Freedom Collective International: Partnering With Local Non Profits In Uganda to Spark Trade

By Trish Dubes

2015-11-27-1448602678-2848358-uganda.jpgKelly and Trish of Freedom Collective International, with women and children of Igana, Uganda

The Plumfund Story: The Birth of the Freedom Collective International
For as long as I can remember it's been in my heart to go to Africa. Last April, I had the opportunity to spend three weeks in Kenya working with friends who have built an amazing ministry just outside of Nairobi. I'm a graphic designer by trade, so I initially intended to help them that way—but I also had an opportunity to visit the slums, meet the precious people that are a part of the native community, and stay in their guest house where many of their creations team works on various sewing projects. Through many conversations with the missionaries, I began to understand the challenges of creating and marketing products from a third world country to Western culture. So, wanting to help in any way I could, I began dreaming, drawing and researching. We went on the hunt for new materials and hardware and I worked with their talented team to create something simple, but different: products that were Western-culture relevant but still told a story and contributed to a greater need.

After I returned from Kenya, I met a woman named Kelly through a mutual friend of ours and we quickly found that we both had a passion towards the same goal: to figure out how we can help missionaries and non-profits around the world create new products that would empower the local community. She had experience working with women in a small village in the Dominican Republic making jewelry. She was able to teach the women to improve what they were already making and create a higher quality product that has a better chance of selling in the US.

Combining our experiences and skills together, Kelly and I created Freedom Collective International. The organization seeks to partner with new or existing ministries and nonprofits in developing countries that have a desire to equip local men and women with jobs and skills to help better their lives and provide for their families. Our hope was to do this by developing goods that will produce sustainability and steady incomes through US sales.

Kelly and I decided that we would venture back to Africa together to complete our first mission with Freedom Collective International. To help with costs associated with this trip, including travel fees and the costs of purchasing materials for product creation, we decided to start a plumfund. The plumfund not only garnered donations towards our trip, but helped us spread the word to friends and neighbors about all that needs to be done in these less fortunate countries.

Plumfund in Action: Taking Our First Trip to Africa
Kelly and I embarked on our first endeavor in early November, partnering with Musana Community Development Center in Iganga, Uganda. Our goal was to introduce new designs that utilize local resources and create products that would provide a greater profit margin that would, in turn, create more jobs locally.

We began our trip in Kampala searching for resources. Our first day proved to be disappointing when we were unable to find the materials we were originally hoping for. We went back to the drawing board, purchased what we were able to find, and created new patterns and designs. We arrived in Iganga at the end of our second day, and the next morning dove right into testing designs. Despite a fair amount of trial and error sourcing and testing, we ultimately were able to create new products that we hope will bring a greater sustainability to the Musana community! And we cherished the relationships we built with the men and women of Musana while visiting their villages and learning about their work.

Now that we've returned to the U.S., we hope to take the products we've created and market them domestically. Our trip was just the beginning of the process and there are still many details to work through, but we're excited to see how the future of Freedom Collective International will unfold and are thankful to the plumfund contributors that helped us get started!

2015-11-27-1448602815-9633038-uganda1.jpgBeautiful handmade scarves and bags made with locally sourced materials

This post is part of a series produced by The Huffington Post and Plumfund, in conjunction with Giving Tuesday. In the series, we'll feature inspirational stories of giving and receiving from users and friends of Plumfund, the free crowdfunding site. You'll find one post every weekday in November leading up to Giving Tuesday. To learn more about this campaign or start your own, visit Plumfund.com.