Our story starts in 2008, in Las Malvinas II, an urban slum in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. We arrived to the community eager to work with the families and help them move up from the vulnerable situation they were in. We tried a lot of different things: through the years we built temporary houses, planted trees, lobbied for parks and green areas, built additions to the school, and dug a giant water cistern in the community that at one point pumped water to 150 families. Some of these projects were successful and really helped the families, others fell by the wayside or deteriorated over time.
One day, after a community meeting, a group of women approached us and politely thanked us for the stuff we built in Las Malvinas, but then said “If you just gave us jobs, we could fend for ourselves”. And they were right. We were in the community trying to fight poverty building what we thought was missing: a house, a school, a water well – which is all good – but does not empower families to sustain or invest in themselves. But how could we provide jobs for people who had never been given the opportunity to study or gain work skills?
So it became a challenge – Could we create a company, hire people from Las Malvinas, and still be profitable?
Making soap became a great option. The process is similar to cooking an elaborate meal, something these women do very well – so we decided to use these skills and take advantage of the amazing, natural and fresh ingredients this beautiful island has to offer.
We provided free training to dozens of women and finally offered a job to 3 of them. We built our workshop inside the community so the women could be close to home and not have to commute. Slowly, our soaps made their way into gift shops, specialty stores, supermarkets and tourist stops on the island. We also started making and selling soaps in the US, looking to expand our client base, having in mind that the more customers we serve, the more women we can hire.
Our company has a positive impact: Today 4 women of Las Malvinas work with us. They now have a trade, they make a steady income that empowers them invest in their families, particularly in their children’s health, nutrition and education. Three of them completed high school and are pursuing higher education, fully funded by scholarships from Esperanza.