About this time last year I was walking through Melbourne Central, a shopping centre right in the heart of Melbourne, on my way to church and I passed a little pop up shop selling backpacks. It looked like a neat little place, containing backpacks with all kinds of unique, funky patterns. Then my eyes caught hold of this…
I was sold at first sight.
I went in and had a look at the bag, and this young guy walks up to me (the staff member) and starts to tell me the story of this bag. It was the first time I met Koky Saly, and it was a day I will always remember.
He began by telling me that this bag was made from recycled material; pretty cool stuff. This company, BeeKeeper, takes left over and unused segments from the ends of the thousands of rolls of fabrics that are sitting around, discarded in warehouses by large companies, and upcycles them to become fantastic, ground-breaking products. He tells me that because of this there are only three, two, maybe even one backpack that can ever be made from the amount of fabric they find on each roll, making each one unique and individual. At this time, I was really developing my passion for ethical and Fair trade products and desiring to make a difference through what I buy, so sustainability drew me even closer to buying this bag.
Then he tells me that this project is a social enterprise, his way to give back to the world, and that he is not in the game for the money, but for the impact. He tells me that he has opened a school in Cambodia, his home country, and through the sale of his backpacks he is able to support children to learn English, educated for a future full of hope; hope for a life free from poverty. He tells me that each backpack that he sells means English education for a child for a whole year. Yes, an entire year! By now I am just waiting for him to finish speaking so I can buy it!
Finally, he tells me the why, the reason he wants to impact the world. He tells me that he was born in prison, that his mother was imprisoned during the civil war in Cambodia and that the first few years of his life were spent behind bars, and that it is a miracle he survived. He tells me that his mother, along with their sister, were eventually aided to cross the border and escape, emigrating to Australia. He tells me that his mother, after arriving with her children as refugees, worked tirelessly to provide for their family and make sure they grew up educated, full of hope for a life free from poverty. He tells me of dreaming with his sister of changing the world and the lives of those they left behind. He tells me of how he lost his sister to cancer..
Koky Saly is quite simply one of the most remarkable people I have ever met. Rather than letting his dream of impacting the world for good end with his sister’s passing he built a way for it to happen, persevering and creating in his sister’s honour and memory through this legacy. Through making products that inspire change he has managed to initiate and eventuate life-giving solutions to a school full of bright eyed, hopeful children. He has become a dear friend and someone that I admire greatly. I wish I could tell you more of his story, but I feel that I could never do it justice. Let him tell you:
This bag has been my companion every day for a year, coming with me all the way around the world to Canada, and it is in just as good condition today as it was when I bought it. Koky truly makes remarkable products that inspire change. If you live in Melbourne, make a trip to the city. Hop off at Melbourne central station and go find Koky; tell him that Josh from the Salvos sent you! He’s got his space in Melbourne Central until January 31st, so make it snappy! You can also check out all the wonderful products he sells on the website. And if you are reading this from Not-Australia, good news! International shipping is available. I’d be more than happy to chat, too, if you have questions; drop me a line from the contact page.
And on the off chance that you read this, Koky, thank you for all the incredible work you do! I miss you muchly, and can’t wait to catch up again when I am back in Australia.
Grace and Peace.