The Family Tree: “We are committed to Fair Trade. Our shop supports over 30 social and environmental initiatives including crafts cooperatives, women’s groups, ethnic minorities and people with special needs.”
What a treat when our new found friend in Hua Hin , Brian Arthur Solomon, himself a socially and spiritually conscious coach and community activist, introduced us to a very special shop run by very special people!
We had the pleasure of visiting Dtor and Peter at The Family Tree located in the crowded tourist district a few minutes from the famous Pier in Hua Hin. The passion and commitment of these young social entrepreneurs is contagious. They are on the leading edge of connecting sustainability to community based art and culture via a socially oriented business here in Thailand.
We discover that they are taking many things into consideration in this project. A big part of their vision is to help plant trees. They are part of a team that initiated a project called Greener Tomorrow and continually contribute money from the shop sales and personally arrange tree plantings with members of their own family and volunteers (including visitors to the area).
Dtor comes from a province in north-eastern Thailand and grew up in a society where natural dyed silk and weaving was part of her culture. It is easy to see that she loves beauty and nature which is reflected in the shop and in her shining personality.
Her husband, Peter who is from the UK, bubbles with enthusiasm for social enterprise and his little Thai family. His background is working with Thai colleagues to help local Thai communities to set up community based tourism and cultural exchange programs (see more at this inviting site). I still have to investigate this myself ! Just have to stay here longer!
He is very happy to have this shop to bring together all the things that he is passionate about in one place. He is full of ideas and future projects that are exciting and novel. Networking and social consciousness are key in his plans. I am turned on by his ideas and have already said that I would like to contribute at least with his planning and brainstorming process and perhaps more – who knows!
I think these people are courageous and committed to dare to put their savings into this tiny shop in such a competitive area! But the place is buzzing and the word is spreading. This little experiment is catching attention. The Family Tree have been invited to present at the LIKHA ASYA Philippines Art Festival in February in Bohol. Dtor will make a presentation about the Family Tree and run a workshop on communicating the value of community products!
And Peter was asked to develop a “Green Map & Local Compass” of the Hua Hin area highlighting sustainability. This is a wonderful contribution to developing consciousness for both visitors and the Thais themselves as they can become more aware of the potential that already exists in their country. I was thrilled to get a copy of this little map and become familiar with the certified green hotels, as well as tips for how we as tourists can contribute to a more sustainable and culturally enriching travel. It is great to be able to leave it around where we visit.
The tip about bargaining is very important for us tourists: to be sensitive when bargaining and not try to push prices too low because this keeps down local wages and encourages the use of lower quality and less sustainable materials and makes it more difficult for principled local traders to earn a decent living. It is easy to forget this in our desire for a good price. We tourists have a lot to learn here – as being on vacation has a tendency to make you forget about these important issues.
I also really appreciate that Dtor and Peter work deeply with the principle of cooperation and sharing. They showcase other examples of green business and eco-tourism on their blog. I have gotten many good ideas by just following them here.
In addition to all these great social issues, I must put a word in about the products themselves. It is difficult not to spend hours deciding which of the many original, unique, modern and colorful items you want to purchase! While we were there a woman came in for the fifth time because there are new items arriving all the time. I came away with a bag full and plan to go back for more! The prices are a little higher than on the street but way beyond in quality, originality and sustainability. I particularly like the jewelry and sculptures made out of recycled paper.
Their website and video below will tell their story and show their products in more detail. Enjoy and if you see something you want – let me know!