By Juan Escandor Jr.
NAGA CITY---A social enterprise, started by students in 2009 as a school project, focuses on helping female inmates for them to earn and improve their process of rehabilitation.
Karaw Craft Ventures, the social enterprise led by 26-year-old Paul Andrew Orpiada, started as a school project at the Ateneo de Naga University as a requirement for the students taking Bachelor of Science in Entrepreneurship.
“We were told to create an enterprise in our senior year. Our concept is upcycling involving crafts for souvenirs made from recyclable materials,” Orpiada narrated.
Together with other three group mates, we started using paper, cardboard and textiles as materials to create crafts, he said.
Orpiada said when they started with Karaw it was purely business without the social aspect of it.
But he said after graduation the group separated because some of them went to Manila to find work while he was left here in Naga City.
Orpiada said since his passion is into arts and crafts he continued with the venture without his original group mates.
“Several opportunities came for our business to operate. In 2012 the British Council Philippines gave us P100,000 seed grant. From that time, we incorporated the social enterprise concept as we are required to build with a social mission,” he said.
Orpiada said in their case they saw the need to reinforce inmates’ rehabilitation because when they were looking for a community to be their partner they found out that there are already enough groups catering to the basic sectors.
“We decided to engage with the inmates because there are lesser groups engaging with them because we found in one study that they have so much struggle to rehabilitate themselves,” he said.
For their mission in reinforcing the rehabilitation process of the inmates they wanted them to make use of their time inside their cells doing productive work at the same time make them earn.
Orpiada said the inmates are solely relying on government to sustain their basic necessities but they also need to provide for their personal needs like toiletries.
“Aside from their basic and personal needs, the inmates also yearn to help their families in whatever way they could,” he said.
Opiada said they view the inmates not as a liability but as assets to society for their advocacy.
He said at present they have tapped 40 female inmates to create their products at the Naga City Jail in Barangay Del Rosario which is managed by the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology.
Opiada said they have developed stuffed toys from upcycling and functional items like pouches, bags, key chains, and educational products.
He said the name of their social enterprise is Karaw (Bikol word that roughly means playful) because they produce products that are playful but useful.
He said their pet project is called “encantures (encanto-creatures)” which are stuffed toys featuring Philippine mythical creatures because they also want to promote culture and arts.
So, their stuffed toys include characters from the Ibalon epic like Tandayag, the giant boar that came from Lingyon mountain that Bantog hunted down, and Oryol, half-serpent, half-woman.
From the myth of the Warays and ancient Visayan, they also make stuffed toys featuring Onglo, an ogre that lives in the swamps and likes to eat shells, andDaligmata, a kind spirit monster that helps people find their lost things.
Opiada said that though they consider their social enterprise in the start-up stage, he is optimistic they are growing and would grow as a corporation.