Teysha + Luz y Fortaleza
We have been searching for an ally in Panama, someone who shares our vision, desire to empower, and love for traditional art. Several months ago, we were introduced to Michael, Rodelick, Sue, and Augustin of Fundacion Luz y Fortaleza Indigena (Indigenous light and Strength). From the moment we first spoke, we could feel very strongly that we had met our partners, the people who shared our dream of holistic prosperity, and who wanted to make it happen.
Last week, we had the honor of meeting the Foundation in Panama. We journeyed together to the island of Ustupu, the most populated island in Kuna Yala and the home of Sue and Agustin, and Rodelick. The island is home to about 5,000 Kuna, who live with their families in cane/ bamboo huts, and live off the land and sea.
One of the things we find most amazing and inspiring about the Kuna culture is that practically every decision is made as a community. There is the Spiritual Congress, the Administrative Congress, and the women’s groups who all meet regularly to discuss matters pertaining to the community. Our presence there as a company was certainly something that had the potential to affect the community as a whole, so we knew we had to be prepared to tell our story and work together to create the vision of our presence there. We had many, many meetings where we were introduced to various community leaders, chiefs, teachers, and groups of women.
Through conversations with the villagers, many beautiful ideas came up of how we could all work together to create a better future. Projects focusing on bringing more opportunities through mola design, the environment, education, health, food security, eco-tourism, and more were all discussed, and everyone could feel the excitement about everything that could be possible.
What does this partnership mean for the Kuna Community and Teysha?
We will begin by focusing on:
1) Economic Empowerment: beginning new Mola design projects with the women, sourcing molas, and creating new molas for Teysha goods. We are committed to going beyond Fair Trade with the women- paying them at least 2-5 times the average price per mola, helping to source and finance materials, providing micro loans for tools and infrastructure, and creating a model based on collaboration and empowerment.
2) Nutrition: With the proceeds from the headband project, the Foundation will purchase four pigs for the island and 50 chicks for another isolated community. The idea with these animals is for the community to raise them and increase their nutrient/ protein intake, and then help provide animals for neighboring communities.
3) Cultural empowerment: In the new Foundation and Teysha headquarters on the island, we will create a mola art center/ design center/ educational school/ and resource for the community.
We have many other plans and dreams in the works, and know that we will need the help and expertise of you all and leaders from around the world to bring their knowledge to the community.
Through being there on the island, we realized that this is a community with high hopes and aspirations, full of hard workers, families, friends, and people who want the best for the future. We believe that as a social enterprise, we are bringing a unique opportunity to both stimulate the local economy as well as do many of the development projects that are desired by the community.
As always, it will take a village to do this! We want to extend an invitation to all of you to come and be a part of this new development on the island of Ustupu. Around the time of August 20th- September 4th, we plan to be on the island working on restoring the building that was given to Teysha and the Foundation, and doing several smaller projects with the community, as well as of course enjoying the beauty surrounding Ustupu on the islands and in the forest. We will be sending more details, but wanted this to be a Save the Date of sorts for Teysha’s first expedition!
A note from Luz y Fortaleza founders Rodelick and Sue
Our foundation, Luz y Fortaleza Indigena (Indigenous Light and Strength) looks to help indigenous communities directly and indirectly in Panama. We have named the foundation Luz because our projects and work, in alliance with Teysha, bring a light of hope to the communities who need it most. At the same time, we look to strengthen these cultural roots by way of their artistic manifestations and artisan crafts. The alliance of the foundation with Teysha will continue in this direction so that many communities will be able to see in the Foundation and Teysha this light of hope