David Ashkenazi is a 43-year-old painter who lives in Kiryat Ono, a city just 20 minutes driver of Tel Aviv. A few times a week David goes to his studio in Givataim, where he paints and creates. He already had a few exhibitions in different place across Israel and nothing makes him happier than one of this painting is sold. Some of David’s painting were scanned and then printed on different products like coffee coasters and hotpot placement and when they are sold, David gets his share of the sale. This wouldn’t be an exceptional story if David wasn’t diagnosed with Down Syndrome when he was little.
David lives in a hostel and commutes with a bus to the studio and back all by himself. The studio he creates in is operated by a nonprofit organization in his home town called “Al-Geva”. The organization operates a vocational center in which people with mental and cognitive disabilities like David can work, create, learn new skills through the work they do, and not less important feel belong and appreciated.
Orly Shemesh, the manager of the center, tells us that David is very passionate about his paintings. “It’s impossible to convince him to draw anything else besides what he set his mind to”. The team in the center support his work and they even organized for him a few art exhibitions, in which his paintings are presented and sold. David says that any day one of his painting is sold is a good day for him. It makes him happy that people appreciate his work, that people can look at him and see his contribution to society, not only his disability.
One of the specialties of the centers is mosaic work for walls and buildings decoration. It’s not just a great satisfaction for the team and the workers to see how blank blocks turn into colorful mosaics constructed from hundreds and thousands of colorful stones. It’s a joint effort where everybody is engaged and working together as a team.
Vocational centers like the one David is work in are very common in Israel and also in other counties. They have a wide range of capabilities, some produce ceramics, some jewelry, other makes candle or light textiles. But most of them are having problem selling because of lack or resources, limited distribution and the absence of business skills in a nonprofit organization that focuses on rehabilitation.
Recently “Al-Geva” vocational center started to sell some of it’s product on a unique e-marketplace for social impact products called buyforgood.biz. It’s an online store dedicated only for social impact products made in vocational training centers and social-enterprises. About 20 vocational centers and nonprofits organizations already uses the platform to sell their handmade crafts. You can find natural soaps, Judaica, handmade candles for Shabbat, Havdalah or just for atmosphere, as well as ceramics, home decoration, tea and kids’ toys.
“We believe there is a demand for social impact products”, says BuyforGood.biz founder and CEO Yuval Arbel, “they just have to be accessible, in high quality and competitive price. The centers we work with can meet these requirements and we believe in them and in the people working in them. We offer them a platform, helping them with the logistic and promoting the products on various channels. Consumers has power and we want to harness this power in order to make tikkun olam and support the work of people disabilities and underserved communities. If people will shift one purchase they make a year on Amazon or other website and buy social impact products, that with give a huge support to people with disabilities, and it would make the world a much better place”.
Yuval, a social tech entrepreneur from Tel Aviv, Israel, started to think about this website when he was on a business trip to China. “I was producing garments for US retailers like Target and I felt I was missing something, I wanted to do something with a meaning. When I came back home I started to google nonprofits organizations in Israel to see if there are any vacancies and didn’t find anything, but I saw all the different products that are been produced in Israeli vocation centers and I thought that if Chinese factories can sell in the USA, why Israelis with disabilities can’t do it as well? The idea was building up in my head for a few years until last year I decided to leave my day job as an operation manager in an Israeli company and started to build BuyforGood.biz.”
Today BuyforGood collaborates with 20 nonprofit centers from all over Israel, employing people with mental health disorders, cognitive disabilities and underserved communities including at risk youth. They have about 150 products, great gifts for different occasions on the website and even some designer items on the website that are made in one of the vocational centers. Said Yuval, “I believe social impact product shouldn’t be something you buy out of pity. We want to change the perception about people with disabilities and show they contribute to society and can produce beautiful products in great quality, competitive price and with social impact.”
Please checkout their website and facebook page and see the beautiful products in competitive price offered and remember BuyforGood next time you are looking for one gift or a group of them for a bar-mitzvah or other Simcha. Please help spread the word!