pilates classmate Gail Mallimson, who helped me edit video for 12 Small Things, made a film called The Edge of the Wild, about saving the Mission Blue butterfly on San Bruno Mountain, from extinction due to housing developments. Gail has been filming and editing her documentary over the past eight years and needed help paying for the final cut which just premiered at the San Francisco Green Festival. She turned to Indiegogo and her friends, which included me hosting two fundraising hikes on the mountain followed by a homemade lunch at my house.  I called on all the moms I knew who helped me raise money for our kids public schools over the years and many rallied to the cause. It was great to see all these wonderful women again, and hear about their grown kids while learning about our local eco-system, and how fragile it has become. If we loose the butterflies, we loose the plant life and we loose the lungs of our cities. 

 

At the same time Smita Paul, founder of Indigo Handloom, whose lovely cotton shawls I carry, had her business dream materialize this month, when she hit the road in her refurbished Airstream trailer to show her new fashion collection to customers throughout California. My daughter Olivia and I stopped by the Hayes Valley Urban Air Market to visit and marvel at her mobile store, full of beautiful dresses and shawls. I was pleased that Olivia also found them attractive, and would have loved to purchase the halter dress if she wasn't saving for Europe. Smita used Kickstarter to help raise the funding she needed to produce her samples, and hopes to raise more money through public events and on her website. Smita's mission is threefold; to create low-impact jobs for the rural poor in India, to preserve the hand loom craft traditions of the country's artisans and to help reduce the environmental damages of the fashion industry.

Another one of my favorite artisan groups, Petel Design, also held a successful Kickstarter to raise funds to build a women-owned arts cooperative in Bogue, Mauritania. Fulani artisans there produce beautiful hand-dyed, hand-loomed textiles using traditional methods, organic materials and plant-based dyes. Petel founders Julie and Ibrahima Wagne believe the future is in handmade, and want to support an artistic process that is at risk of being lost forever, by creating new, sustainable markets for these textiles. There are few nomadic societies that have been thrust into the 21st century as quickly as the Fulani, who live in 13 different African countries, making it a challenge to preserve the tribe's rich cultural heritage and history. Julie and Ibrahima, who is from Mauritania, surpassed their fundraising goal and raised over $10,000 from 105 donors to support their cause.

Last weekend we attended our friends Pam Bohmann and James Mahhah's annual benefit at El Rio to raise money for a schools in Sierra Leone, where James is from. We had such fun dancing to to the amazing musicians who volunteer their time every year, and were so glad to see old friends we had known from our daughter's schools. Sierra Leone was hit hard by the Ebola outbreak and everyone in the country was severely impacted by the economic upheaval; flights weren't arriving, goods and trade halted, and people couldn't work. Their friend Joseph, who partners with Schools for Sierra Leone, traveled to the schools helping to disseminate infection control information and supplies. Their organization helped to raise $25,000 in donations to upgrade water and sanitation facilities in all their schools. Because every child has the right to go to school, has a right to clean water, and safe clean schools with engaged teachers and communities, these volunteers are empowered to help all children realize a better future.

 

Which brings me to another very important movie I've just seen, also funded with the help of Kickstarter, called The True Cost. Andrew Morgan has documented the cause and effects of what is now labeled "Fast Fashion" being sold by the likes of H&M, Forever 21, Uniqlo and Zara, as reported in the New York Times. This new, inexpensive, disposable fashion is being produced by inexpensive labor around the world, resulting in escalating poverty, pollution, disease and death. I believe this is one of the the most powerful messages we can communicate to our children, who are the current consumers of this fashion trend. But the message also carries over to the mass produced home, gift, technology and fast food industries, which we all purchase.

The alternative is handmade, homegrown, slow commerce in fashion, home and food, that is sustainable and can support a healthy lifestyle. We need to stop spiraling into a consumer frenzy to have more for less, and instead have less for more with better, long lasting quality. Let's slow it down, think about what we really need, and what we want for our children. Maybe if all this money wasn't spent on producing products that turn into waste, businesses could instead focus on improving schools, healthcare and cleaning up the environment. And then maybe we wouldn't have to do it ourselves, raising funding for our causes from family and friends. But until then, I'm grateful for everyone who steps up and shows up and does their part to help in the meantime, thank you.