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Bpeace Blog Briefs

Stories of bravery, transformation and impact.

Central America

Rwandan landscaper shines in PA

The garden center manager held the garden center owner’s face in her hands. A perfect fit for a garden center owner, the woman’s name is Soline. “Soline, does that mean sunshine?”  Both women laughed. “Well, Soline means sunshine to me,” said the garden center manager. No, they weren’t celebrating a particularly good sales day.

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One Million Jobs — the OMJ way!

Just one job means a mother can send her daughter to school and won't sell her into an early marriage.  One job means a young man can join the workforce instead of a gang.  One job can sustain a family of eight in Afghanistan, Rwanda or El Salvador.  Bpeace works to create these jobs, but needs your enthusiasm to sustain our work.  Will you help us create peace, one job at a time?

It takes Bpeace $1,000 to create one job.  These funds provide the coaching and consulting that enables our Fast Runners to create one job within their community.  The model has proven successful: 93% of Bpeace supported businesses are self-sustaining, and 100% of them are generating income.

This year, Bpeace is raising money through our unique  "One Million Jobs Campaign."  OMJ is anchored in our core mission–creating jobs.  Fundraisers commit to raising $1,000 and creating one job.  Everyone who meets the $1,000 goal by May 1 celebrates with us for a night of music, mingling, great food and cocktails!  (See the slide show above from last year's celebration.)

The funds raised contribute to Bpeace's operating budget for the coming year. The success of this campaign is vital to continue the work we care so much about.

The Benefits of joining the OMJ campaign are clear:
For Bpeace --> This funds our work.
For Fast Runner Entrepreneurs --> Helps provide the services they need to grow and create meaningful employment.
For You --> You directly impact lives around the world by creating jobs and spreading peace in communities where its most needed.
For Your Friends --> They join the broader Bpeace family and participate in job creation.
For Everyone --> CREATING jobs means LESS VIOLENCE, helping local entrepreneurs shape their community and a new tomorrow.

Joining the campaign is fun, easy and immediately brings you into the Bpeace network — collaborating with other members and fundraisers for tips, support, and tools to reach our collective goal.  The more you raise, the more recognition you get, the more jobs you create, AND you have a chance to win prizes.

Sign up today at (www.onemillionjobs.org). Help us realize our goal of one million jobs in one thousand communities, one job at a time.

And the envelope please! VERA not Oscar

The red carpet was the hallway at the global law firm Dewey & LeBoeuf.

The fashion statements were more sassy than flashy.

The opening video took the night’s first award.

The special celebrity guests included a glowing team of Bpeace’s Fast Runners from Afghanistan led by our country director Soraya Omar.

Oscar can’t compete with VERA for heart, soul, and authentic smiles.

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In search of El Salvador's business potential

The Bpeace team hit the ground running in El Salvador the week of February 13.  As true Fast Runners do, we sprinted.  Our task was to cover the ground in six municipalities in 4 days.  Our mission?  Explore municipalities to find entrepreneurs with small and medium size businesses with the ability and desire to grow and create more jobs.

Our goal was to understand first-hand what makes a municipality high opportunity for Bpeace. We hoped to find business friendly government climates equaled by the density of their ambitious visionary business owners.  On the team:  Bpeace Chief Program Officer Marla Gitterman, Bpeace Board Chair Laurie Chock, Bpeace Board members Kate Buggeln and Mary Ciampa, and one of Bpeace's original members Carmen Barros and her husband Ron Grunhut acting as the team's photographer.

Fortunately for the team, the country is small, we have good partners/advisors and we know how to plan and deploy.  We began our week getting to know Bpeace's local experts, Research Triangle International (RTI), an impressive team with deep knowledge of the social, political and business environment.  Local knowledge is critical for us!  Together we deep dived and fast dove through Santa Tecla, Nahuizalco, Izalco, Sonsonate, San Juan Opico and San Salvador.  Our days were filled getting to know local governments, chambers of commerce and local business owners.

What did we find? Business savvy mayors, business cooperatives (of course), "donkey's milk" candy (made by a businesswoman whose family has been making candy for 110 years) competing in the same town with a chocolate company start-up, a direct sales water bagging/distribution company (think water by Avon), a ribbon manufacturer, a mattress manufacturing business and a restaurateur who is El Salvador's Lidia Bastianich, with her own weekly TV show. And much more….

When you gather hard core business people together you tend to get some great creative ideas.  These ideas are fundamental to the Bpeace model.  In Izalco, we were greeted with enthusiasm by seemingly the entire mountain town with a big request..."would we work with them to turn Izalco into a tourist destination?"  We were intrigued by the idea. Was it indeed possible Bpeace could successfully support an entire town's transformation? The urgency and enthusiasm of the town demanded we assess.  So on our last day we traveled to Suchitoto, a lakeside town that did just that.  We had hopes of gleaning wisdom as business volunteers know that good ideas need vetting.

After visiting one of the town's most beautiful hotels (we were so disappointed that we didn't have our overnight bags) we met the remarkable Sister Peggy, a New Yorker who has made El Salvador her home and passion.  Times are tough here and we were brought back to reality by her honest assessment of the challenges this beautiful town has faced in its transformation. “Good” ideas also need to be let go. There are other paths to pursue with more fruit.

Over the course of the week we made new acquaintances and refreshed others with a variety of public and private associations working to coordinate and promote business in El Salvador. Each and every one offered insight, information and resource support.

Some of this support is being put to immediate use as we enter the next phase of due diligence which requires data rich analysis --- exactly where are the medium size businesses and where can we create critical mass?  Final selection decisions will be made with data in hand and following additional visits.   This isn’t your typical business support program because we are not typical.   We seek our match--small and medium size businesses which will require and demand the best of us.

The DOSTI soccer ball story

ORDER 1-19 DOSTI SOCCER BALLS

ORDER BULK WHOLESALE DOSTI BALLS

What better way to foster team spirit and friendship than with Afghan made DOSTI soccer balls?  Afghan women have been renowned for centuries for deft needlework.  Now the women of DOSTI, meaning “friendship” in Dari, have harnessed that heritage to handcraft club-quality soccer balls.

Each ball is sturdily hand-stitched using 32 panels of highest quality synthetic leather producing soccer balls with superior bounce and shape.  Bearing DOSTI’s signature Doves in Flight pattern in the colors of the Afghan flag, each ball purchased provides meaningful employment for Afghan women

Features

  • Club-quality soccer ball
  • 32 hand-stitched panels, made from the leading synthetic leather, and a latex bladder
  • Silk-screened with a dovedesign in the colors of the Afghan flag, and the words: "Made by Afghan women"
  • Available in Size 5 (ages 12 and up)
  • Measurements: 8"L, 8"W, 8"H
  • Weight: 15oz

DOSTI soccer balls spark change through employment for Afghan women. During this introductory phase, DOSTI soccer balls are only available through Global Goods Partners, the non-profit Fair Trade online retailer.

ORDER 1-19 DOSTI SOCCER BALLS

ORDER BULK WHOLESALE DOSTI BALLS

THE DOSTI STORY

Two female Afghan entrepreneurs share a product, and a mission: Soccer balls as a means to financial independence for Afghan women.

Taj and Aziza were heading up their own businesses, each employing women in the manufacture of soccer balls; Aziza in Kabul, and Taj in Daikundi Province. They separately had the idea: Afghan women's self-reliance is linked to steady work-from-home income.

Bpeace suggested they combine efforts. With the help of Bpeace and partial financial support from Beyond the 11th Foundation, Taj and Aziza formed DOSTI, a joint venture that produces soccer balls in Afghanistan for distribution in the United States.

Today, they collectively employ 564 Afghans, and DOSTI balls are starting to enter the U.S. market. By stitching 500 soccer balls, or 1 - 2 balls per day, an Afghan woman can earn enough income from DOSTI to support a family of six for a year.

  • Soghra is sending her 4 brothers and sisters to school, and has opened a bank account in order to save for the future.
  • Rahila is taking English classes, and is providing financially for her brother and sister.
  • Mursal has the means to purchase the oil and fuel for her family's home during the cold winters.

ORDER 1-19 DOSTI SOCCER BALLS

ORDER BULK WHOLESALE DOSTI BALLS

THE CRAFT PROCESS

Each DOSTI ball is meticulously handcrafted and quality-tested, combining traditional skills and 21st century standards.

The process for every DOSTI ball is the same: Stretching the synthetic leather; drying it (which takes 3 days in the summer, and 6 days in the winter); cutting the material into 32 panels; silk-screening; hand-stitching the panels together; washing and airing the finished ball; and, finally, a rigorous quality control test.

Sewing the panels by hand is the most time-consuming element of the process, and also the most crucial for the soccer balls' quality. DOSTI workers often do their sewing from home--which is not only more practical for their lives as mothers and homemakers, but also safer. DOSTI makes it possible for Afghan women to be financially independent without risking their security, or threatening traditional roles.  And the pay is better: Other home-based employment options, such as embroidery, take significantly more time for equivalent money.

ORDER 1-19 DOSTI SOCCER BALLS

ORDER BULK WHOLESALE DOSTI BALLS

PURCHASING INFORMATION

Buy one DOSTI soccer ball or up to 19 balls for $45 per ball plus shipping through Global Goods Partners.

For bulk orders between 20 and 199  DOSTI soccer balls contact Jennifer Gootman here or call 212.461.3647.

Wholesale orders 200 or more balls will be delivered in 4-5 weeks for $18 per ball. Shipping included direct from Kabul factory. Contact us here or call 347.526.5394.

 

DOSTI IN THE NEWS

The Healers of 9/11 by Nicholas D. Kristof
September 9, 2010

"Another initiative has been to train Afghan women, through a group called Business Council for Peace, to run a soccer ball manufacturing company. The bosses have been coached in quality control, inventory management and other skills, and they have recruited unemployed widows to stitch the balls—which are beginning to be exported under the brand Dosti."

ORDER A DOSTI SOCCER BALL

Shahla will help Afghan women stand taller

Shahla is unique to Bpeace--she is not only the youngest Fast Runner but also the first cross-generational Fast Runner.  Shahla's mother, Fatima, is just completing her three-year Bpeace program.  Fatima runs a furniture manufacturing company employing 80 women she trained as carpenters.  Clearly Shahla was raised seeing how women can accomplish anything.

There are few non-imported shoes in Afghanistan, making Shahla's shoes a hot commodity in Kabul among the "Be Afghan, buy Afghan" locals.  The 26 employees in her factory hand-make 20 shoes a day using one pedal-operated sewing machine and re-purposing used vehicle tires for the soles. The craftsmanship of her shoes astounded the employees of P.W. Minor, one of her host companies, who now proudly display a pair of Shahla's shoes in their own factory to inspire employees.

Shahla truly touched everyone she met while in the U.S. during the Bpeace Apprentice Road Trip (BART) and created buzz in the press too.   Glamour magazine blogged that Shahla is, "challenging stereotypes, breaking barriers, and creating unparalleled independence for herself..." You can read the full post here: http://bit.ly/9qcGFH.   To learn more about Shahla's experience at P.W. Minor, you can read this article in The Batavian: http://bit.ly/cGHXPi.  The Syracuse Post Standard describes Shahla's experience at Aurora Shoes: http://bit.ly/9Bv14S. In this article in The Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, Shahla's experience at both host companies is detailed bit.ly/brSrhT.

Currently, Shala is producing men's shoes, and women's flats.   Shahla also plans to add a line of high heels to her collection, something she says that, "all the young women in Afghanistan will love to wear!" Shahla spent the day with shoe designer Heather Williams, and together they designed two spectacular shoes using Heather's silhouettes, trimmed with Afghan coins and medallions.  Shahla plans to create these shoes when she gets back to Afghanistan.

You can listen to Shahla describe her inspirations and new goals at Bpeace's annual meeting: http://ustre.am/_IBV2:vJh

Thank you to Shahla's host companies:
Aurora Shoe Company
Gabriel Saca
Heather Williams Designs
Jutta Neumann Leather
P.W. Minor

BART is partially funded by the U.S. Department of State, Office of Citizen Exchanges in the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.

Sora is chipping away at Afghanistan's future

For Sora, snacks are a serious subject.  She doesn't just want to eat them, she wants to produce them.  Specifically, Sora wants to be the first potato chip manufacturer in Afghanistan.

Chips are a favorite snack among Afghans yet they only have access to ones imported from Pakistan that are often burnt and can only be purchased in large, open packages.  For Sora, who believes that Afghanistan has the best tasting potatoes in the world, this is an opportunity.  Sora has a secured some land in an industrial park and is working on the funding for her factory. Initially, she will employ 10 people but hopes to quickly grow that number to 100 and then expand to provinces across Afghanistan.

Local ingredients will be crucial for Sora when she is producing chips, which is why she spent time at North Fork Chips on Long Island--long known for miles of potato fields.  She held bundles of potatoes, smelled the oil and tasted lots of chips, all in the name of her business.  Sora saw first hand how North Fork Chips efficiently operates their business and learned about their approach to processing, packaging and distribution. Carol Sidor of North Fork Chips commented that, "Sora was was so excited, and it made us excited, too."

Sora not only excited Carol but she piqued the interest of the entire Bpeace Young Professionals Team during a potato chip taste-off hosted by Credit Suisse.  Sora and the rest of the Bpeace Fast Runners in the U.S. for the Bpeace Apprentice Road Trip (BART), and about 10 New York young professionals exchanged stories about their emerging careers. Most importantly though, pounds of chips were consumed and 10 different flavors of chips were tasted and evaluated by all.  The Afghans and the New Yorkers definitely had different points of views on their chip preferences.

Sora was surprised at how many different flavors of chips exist in the U.S.--they only have "plain" in Afghanistan.  She is already dreaming of what flavors to offer her future customers.

Sora also visited potato chip manufacturers in Pennsylvania.  In the coming months, Bpeace will be helping her create a logo and brand.

To share more about Sora's experience in the U.S. and her host companies, you can read this article about her in the Dans Paper: http://bit.ly/aNEkqh and this one in Newsday: http://bit.ly/9Memb2.

A special thanks to all of Sora's host companies:
Foster Farms
Herr's
Martin's Potato Chips
North Fork Potato Chips

BART is partially funded by the U.S. Department of State, Office of Citizen Exchanges in the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.

Khalid brings new flavor to Afghanistan

Khalid's father founded the Haji Abdul Rahimi Ice Cream Shop in 1954. Today, the 81-year old patriarch works for Khalid as his cashier.  With a broad smile, Khalid says they offer one flavor--"plain."  It's really cardamom with rosewater--a flavor so exquisite, that when Khalid demonstrated the recipe to one of his host companies--Van Leeuwen Artisan Ice Cream--they immediately wanted to add the flavor to their menu.

Flavor was a recurring theme for Khalid's visit in the U.S.  He was excited to learn how to mix fruit into yogurt (again, the only yogurt flavor in Afghanistan is "plain") and to make fruit flavored ice cream like the kind he tasted in the U.S.  Strawberry, blueberry and mango are just three of the flavors that he plans. He also hopes to offer those flavors as milkshakes, a new and favorite treat of all the Afghan Fast Runners while in the U.S. during the Bpeace Apprentice Road Trip (BART).

Most importantly, Khalid wants to extend his business beyond the spring and summer when ice cream is in demand.  Since he already has a pipeline to 14 dairy farmers, he wants to extend into year-round products--cheese and yogurt production.   To read more about Khalid's time learning to make cheese at Mecox Bay Dairy, here is the Newsday article: bit.ly/aMSJkx

If Khalid wasn't already the most famous ice-cream shop owner in Mazar, Afghanistan, he might be Afghanistan's first comic with perfect timing.  Here is Khalid at the Bpeace annual meeting describing the "machines" he uses in his business. http://ustre.am/_IBV2:vJg

Thank you to Khalid's host companies:
Blue Marble Ice Cream
Candy Kitchen
Cold Stone Creamery
Dan Francis Organic Farms
Dwight Martin Farms
Maple Hill Creamery
Mecox Bay Dairy
Organic nymilk
Van Leeuwen Artisan Ice Cream

BART is partially funded by the U.S. Department of State, Office of Citizen Exchanges in the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.

Tahera is counting on Afghanistan's progress

It only takes a few minutes with Tahera to understand why she has been such an inspiration to the women in her family.   Tahera grew up in Iran--her parents sought refuge there as newly-weds when the Taliban seized power.  After returning to Afghanistan five years ago, Tahera instantly knew that she wouldn't be sitting idle watching while her brothers became fully immersed in a country she always considered her own, but never truly experienced.   Tahera was the first woman in her extended family to get a job outside of the home, and now 20 female relatives have followed her example.

Tahera is the manager of the Balkh Business Development Company--a consulting firm in Mazar, Afghanistan.  After her visit to the U.S. during the Bpeace Apprentice Road Trip (BART), she is ready to expand her firm's services to include budgeting, bookkeeping and accounting.  In fact, Tahera might well become Afghanistan's first woman charter (certified) accountant!

Mention the word QuickBooks, and Tahera lights up at the name of this accounting software.  As the manager of a firm that helps other entrepreneurs grow their businesses, Tahera knows the importance of organization and accurate accounting.  Tahera spent her time in the U.S. becoming more familiar with the software, understanding how accounting firms are managed, what to look for in hiring the best accountants, and how to market these new services to her current clients.  She is so energized, she is already planning to expand her formal education and study for an accounting degree somehow--perhaps by a remote academic degree program.

This desire and will was evident to all of Tahera's host companies. The Sag Harbor Express captured Tahera's energy a while working at the CPA firm--Banducci, Katz and Ferraris.  You can read the full article here: http://bit.ly/dpErlv.

Tahera is back in Afghanistan with new business ideas, gifts for her son and a wish for the future--that she will graduate from the Fast Runner program and become a volunteer member of Bpeace herself--so that she can share her own business acumen with younger entrepreneurs.  To hear Tahera's wish in her own words, watch her speak at the Bpeace annual meeting:  http://ustre.am/_IBV2:vJn

A special thanks to all of Tahera's Host Companies:
Banducci, Katz and Ferraris LLP
Integrity Financial Partners
The Gotham Research Group
The Greener Group
The Jackson Group
Women's Business Development Council

BART is partially funded by the U.S. Department of State, Office of Citizen Exchanges in the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.

Zabi is building a better Afghanistan

Zabi is extremely well rounded--he runs his family's business, has a medical degree and is a champion boxer.   He proves his love of boxing by pushing his cartilage-free nose all the way down to his face.  He laughs when he does this and you know he is recalling the incident with utter glee.

When Zabi isn't in the ring, he is busy building community projects in Mazar, Afghanistan--including schools, clinics and government buildings.  Zabi's family construction company, JAC, focuses on these projects because he understands that rebuilding the physical structures in Afghanistan is essential to rebuilding the country and sustaining peace.

Most of Zabi's U.S. time during the Bpeace Apprentice Road Trip (BART) was spent at CCI Construction in Montvale, New Jersey visiting their diverse job sites and completed buildings.  The team at CCI said that Zabi has a solid understanding of his business, from drafting proposals to executing his plans.  There were lots of discussions around the differences in construction planning, working with sub-contractors, and of course building materials and techniques.  As a true techy, Zabi was thrilled to have the chance to learn how to use Microsoft Project Manager.

Jake Lindsay of CCI even showed Zabi how to entertain clients--out on the golf course.  Zabi proudly announced he is now the "best golfer in all of Afghanistan!"

Technology is an integral part of Zabi's personal life.  While in the U.S. his friends and family in Afghanistan accessed real-time updates of Zabi's trip by staying tuned to his Facebook profile.

Zabi does have a not-so-secret dream.  To grow his construction business to a point that his younger brother can take it over.  And then Zabi will return to the practice of medicine to become a world-famous orthopedic surgeon!

You can learn more about Zabi's diverse passions and excitement for life, albeit without much time to sleep, in this video of him at the Bpeace annual meeting: http://ustre.am/_IC7T:vJp

A special thanks to all of Zabi's host companies:
CCI Construction Inc.
Penguin Air Conditioning
Lisa Dubin Architect
Liz Pulver

BART is partially funded by the U.S. Department of State, Office of Citizen Exchanges in the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.

Azi has Afghanistan's back-up planned

Azimulhaq (Azi as we affectionately call him), appears as the stoic, mature Fast Runner of the Afghans on the Bpeace Apprentice Road Trip (BART).  Yet, bring him to a bowling alley and a whole new side of him emerges--his eyes light up, he throws his hands in the air and he even gives a yelp when he hits a few pins.

Azi is the co-owner of RAHA which offers IT services to local businesses, and computer training courses to individuals.

In Mazar, Afghanistan, RAHA is unique because it is locally-owned and operated.  Azi says this puts him at a disadvantage so the folks at Host Company Global Partners in Waltham, MA gave him guidance on how to compete against large, non-Afghan competition.  Azi learned about ways to deepen trust with his clients, strengthen his current services and increase revenue.  Back in Afghanistan, Azi will work  to focus RAHA and better manage the rapid expansion which is causing some growing pains.

Throughout his time in the U.S., Azi learned through a direct, hands-on approach.  For the first time, he learned about backup systems and the imperative role they play in most American companies. Azi was particularly interested in new ways of coping with computer viruses and how professional service firms manage their staff.

Watch how Azi plans to bring change to his company and community from his brief talk at the Bpeace Annual Meeting: http://ustre.am/_IBV2:vJj

A special thanks to all of Azi's Host Companies:
Cooper & Dunham LLP
Fenton Communications
Global Partners LP
Morgan Stanley
PWC
Tech Networks of Boston

BART is partially funded by the U.S. Department of State, Office of Citizen Exchanges in the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.

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