It started the first time the Mangroves team went travelling. We felt that there was something not quite enough about the guided, scheduled, resorty way of travel to which many of us have become accustomed. There wasn’t enough engagement with the local culture, nor experiencing the way the locals actually lived, nor did we make any unfortettable stories.
Until we decided to ride our bikes across Cuba, self-supported and completely spontaneous.
More than 2000km later, the team saw so many different realities and met so many people that it has kickstarted us on a global journey ever since – through places as diverse as Guatemala, Iceland, China, Bosnia, and now Cambodia. Always learning about the local culture, sharing our way of life from back home, and learning things our society has forgotten – so that we can support people from around the world, improving standards of living in their own homelands.
Because it’s a complex world – and we’ve met so many amazing people in so many situations that we would never have imagined. And because we feel lucky to have seen and learned so much, we decided to always expose our local communities to the lessons, and the stories, and the treasures that we find overseas.
Here is the Mangroves team’s rare find from Cambodia – handwoven hammocks to channel the tropical vibes. These are made by local craftsmen in the traditional style, preserving more of the local culture than the mass-produced, nylon sheets that come from gigantic factories elsewhere that have put local artisans out of business. We want to ensure that the Cambodians continue their traditional designs and techniques, by supporting them directly as much as possible, for the things that make them proud.
The hard reality is – as much as we loved exploring the vast, ornate template complexes, and the sandy, tropical beaches, and the colourful seaside markets, and the jungle highland elephant sanctuaries – it is an underdeveloped country. It ranks 146th out of about 200 countries in the world in the UN’s Human Development Index, which tracks factors from health, to education, to poverty. It is a place with rich history and cultural pride and so many unique experiences, but it is hampered by the poverty cycle.
Locals would tell us again and again about the reliance on agriculture and tourism, and foreign domination of their largest industries, such as textiles and rubber production. This foreign control forces families to pull their kids out of school in order to help earn money.
So, we are working directly from Khmers, cutting out foreign middlemen, so that the proceeds go directly to Cambodian communities – supporting a fair and sustainable business model, being the change that we want to see in the world. It makes us feel good, and we hope it makes you proud as well, to be a part of this positive change.
We also donate 1% of all profits to the non-profit PSE (Pour un Sourire d’Enfant), who have been supporting kids as they rise out of poverty since 1995. PSE connects children from impoverished families to education, food, and medical care; then, PSE provides vocational training to adolescents, who are the first members of their families to break out of the cycle of poverty. We met a member of their team while in Cambodia – they do incredible work on the ground, and we are happy to support them!
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