Dutch product designer Pepe Heykoop is presenting his latest design for The Tiny Miracles Foundation at the IMM Furniture Fair in Cologne. The Leather Bowl is handmade by women from the Pardeshi community, who live on the street in the slums of Mumbai, India. The Tiny Miracles Foundation aims to lift this small community out of poverty within ten years.
The Tiny Miracles Foundation brings together ecological sustainability, recycling, fair trade and social justice. Founded in 2010 by Pepe Heykoop’s cousin Laurien Meuter, the Dutch charity focuses on a community of 700 people who live on the street in the red light district in Mumbai, India. Its goal is to lift the community out of poverty within a decade, ensuring they enjoy basic education and healthcare and an income of at least €6 per person per day.
Heykoop has set up a production line and teaches the Pardeshi community skills such as welding, stitching, quality control and work ethics. Whenever possible, products are made from waste materials.
In one project, Heykoop asked the community to hand in their Matkas, traditional Indian water carriers, and gave them new ones. The old Matkas were then covered in scrap leather and turned into vases. Another project is a range of accessories made fashion brand ‘Label 13 by Gigi and Marly’, by Dutch actresses Gigi Ravelli and Marly van der Velden.
Three years have passed, and another seven to go. I caught up with Pepe to take about the past and future.
How have you worked during the first three years?
‘The Tiny Miracles Foundation, set up by my cousin Laurien Meuter, focuses on three areas: education, healthcare and income generating projects (IGP). I’m head of IGP. We work with underprivileged and oppressed women living in the slums of Mumbai. We offer them a chance to work and see them grow in confidence as a result. And we help them generate income for themselves. Recently we opened their first bank accounts so that we can teach them about saving their money rather than spending it all at the end of the day.’
How has the past year been for Tiny Miracles?
‘Well, we started with a small group of men and women. It was hard to work with the men, however, so last year we decided to work with women only to get things on track. Some of the men went into rehabilitation. Over the course of 2013, the number of women working every day rose from 13 to over 60!’
Are you working on more designs with the community?
‘Sure! We want to extend the collection every year with one or two new items. Not every new idea works out, but I’m very happy to be presenting the Leather Bowl at IMM Cologne.’
IMM Cologne, 13–19 January, Cologne, Germany