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Sloneker to help the master silver craftsmen and village women weaving artisans find markets for their products outside of Laos. The goal is to introduce this talented group of artisans to self sustaining business practices that will empower themselves, their families and communities. With this direct-to-the-source revenue stream, Orijyn helps to preserve these age-old handicraft skills and attract future generations to the craft. In turn, the standard of living for the families and the entire village is improved, community culture is sustained, and families can stay in their villages rather than migrate to the city to find commoditized, low paying work.
Orijyn began with a chance meeting in 2001 between Mark and Sombath Somphone, Executive Director of the non-profit Participating Development Training Centre (PADETC) in Vientiene, Laos. PADETC is an alternative learning school that prepares young people to become future community and business leaders. Mark was riveted by the passion with which Sombath told his story, his philosophy and approach to education and the opportunities it presented.
In 2005 Mark decided to return to Laos and tracked down Sombath through various aid organizations. Mark received an invitation from Sombath to see what might come up "if he decided to go." Sombath asked Mark to teach a few classes in entrepreneurial thinking, marketing and business plan writing to his instructors at PADETC. Mark found out how difficult it was to be a good teacher, and with his short stays, could see that the information would be well received, but not really implemented. Mark had an idea that the classroom should be a business and that it could be part of the school program. Sombath and his partner had already begun organizing a few weaving villages, but they needed to develop some channels for revenue and a business structure.
Since than Mark has focused on helping an extension of the school, Saoban (village) Handcrafts, build sustainable businesses in jewelry and silk weaving. Orijyn is the first US based business to support these efforts.
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