By Aslam Shah
Beyond the deserts and mountains of Jaisalmer, India far from the bustling city , lies a little village called Roopsi. With a population of barely 2000 people, the villagers experience little of the outside world. Basic necessities are scarce and hunger represents a daily experience. With houses made of mud and schools with no basic shelter or sanitation, the lives of the villagers represent a classic case of people trapped in a vicious cycle of poverty. But like all of us, they have the innate intuition of humanity, to dream of a better life. One of our fellow Singaporeans was there to realise that dream.
“I don’t believe in balance. I believe in priority. If you truly want something and believe in it, you have to concentrate your efforts on it. Sleepless nights , no social life, no stability; these are among the many sacrifices you have to take. “
Those were the words of Haziq Rashid, founder of The Project Nomad, a social enterprise that connects artisans from disadvantaged communities to new and emerging markets.
Haziq Rashid, founder of The Project Nomad in Roopsi Village. Image Courtesy of The Project Nomad
The Kent Ridge Common met up with the 23 year old Nanyang Technological University year 2 undergraduate in Sociology to learn more. Since its launch, The Project Nomad had competed in an international startup competition and won the prized Enactus Cup this year. The grand success of the social enterprise emerged from the mind of a traveller, who simply wanted to fix a problem he saw. Along with his cousin, Nasrul, The Project Nomad started after an inspiration from a trip.
Roopsi Village , Jaisalmer . Image courtesy of The Project Nomad
“I went backpacking in India for a month with Nasrul. We saw many local artisans with incredible talents but lived in immense poverty,” said Haziq who is currently on leave of absence from his university as he seeks to advance his social enterprise. Currently, The Project Nomad is partnering with over 25 artisans from Roopsi Village in Jaisalmer, creating leather bags for an international market. The project started in December last year as the partnership with artisans in Roopsi village began with the prototyping of 9 leather bags.
(Above) Nasrul Rohmat, cofounder of The Project Nomad. (Below) Children from Roopsi Village
Artisans working in leather bag production . Image courtesy of The Project Nomad.
Artisanal work represents a key component in India’s economy. Yet, thousands of artisans live in poverty with less than US$1 per day as their work is not able to reach the greater market. In just 2 weeks of sales, The Project Nomad has managed to triple the income of 5 artisans. In addition, the children of Roopsi Village have received a supply of warm clothing, food and school materials. The inspiration to make such a difference stemmed from the values of one of the greatest change makers in world history. In his approach to the the artisans, Haziq quoted Albert Einstein stating “if one were to judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole live thinking it is stupid.”
His vision embodies the values of social enterprises , finding untapped potential and maximising it to the benefit the world. Haziq does not belief that everyone is created equally but places importance in striving for equality. The conditions of Roopsi Village were not in tandem with the potential he believes the people can produce in advancing the local community. Haziq’s experiences were a humble reminder of the hardships of inequality.
School children wearing the warm clothing provided with the Project Nomad logo on it. Image Courtesy of The Project Nomad
‘’When we arrived, we were shocked at the conditions in the village. Kitchens had no shelter , children had no proper clothes. Houses were built of mud and bricks and people were desperate in begging for money from us. The caste system is still active there. People from a certain caste find it harder to progress socially and economically due to the rigidness in social mobility.”
With the sales up and running, the Project Nomad has successfully managed to make a difference in the lives of the villagers. However, more help is needed to create a sustainable difference and Haziq is rallying support from the public to engage themselves in consumption for social causes.
“Not only do the bags help better lives. They are vegetable tanned, devoid of harmful chemicals and biodegradable. To love our planet and humanity is to care for it, which includes responsible consumption. When you buy a bag, you’re not just using it to store your belongings. You’re sending children to school, building shelters for the poor and feeding the hungry. This is the whole spirit of social entrepreneurship , to make a difference in the lives of others.”
After Roopsi Village, The Project Nomad aims to impact 9 other rural communities across Asia by 2020. To support The Project Nomad or to purchase a bag, visit the links below :