Warm Heart Worldwide … Ever heard of them? If you haven’t, it’s time to learn more about this amazing organization which certainly lives up to its name. Because Warm Heart (WH) is a small operation focused on community development in rural northern Thailand. For example there’s a Children’s Home which today has grown to 45 mostly hill tribe children who live at WH during the school year. There are projects focused on sustainable farming and health access for the elderly and disabled residents of the community. And last but not least, WH runs a Fashion Accessories Microenterprise (FAM) program. It’s now in its 10th year of operations with local women’s co-ops who make wonderful Thai handmade fashion accessories.
Who’s behind this Fashion Accessories Microenterprise?
There are three dedicated volunteers involved with the activity. First there is Evelind Schecter who is also the co-founder of Warm Heart. Secondly, there is Josephine Bow, the overall manager. And lastly Britta Von Wedel, the jewelry designer. WH does all the design, costing, material sourcing and production financing. As a result they work with small women’s co-ops who are paid on a per-piece base at Fair Trade rates. WH also produces, oversees and deals with all marketing and selling.
The journey of Warm Heart
Evelind and her husband Michael founded Warm Heart in 2008. FAM with traditional handicrafts was a natural extension of her lifelong passion for beautiful handcrafted objects. Ultimately, she hopes that FAM will eventually have a full-time cooperative of weavers, jewelry makers and sewers.“Our original focus was on economic development through education and micro enterprise. We later got involved in public health as people came to see us to help solve problems or find resources. FAM with traditional handicrafts was a natural extension of my lifelong passion for beautiful handcrafted objects. I lived in Japan and Hong Kong as a child. So through the years I collected pieces of Thai silk and I still treasure them now”, explains Evelind.
Josephine began volunteering at WH in 2011 and she returns to Thailand every winter for two months. The rest of the year she manages the business from her home base in Spain. Besides this she is a garment industry consultant and journalist with many years experience in global sourcing and the fashion industry. Above all, her goal is to ensure that FAM is managed like a real business and she is proud that it is sustainable on an operational level.
Warm Heart’s impact on women’s lives
The women in the co-ops have never had an income to pay for food, schooling for their children and basic health care. WH tries to pay them the current national minimum daily wage of USD10 (which is quite high for rural Asia). The women’s first priority is working in the fields and taking care of their families. Working with WH provides income during the months when they are freer. WH adapts their production schedules to their availability.
Fashion Accessories Collections
Currently WH produces four collections of fashion accessories and works regularly with three women’s co-ops. First of all was handwoven scarves made from commercially dyed rayon and cotton yarn. And secondly, WH had the collection for naturally dyed eri silk scarves in a beautiful array of soft hues. Scarves comprise just under half of total sales.
The yarn dyeing and weaving co-op is headed by two amazing Buddhist nun sisters who are incredibly skilled and creative. Although WH has worked with them for over seven years, the sisters have yet to show all their talent. The scarves combine traditional complex weaving designs with fashionable colorways appealing to a sophisticated international clientele.
Thai Jewelry Collection
Besides the scarves, the third collection is for handmade jewelry, mostly bracelets designed by Britta. She comes to northern Thailand regularly to check up on her other handicraft business. She has been a volunteer at WH since 2014. And her hugely popular bracelets now account for half of all sales. Her specialty is knowing the latest fashion trends and developing prototypes which can be made with suitable materials at WH’s target price points and available either locally in Chiang Mai or ordered in advance. The final step is introducing the new styles – the fifth collection is in the works now – to the skillful jewelry makers and showing how to make them.
Finally, WH’s fourth collection is for sewn products, mostly tote bags, laptop covers and backpacks using recycled rice bags with colorful graphics. Therefore we put together our favorites for you. Discover all Warm Heart Worldwide designs here.
More on Discovered
Warm Heart sells to privates, high-end stores in Chiang Mai and online. Luckily their best products are also available on Discovered.