Samantha Beachand her husband, Tom Fisk, moved last year from Plainview to Jakarta, Indonesia, where they are bringing hope to local women in poverty.
They founded Revive Hope Goods, a business that transforms waste into jewelry and other consumer goods — in effect, turning "trash into treasures," as the business claims on its website, www.facebook.com/ReviveHopeGoods. Its employees are some of Indonesia's poorest women.
Beach, who grew up in Winona, and Fisk, who grew up in Wabasha, moved abroad after Fisk retired from a career at Mayo Clinic and took a job as director of information technology for an Indonesian hospital.
Once there, "I took a tour of a garbage dump as part of the XS Project," Beach said. XS Project is a nonprofit organization that works to improve the lives of poor families living in Jakarta's trash picker communities. Some 450,000 people live as pickers, finding whatever they can sell to make money.
"I took this tour and started to think, 'How can I help these women make some money?'" Beach said. Putting her creative mind to work — Beach owns Cakes, Etc. in Plainview — she thought of making jewelry as a possibility.
"I figured I'd already made pop tab jewelry for myself," she said. "With everything in that dump, — you can find innertube tires, plastic, aluminum cans — the possibilities are endless."
Beach made some jewelry from trash and taught jewelry-making to a class of six women.
"There's 100 families living in that garbage dump, and only those six moms out of all of those moms were interested," Beach said.
She now spends three to four hours per week teaching the women jewelry skills, and Revive Hope Goods' sales are starting to take off. Products include earrings, necklaces, bracelets, key chains and other things, priced at $7 to $10 apiece. That's compared to the $5 per day their husbands make picking trash.
"When we came back (to Minnesota) four months ago, I brought some product home," Beach said. "We sold $500 worth of product, so I took that back and evenly divided it between the six women.
"And this last trip home (a few weeks ago) I was amazed," Beach said. "We did $2,200 worth of sales, and now I only have three women that are doing it, so we will split that money between the three of them.
"The three that continue to work with us are the three most talented of the bunch — Marni, Ipat, and Nur. They can make the product consistent every time."
And eventually, the business operation will transfer to their hands altogether.
"When we come back (to the U.S.) in three years to live permanently, we need to make sure they know every aspect of the business," Beach said. "Buying, selling, marketing, so they are sustainable. I'll always be in touch with them, but they will know how to run this."
Language has been a barrier — the women all speak Bahasa — but thanks to online translation services and Marni's efforts to learn English, they have been able to communicate.
"They'll have a voice in this business," Beach said. "I want to hear what they want to do and what they like."
"It's not about us at all," Fisk said. "One-hundred percent of the money goes back to them. We want to make sure when we are out of the picture, they can still sustain this business. We are getting them contacts in the U.S. to sell their products in the U.S., working a lot with fair trade. We will teach them everything we can about starting a business, but we want them to do it all on their own."
"They are learning a skill and everything that goes along with that skill to help them along in life," Fisk said. "Right now we are helping three women, but eventually we would like to get to the point that we are helping between 20-30 women and their families. Marni and Ipat will be the owners and will hire those women — they are both excited to be able to someday hire their friends and family."