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How one foreigner was motivated to give back to the Filipino community

By MONS ROMULO, The Philippine STAR Published Jun 22, 2021 6:00 am

It’s heartwarming to see Filipinos helping each other. But when you chance upon foreigners helping your countrymen, it somehow touches your heart more deeply.

That is exactly how I felt when I met Sheri Scott De Leon, owner of Notadaydream, a non-profit organization founded in 2018 by Martha Westpalm Van Hoorn-Wielens.

Sheri came to Manila three years ago together with her husband. He was then working for an international organization and was transferred from Costa Rica to the Philippines.

While looking for something worthwhile to do, she was introduced to Notadaydream founder Martha. It was perfect timing because it was also then that Martha was leaving the Philippines and was looking for someone who could take over. Martha brought Sheri to Tondo and the latter was so inspired by the team of women working tirelessly for the brand that she accepted the offer to take over.

The brand was created to support women whose children participate in the livelihood programs of our partner, Bless the Children Foundation, BYSMP, which is located in Tondo,” Sheri tells us.

She continues, “We train our team of women to become aspiring entrepreneurs and earn sustainable income for their family. This enables them to send their children to school.”

I fell in love with the beautiful hand-woven textiles that are unique to the Philippines! Being exposed to the amazing world of hand-loomed fabrics and learning about the different weaving communities are things I am so grateful for here at Notadaydream.

Notadaydream sells beautifully made quality beach bags, handbags, sling bags, pouches, travel kits and cushions, using top-quality Philippine fabrics. These are sourced from different communities and provinces from around the country. Its focus is to empower underprivileged women by teaching, guiding, and helping them create and market/ commercialize these sustainable products.

  Notadaydream sells beautifully made quality beach bags, handbags, sling bags, pouches, travel kits and cushions using top-quality Philippine fabrics.

With this in mind, Notadaydream intends to continue to partner with like-minded organizations with the same mission and is looking to expand internationally. Another great piece of news is that all proceeds, after materials, logistics, taxes and overhead costs, go to the mothers and the foundation they partner with.

Here are Sheri’s tips for those who aspire to give back to their community:

Empower women.

We believe that when we as women work together, incredible things can happen. We teach our team of women in Tondo how to earn an income. They are incredibly skilled and just need to be given that opportunity. This way of empowering women is why we have our social enterprise.

Be the circle.

We want and invite you to empower as well. As we truly believe we are able to all empower each other, it’s a circle of empowerment. The talented weavers of Ilocos make it possible for our team in Tondo to make the bags, which we are designing and selling to customers, which leads to more and more impact every day.

You can make a difference as well by joining the circle! We are very happy to collaborate with like-minded partners. Together we can have more impact!

Realize sustainable change.

We want to realize a sustainable change for our team in Tondo. Therefore, we are working with the Bless the Children Foundation. When our team is working and receiving an income, they are able to send their children to school. By creating this economic opportunity, we want to get across that you are not only helping the team, but that a whole community will benefit. 

#Givebag.

When I took over running Notadaydream, I was motivated not only by our team of women working in Tondo but also the women in my life who believed in me and have supported and provided me with opportunities in my career. Being able to give back and empower more women is something so rewarding.

Go into pandemic work mode.

During the lockdowns our production stops. This is so for many businesses such a challenging time to keep on going. We always provide our team with income, also during challenging times when they were not able to produce. The pandemic is still here. We are working very hard to keep our team with their income in a safe and sustainable way.

 Front row: (from left) Jovelyn De Guzman Jemeniz, Mary Ann Nala Salazar; back (from left): Rebecca Toralba Briones, Sheri Scott-De Leon, Josephene Ecarquez Padu, Berna Ecarquez Padua, Martine de Leeuw, Margie Sherona, Marites Riomalos de Guzman and Memia Balauro.

Adapt to market needs.

The pandemic made us pivot our business. We are now not only producing bags, but have also introduced our Casa Collection, and we now have a line of products for the home.

As we are all more in our houses now, a lot of new decoration is happening. We also see more and more consumers buying online. We already had our website, but the online focus is something that is here to stay and will make shopping much easier for everybody.

Preserve craftsmanship.

I fell in love with the beautiful hand-woven textiles that are unique to the Philippines! Being exposed to the amazing world of hand-loomed fabrics and learning about the different weaving communities are things I am so grateful for here at Notadaydream.

There are so many different weaves and stories behind this art that need to be preserved. We love using these traditional weaves that also help promote the beauty of Philippine fabrics.

Source material.

It can be challenging to source some materials for our products due to limited availability. We are dealing with local hand-woven fabrics and textiles and all materials that are needed to make our products. We use a lot of bright colors, as this is really a trademark of our brand. Sourcing for these materials at these times can be extra challenging.

 Colorful handmade bags by the women of Notadaydream.

Support local.

Our success this past year at Notadaydream could not have been possible without the amazing support we have received. It is so fulfilling to have the support of Katutubo PH, which helped us create more awareness of the way we work through showcasing the best of Philippine design. Receiving the support of local media and other Filipino publications has allowed us to get our story out there!

Socially responsible business is the future.

We are very proud that we are able to combine being socially responsible and making beautiful products that people like to buy. This win-win combination is the way forward for the fashion industry and we hope to inspire and collaborate with much more mission-minded organizations.

Sheri will be leaving the country this year, with Rosa Hibbert will be taking her place as CEO of Notadaydaydream. Its products are available at the next Katutubo Pop-Up Market.