Cycle of Good – Guest Blog
Cycle of Good was formed a little over 4 years ago via a shared loved of recycling, Malawi, fair-trade and the desire to educate children in one of the poorest countries in the world.
Like many new brands, the ‘lightbulb’ moment was simply to create jobs, where they’re needed most!
Vince Owen who heads up Cycle of Good and our parent charity Krizevac Project, was working and living in Malawi with his wife and children in the 1990’s and a chance meeting with a used bicycle charity in the UK led Vince to send hundreds of second-hand bicycles from the UK to Malawi. Studies show that if you own a bike in Africa, household income levels rise by at least 35% as bikes are used to start businesses or travel to work.
This one incident helped to shape our philosophy and steer the direction of the charity. Instead of sending money to Malawi, we would gather resources that are unused or destined for landfill in the UK, ship them to Malawi and use them to start businesses and create jobs. The profits from these businesses then fund early years care and education, thus breaking the cycle of poverty and effecting long term change.
Creating the Cycle of Good brand gave us the opportunity to further develop this change by squeezing materials like old inner tubes and offcuts of lorry curtain siding into our shipping containers of bikes. During the last 4 years we’ve scaled up from a few tailors working from home on donated sewing machines, to having a team of 20 tailors working in a purpose-built social enterprise, known as Beehive. They sew using brand new machines powered by the Malawian sun, earn a good wage (higher than the national average) and enjoy the same working rights and conditions to us here in the UK.
Our talented Malawian tailors, Selina, Maria, Rachel and Martha to name but a few, work creatively alongside our small design team in the UK to help develop new products. So much so that we simply had to name our new tote bag, made from recycled lorry curtain, ‘The Martha’ in recognition of the Cycle of Good tailor who enthusiastically came up with the prototype!
Compare this dignifying and well-paid work to the 70% who live on less than $2 per day and with no state benefit in Malawi, if you don’t work, you don’t eat. Cycle of Good and Krizevac are determined to end this cycle of poverty and believe that it starts with achieving a good standard of education. We work in Chilomoni township on the outskirts of Blantyre in Malawi where there are approximately 27,000 children of primary school age. National Statistics show that more than 6% are out of school, and many more do not complete primary education due to varying factors; from overcrowded learning environments to early pregnancies, to the effects of poverty and the pressure to help the family at home.
So, whilst the Cycle of Good tailors are in work, their children are educated in our children’s centre also based within Beehive. The Mother Teresa Children’s Centre is the first of its kind in Malawi to be based on the UK Sure Start Model, centered around learning through play. Sponsored international volunteers help to train local staff and the centre currently has 143 children in daycare and 88 staff. It has helped support over 10,000 children since its opening in 2007 which was made possible through funds generated by the charity. Our goal is for Beehive to be 100% self-funded, based on a stable, circular economy. The continued success and growth of Cycle of Good is an important part of achieving this. Currently under construction is a new primary school which is due to open in the Autumn of 2021. This will ensure we can build on early years learning by providing high quality education for all.
It’s been a busy few years and we know we’re doing the right thing but it was still a proud moment to receive a glowing report from the panel at BAFTS Fair Trade Network UK; a network of independent shops and suppliers dedicated to promoting Fair Trade retail in the UK. BAFTS provides a structure of accountability to its members who adhere to the 10 Principles of Fair Trade as set out by the World Fair Trade Organisation (WFTO). Cycle of Good joined BAFTS in 2019 and our inclusion underpins our work to change lives for the better by providing a market for goods in the UK and ultimately jobs in Malawi! It’s why we’re called the Cycle of Good!
For more information, please visit cycleofgood.com or contact Business Manager, Kelly Shenton [email protected]