Who are we
We are the Foundation “Help Us to Help”, created in Bogotá by Fabio Ramirez Cortes a naturalized Swiss citizen of Colombian origin, the principal aim of which is to support and assist struggling single mothers eking out a living for their families in the emerald mining communities of Coscuez, Quipama and Muzo in Boyacá, Colombia.
The idea of the project arose when Fabio left his job in an international organization based in Geneva, Switzerland, and decided to apply the experience acquired in that environment, to help the communities living in very precarious way in those mining areas of the central region of Colombia. To that end he organized informal miners of these municipalities into a cooperative called Coomultraquipama.
The conditions of work in the region are extremely harsh and single mothers, a good number of whom have simply been abandoned by their men to fend for themselves, are particularly vulnerable and by extension, so are their families. The mothers have no choice but to take their small children along with them during the arduous hours spent sifting for emeralds or hunched over cutting stones for a mere pittance. There is very little money to go round and older children need to go to school in the hope of learning a trade in order to break the poverty cycle. To enable and assist the women in these communities to progress from a situation of extreme precarity to better, financial and social conditions as well as to to give them back their dignity, what remained to be done was to find support for the Coomultraquipama cooperative to build the commercial side of the enterprise.
Fabio returned to Switzerland seeking employment so as to be able to finance this stage of the venture. Unfortunately, as a result of the financial crisis and partly due to his age, no doubt, he found himself drawn into the spiral of unemployment, of countless job searches and reinsertion training. The contact with others in the same predicament, however, gave him the idea of bringing together unemployed Swiss nationals from the jewellery sector and the members of the Coomultraquipama cooperative in Colombia. He had hit on the idea of a joint collaborative initiative whereby a “solidarity” jewellery line designed by unemployed professional jewellers in Switzerland could be created using stones received through the Coomultraquipama cooperative in Colombia. At every stage, this would be an initiative that targeted the common good and would be based on profit redistribution and fairness with the objective of long-term social and environmental impact.
Our Project: Creation a social enterprise initiative
The jewellery brand of the company, “Emeraudinne – Ethical Jewellery” is based on the principles of sustainable development and corporate social responsibility. It will operate in a supportive environment and will be based on fair wages.
The first part of the project will focus on furthering the development of the production and marketing of a line of jewellery in Colombia. Training for stonecutters will continue in collaboration with the (Servicio Nacional de Aprendizaje), SENA. We aim to put the miners and stonecutters of the Coomultraquipama cooperative at the very helm of their destiny.
For the second half of the project, we will be seeking to create a workshop in Switzerland for local unemployed jewellery designers who wish to join our collaborative initiative and create a jewellery line. We will focus mostly on using mature unemployed jewellery designers but will also be able to take on graduates seeking their first work experience in the jewellery sector. We offer the opportunity of creating a strategic alliance with unemployed professionals capable of bringing their own personal experience to the project and their salaries, in the first instance, would be covered by Swiss organizations such as unemployment insurance agencies.
In both Phase I and II, the semi-precious stones used in the framework of the project will be extracted and cut by the small-scale miners and stonecutters of the Coomultraquipama cooperative. The members of the cooperative will have control of the flow of raw materials from beginning to end with no intermediaries and greater financial gain for themselves. To ensure the quality of the stones, we are grateful to the Servicio Nacional de Aprendizaie (SENA) in Colombia which will handle training in the cutting and polishing of semi-precious stones. This training will be for 30 people (20 women, 4 men and 6 adolescents).
It is projected that the initiative as planned should be self-financing within 18 months.