Inspiring couple improves lives of African families.
It’s a long way between Eumundi and Africa but a Sunshine Coast couple is closing the gap by creating ties through community-based projects.
A strong love for rural Africa was the driving force behind Pru and Murray McMillan setting up a business to help disadvantaged communities with employment, and bettering their quality of life.
Founders of social enterprise Community Projects Worldwide, Pru and Murray have been partnering with existing groups in underprivileged regions for 17 years, supporting the creation of handmade products.
“We are not a charity, although we have some not-for-profit relationships with suppliers,” Pru said.
“We deal with our suppliers on a commercial basis under the philosophy of fair trade. This way we ensure that the business (for them as well as us) is sustainable into the future.”
Located at Eumundi Square, Community Projects Worldwide stocks home décor, kitchen items, jewellery, toys and fashion accessories from numerous cultures around the globe.
The fair-trade business ensures all products have been ethically sourced.
“There are so many people and groups around the world needing support to bring their products to market,” Pru said.
“If necessary we will work with them in the early stages to refine the products and improve quality.”
The McMillans’ passion for Africa started when they were managing safari lodges in Botswana, where they were surrounded by the natural wonders of the country.
Elephants would walk freely past the windows and the lions’ roar could be heard from the lodge.
“Africa gets under your skin,” Pru said.
“You certainly develop a love for the place, the people and the animals.”
Pru and Murray founded their business as a platform to work with and support small local groups as they wanted to keep in touch with Africa and the local people upon their return to Australia.
Very quickly, the business grew and they saw how much other people wanted to support those in need, too.
Customers showed a strong interest in the products, as well as who made them and where they came from.
Telephone wire bowls are one of their more successful projects and one that has been operational for more than 10 years.
The bowls are handmade by the wives and families of cane farmers in a small, rural community in South Africa that experiences 80% unemployment.
The projects provide the families with new opportunities, allowing the women to work from home while they raise their children.
Creating at least 400 jobs, the telephone wire bowl project already has raised enough funds to build a crèche for the community, as well as implement a food scheme.
Pru said that in Africa, one wage had the ability to support up to five people, so the jobs created through these projects allowed communities to raise their living standards and quality of life.
“In Africa, it is very much a hand-to-mouth situation, and not many people have the luxury of job security,” Pru said.
Pru and Murray have now worked with more than 70 groups and projects and have expanded their reach to South America, Madagascar, India, Thailand, Central America and the Phillipines, with the positive outcomes constantly driving them to do even more.
In an effort to increase their wholesale business, they have signed up for the Reed Gift Fair in Melbourne on August 5-9. They will be featuring about three or four new product ranges including telephone wire jewellery and handmade leggings from Swaziland.
To support Community Projects Worldwide, see them at the Eumundi Square markets on Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays or go online to communityprojectsworldwide.com.au or the communityprojectsworldwide Facebook page.
The above article by Kristen Booth firswt published on sunshinecoastdaily.com.au in Jul, 2017.