Mothers Doing Wonders Series - Community Projects Worldwide
This year, to celebrate Mother’s Day, we asked mothers that pioneered impactful enterprises and are part of our Ethical Lifestyle Hub Directory, what is driving them to lead a business with purpose. Those we highlight are mothers of strength, compassion, and resilience - working toward betting the world around them as well as being a mother. This blog highlights Pru McMillan of Community Projects Worldwide.
Community Projects Worldwide is a social enterprise that adheres to the Fair Trade philosophy, our aim is to assist people from disadvantaged backgrounds to gain empowerment through employment. Our ranges (handmade gifts, homewares, jewellery) are sourced predominantly from individuals and small communities from around the world, who are involved with job creation projects, aid agency projects, or community self-help groups. We deal directly with all our artisans, personally visiting them regularly. Over the past 20 years, we have helped their businesses and incomes grow and watched them build their lives and families. We take great pride in creating and developing sustainable relationships with our artisans knowing that their endeavours and incomes are contributing to the livelihood and well being of individuals, families, and whole communities.
Barely in our 20s we, like many young Australians, left home to discover the world and inadvertently discovered ourselves and a fulfilling career. We spent 10 years travelling and working in hospitality which included extensive travel through Africa, running safari lodges in Botswana, a wilderness lodge in the highlands of Papua New Guinea and working in a number of wilderness lodges in Far North Queensland. Our last hospitality position was leasing and running a farm holiday and horse riding operation in the central west of NSW.
It was time for a change and we missed Africa. Whilst we loved the safari industry and our work in it, returning to it was not an option at this time. We wanted to start a family and decided Australia was the place for that, so we moved to the Sunshine Coast and in 2000 created KALAHARI TRADING Co. A business that we hoped would keep us connected to Africa and everything we loved about it, the wilderness, the people and the beautiful handcraft that says so much about the culture and resourcefulness of its population.
In 2007 Community Projects Worldwide was also established as a retail business at Eumundi on the Sunshine Coast and in 2008 we opened another retail shopfront in Port Macquarie in NSW (which we closed in 2016).
Today we run KALAHARI TRADING Co as a wholesale supplier to retailers throughout Australia, and Community Projects Worldwide caters to our own retail customers. During this time we have expanded our reach to South America, India and South-East Asia. We are a social enterprise (although we do have charitable products, and we support an organisation in Swaziland that helps child-headed households). It has always been our intention to build a sustainable model that will survive beyond our own humble endeavours.
We take great pride in working with all our suppliers who are all hard-working, honest and smart people doing what they can to support themselves and their families, often under difficult social and geographic conditions. We have had relationships with many of our suppliers for close to 20 years and the vast majority of these are mothers, who are learning new skills and creating businesses or being employed to support and educate, their families. Many are single mothers and grandmothers (Gogo’s).
Becoming a mum was not an easy road for me, however, after 8 years of IVF, we were finally blessed with a beautiful daughter Mali in 2005 and then a son Matt in 2010. Mali’s first trip to Africa was at 10 months old and she was adored by all our artisans (It did help she was super cute! Of course I am not biased) It did create an even stronger connection with our group, and further solidified our ethos of working with groups who were family and community orientated, and empowered by having employment and the stability of future earnings.
Quite a few artisans have managed to send their children to “good” schools, purely because they knew they had the recurring orders coming from us, and they had the “luxury” of being able to plan for the future and keep their kids in school. This has resulted in nurses, teachers, and now aspiring doctors. Mali also returned to Africa with us when she was 4, and also with Matt when she was 14. They have both travelled with us to many other countries. When they stayed at home while we were travelling my mum would step in and look after them for the weeks we were away (another level of wonderful mums helping out).
Over 20 years we have worked with over 100 different groups, which has affected thousands of individuals. Equal opportunity for women and equal pay for women has been a large focus. Many groups are women only, being Gogo’s, single mothers, or mothers in rural areas, making beautiful products to create earnings for themselves. They are then free to choose how this is spent, and it is always put into their children through improved nutrition, housing, and the opportunity for education. These hardworking ladies are raising the next generation to hopefully have more opportunities than they were afforded. As a mum, I would like my kids to remember a childhood that exposed them to many cultures and ways of life. That kindness and helping someone if you were able, truly makes a big difference in people’s lives. Living in a remote village with minimal luxuries does not mean you are poor or unhappy if you are surrounded by a supportive community and have the ability to support yourself. That you can make a difference to the world by buying ethically, and that behind every product is a person who has worked hard to make it the best they can. To care about other people and their struggles and to be grateful for the wonderful opportunities they have.