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Banda Aceh, Indonesia
On 3 January 2005, Roy Broekhuhizen received a telephone call from a Saddleback Church official asking if he would lead teams to Indonesia to assist in the tsunami relief work. Roy. being Indonesian, jumped at the opportunity to help.
When authorities declared the first wave of emergency aid in Banda Aceh over in February 2006, and volunteers started streaming home, Roy and his wife Louise found they could not walk away. After helping people rebuild their homes for a year, the van Broekhuhizens no longer believed a solution lay in giving people money or possessions. What people needed is employment.
On one of the relief trips, Roy visited a local store carrying handbags embroidered with the traditional Acehnese designs. Seeing the potential these handbags had to appeal to an international clientele, Roy modernized the handbag to give it a contemporary feel without compromising the traditional designs. He and Louise found 12 young women from villages in Aceh to craft the bags. Laga Designs International was born.
"Laga" means beautiful in Acehnese, an Indonesian dialect spoken by the people of Banda Aceh. The handbags are embroidered with the intricate designs indigenous to the area which have been passed down from generation to generation. Each bag is sewn on a non-electric treadle sewing machine. No templates or stencils are used. All designs are committed to memory and hand guided. This enables each handbag to have the individual flair of the artisan, making no two exactly alike.
Today more than 300 people, mainly women, work for Laga making these beautiful handbags. The van Broekhuhizens' dream is to provide employment for 1,200 Acehnese women.
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