When Keyne Monson, Baxter vice president, market development, and his wife Kirsten visited India for the first time together in May 2010, they were overcome by the intense poverty they witnessed. They met many people who possessed impressive skills for creating beautiful and useful items, but faced challenges. Some were living with disabilities, had difficult access to markets, or were located in distressed areas, which limited their opportunities to sell their quality goods.
Together, Keyne and Kirsten created a website and non-profit organization, Elevita, to help alleviate poverty worldwide by creating economic opportunities for under-privileged people in developing countries by bringing their skills and creations to market. Over the past four years, Elevita has enabled more than 500 artisans to earn an increased income, which has had a ripple effect on their families and communities. Keyne and Kirsten are helped by a group of unpaid volunteers and advisors, including their six children, who range from ages 17 to two years old.
"It is amazing how many people are willing to engage once they catch the vision of what we are doing," says Keyne, who, in his day job, works on business model innovation projects that help advance access to healthcare for people in developing areas of the world. "We're convinced that if more people were simply aware of and exposed to the extreme poverty in which the majority of the world lives, there would be a lot more focus on trying to lift under-privileged people out of poverty in a sustainable way."
Any profits are donated to humanitarian projects, particularly in education. Proceeds have helped fund projects such as a hostel where rural girls in Rajasthan, India can stay safely while attending secondary school (planned to help 200 girls each year for four years); scholarships through a partnership with BELIEVE to five girls in the Philippines so that they can attend both secondary school and college (total of eight years of education); purchasing sewing machines for women in Cambodia so that they can become self-reliant; and purchasing an industrial oven in the Philippines that allows dozens of local women to bake capiz shells for creating bowls, frames, jewelry, and other wares.
Through this two-fold approach of creating economic and educational opportunities, Keyne and Kirsten hope that Elevita can help countless people in developing countries across the globe. The non-profit now helps artisans or artisan groups in seven developing countries: Bangladesh, Cambodia, Ghana, India, the Philippines, Tanzania, and Uganda.
"We believe in the goodness of humanity and in people's ability to respond in times of crisis to help their fellow neighbor, and hope that Elevita can provide a bridge for many people who live in the developed world to meaningfully reach out to others in need," Keyne says.
To learn more about Elevita's mission, or to purchase goods from Elevita artisans, please visit www.elevita.com.