Meet Our Partner Pt. 1: JOYN
One of my passions as the founder of AMERICAN NOMAD is connecting with co-ops that strive to empower individuals by instilling them with dignified work and a reassurance of their value as individuals. JOYN was one of the first co-ops I learned about when I set out to start AMERICAN NOMAD and I was immediately drawn to the craftsmanship of their bags. I remember opening my first order that came sealed in a burlap bag with my name written on the outside. Each item is a unique blend of traditional craftsmanship, modern styling and a touch of vintage distress. While I could go on about their products, I have to write the team working at JOYN equally posses a quality of character that AMERICAN NOMAD is honored to partner with. As a fledgling shop owner, I had no idea what I was doing and each person I spoke with was kind, offered encouragement and took time to answer all of my questions. I am grateful for their kindness not only to myself, but to each artist that works at JOYN. We hope you are equally inspired by their story.
JOYN: FASHIONING BETTER LIVES
Not many people would decide to spend their first year as newlyweds working in an orphanage in Uganda, but Mel and Dave Murray thought it seemed like the perfect way to start their lives together. They knew they shared a passion to change the lives of people living in poverty’ they just didn’t quite know how to do it. It was in Uganda that the Murrays’ dream gained clear direction. They realized that while the orphans had a home, food, and clothing, they had no future. They lacked opportunity. They lacked hope. After that experience, the Murrays set out to find sustainable solutions to meet the needs of those living in the majority world.
In 2010 the Murrays sold most of their belongings, packed a few bags and moved to Rajpur, India. They had learned a valuable lesion: in order to bring real hope and lasting change to impoverished places, you can’t just swoop in with handouts expecting to rescue people. You need to bring opportunity and give people the chance and the dignity to pull themselves out of poverty. The artisans in Rajpur could make beautiful textile products, but they lacked markets. They lacked jobs. So the Murrays and their team were determined to start a sustainable business and to employ as many people as they possibly could.
People living in places like Rajpur are some of the neediest people on the planet. Many of them grew up begging on the streets and had no skills, education, identities, or even birthdays. They suffer from hunger, abuse, leprosy, drug addiction, and chronic illnesses. Dave and Mel knew that these people needed more than salaries. They needed change in every aspect of their lives.
At the heart of JOYN lies a desire to see lives changed. To see those crippled by poverty and hardship dance for joy. To do this, JOYN has partnered with a nonprofit called JoyCorps to provide employees with not only steady jobs and a good work environment, but a daily meal plan, education for their children, English and vocational training, and medical care. Lives are changing as a result. Today, JOYN employs a diverse and growing team of Americans, Australians, Brits, Indians, Tibetans, and Nepalese working together in Rajpur. Theirs is a community of people who strive to take care of one another.