by: Jessica Bakken
Four years ago, Land Mine Design founders began working in a village on the border of Cambodia called “the Mine Field Village” due to its location nestled along a 450 mile border where the largest concentration of land mines in the world is located. Those who call this village home are the poorest of the poor. Many are forced to leave their homes and find work in nearby Thailand as migrant farm labourers, earning less than a dollar a day. As a village situated near the border, human trafficking is a constant threat.
Land Mine Design was created in 2012 to give the women in this village the chance to earn a living from home where they can still care for their families. The program teaches women the craftsmanship of creating jewelry out of rolled paper. We caught up with Creative Manager, Kristie Dunnigan, to talk about what inspired Land Mine Design and the importance of social enterprise.
Q. What inspired Land Mine Design?
Landmine Design was inspired by complete and utter heartbreak. It was three years ago that the Landmine Design staff witnessed approximately 500 families living on top of a former minefield along the Cambodian-Thailand border. With no options for income or resources to sustain their lives, mothers and fathers were left with no choice but to leave their children for months at a time in search of work. This not only subjected the women to the dangers of one of the most human trafficked borders on the globe but also left their small children alone and vulnerable to the dangers of the minefield.
Quite simply, witnessing this way of living and not acting was not an option. To witness was to become involved and dreams of involvement and bettering countless lives led to the creation of LandMine Design, where women now work from the safety of their homes with their families earning a sustainable income and education.
What was once just an idea is now a reality with miraculous stories of hope because of a loving and faithful God whose hand has led and guided this story from day one. We’re indescribably grateful to be a part as this journey unfolds.
Why are social enterprise companies important?
I have always believed in the power of good business. I’m the kind that eats up the stories of entrepreneurs chasing their dreams, owning their own businesses, and serving consumers with exceptional quality and service – the family owned restaurants, the local boutiques, the longstanding supermarket. And in a lot of cases, that can be enough and there is something so special about the way in which these businesses serve.
It was just a few years ago I learned of the true power of business, however. Not that everyone should or needs to run out and create a social enterprise tomorrow, but the fact that it can and does function is profoundly beautiful to me. And it needs to, it is vitally important.
Social enterprises not only shed light on the beauty and well intended hearts of humanity; they link these hearts directly to stories of worth and invite strangers deeply into them. Together, individuals can not only elevate and propel a worthy mission, they can become educated and aware of issues and needs they maybe wouldn’t have known about otherwise, perhaps in a country they previously couldn’t have pointed to on a map (I have been that person, staring at a globe…)
I love fashion and worked in the industry for sometime before I was driven mad with the simple question of “To what end? And the end of the day, who is this serving?” Social enterprise answers this question and the “end” places companies dream of and are driving their businesses towards are incredibly worthy.
Landmine Design’s “end” is the employment of otherwise vulnerable and endangered women unable to care for their children. Through this employment education, confidence, sustainability, and hope for generations to come may be a reality. And that is a miracle!
What goals would Land Mine Design like to achieve within the next 5 years?
Our heart is forever about one more woman, providing one more woman with safety and hope to dream for something beyond survival. Today, we work and employ within one village that has stolen our hearts, The MineField Village, where approximately 500 families squatted out of desperation and now call home. Our five year vision however, is to employ hundreds of women all throughout the rural villages of Cambodia. We dream of meeting need with opportunity for countless in the coming years.
Alongside employment, Landmine Design deeply desires to provide an educational system encompassing various areas of need involving teachings on health and hygiene, financial management, and Christian discipleship. While these fundamental teachings are already implemented into the very foundation of Landmine Design today, we plan to continuously develop and improve our program to ensure women are progressing and may graduate from the program within our desired 4-5 year time frame possessing a quality education, savings, confidence, and faith in Jesus Christ to be self-sustaining. We dream of someday having Landmine Design graduates in the hundreds, challenging the poverty stricken landscapes and hopeless eyes we see today.
We plan to empower native leadership within our program. While we are honored to travel to Cambodia to lead and to serve the beautiful women we employ, we dream of truly empowering them to take initiative and leadership roles. To see our women strong enough to run a business and educational program is a collective dream of all of us at Landmine Design, and one I believe will be a reality sooner than we can even imagine.
Of course, these dreams and visions are directly related to our sales growth and how successfully we serve our consumer base in the coming years. We’re predominantly an online shop, found in boutiques across a few states, and invite hosts to open their homes to throw jewelry parties all throughout the country (and world!) to both share our story and our jewelry. While our growth must be slow and steady given our production system, we have big dreams of expansion given our even larger dreams of employment. We aspire to double sales annually in the coming years to foster this employment growth.
How can people support the mission of land Mine Design?
Purchase. Buy a piece of jewelry, of course! ☺
Our heart is for the women we employ and our goal is sustainability for them and their families. Since day one we have understood sustainability is 100% reliant on the quality of work in which they produce. Our women have worked tirelessly perfecting their beads and assembly for our modern marketplace consumers, and our deepest hope is that purchasing is of ease and not pity because you genuinely like our products - If there is a discrepancy here, please do let us know!
And it really is that easy! Profits from our sales go directly back into the Landmine Design program affording these women with monthly salaries, clean water, education, and above all hope.
Because we desire to put all profits back into our program, our staff works on donation. While this is not the reason I grow excited in sharing about the work God is doing, it is a means of inviting individuals to step deeply into this story with us and ensure its progression. If you feel called to join us or have further questions let’s chat and explore together!
Got talent or that travel bug?
If you fancy a long plane ride, a bit of dirt, and possess a skill you think could benefit the work we’re involved in please do not hesitate to reach out! We travel to Cambodia in the months of January and June and have brought countless individuals who simply desire to serve with their God given talents. While in most cases we cannot foot the bill, we do our best to assist and guide with fundraising. And we kind of love showing our guests this beautiful country and its people, so shoot me a line and let’s dream together.
How did Land Mind design become a part of your story?
Ever since I can remember I deeply desired to work in the chaotic and high-strung world of fashion. It was appealing it me - its pace, its glamour, its run-the-world mentality and power. I grew up in Colorado via Northwest Montana so my infatuation was always from afar and I created my own outlets. These outlets came in various forms, whether it was the redundant question of “what is Kristie wearing?” or my discovered love and knack for sourcing and flipping vintage to turn a profit, I always had my hand in something. My love for the world of fashion was reiterated and matured when I landed a spot working at the fashion house of Oscar de la Renta for a summer stint in Manhattan. While at the time it was a dream come true, its realities and lessons challenged me, ultimately leading to realizations to bless myself and my journey for the long haul.
My experience in the industry repeatedly brought up the question of “to what end?” as I sat and watched women make themselves slaves to an industry busy convincing other women of what they needed, encouraging both a competitive and consumerist nature I highly disagreed with. While I do not mean to belittle and talk badly on an industry where many find their talents and bless this world with impeccable style and design I still gawk over on the daily, I say these things because it was a definable turning point in promising myself I would and needed to do much more.
These realizations led to a late night discussing and dreaming with my better half, my older sister Alexa. With hearts aligned and hearts on fire for using the platform of fashion to gift women with more meaning and greater depth the AMMO woman was born. the AMMO woman is our jewelry line, created using various calibers of bullets comprised of lead – lead being the toughest metal on its exterior and most radiant on its interior – we paralleled its composition to that of a woman. Each piece possesses a unique semi-precious stone that hangs down the back, personally placed and meant to be defined as something you’re striving for. With these pieces we sought to remind women to know their targets and to set their sights, alongside employing those facing obstacles to employment through the production of our handmade packaging.
For these reasons, when Landmine Design was in need of a designer to modernize their line just one year ago, my sister and I were approached given our experience with jewelry and more importantly, hearts for the betterment of women. And as the story goes, what was to be a one time trip to Cambodia evolved itself into the very heart of my being and now my fulltime work ensuring its progression and success for all of the beautiful women and families I’m blessed to know by name. It has been nothing short of the most God led and blessed journey of my life and it is my prayer this may be just the beginning.
In the lead up to ‘Shine a Light on Human Slavery Day’ on February 27th, Land Mine Design will be sharing stories and perspectives on the battle against human trafficking. Follow along on instagram @landminedesign for more.