Over the last few years, New York City architect Danny Collins and his colleague, Javier Roig, have spent their vacations building homes in under-developed regions around the world, volunteering in Cambodia, Zambia, and Nepal. Often, they personally financed the projects, which were typically building single-family homes in needy communities.
That’s how they got the idea to launch Project Latitude, a non-profit that creates products inspired and made by people in struggling areas. All proceeds from the sale of the products go back to the communities, where the money is used to meet the area’s construction needs.
“It’s our response to how volunteer trips are funded,” Collins tells Yahoo Finance.
While traveling in Ecuador, Collins and Roig were so taken with the area’s culture and natural beauty, that they made helping the South American country their inaugural project.
Inspired by the rich colors and textiles of the Andean Highlands, they designed a backpack that they say reflects the lifestyle of the community. The backpacks are handmade locally, and all of the detailing is made from 100% recycled car tires.
To fund the project, they set up a Kickstarter campaign. On April 17, 2016, one day before it was supposed to go live, a deadly earthquake hit Ecuador. Project Latitude quickly adapted its campaign to help with the relief effort.
“Our passion is in Ecuador right now,” says Collins. “And we decided that we are going to transition some of the funds from the Kickstarter campaign to help the victims both in a short-term response, as in water, food and shelter, and hopefully a longer-term response.”
Rather than building single-family homes, Project Latitude plans to focus on public works and recreational spaces along the coast of Ecuador. “We want to travel there and see what it is they need,” Collins says.
The Kickstarter campaign raised $12,500 within its 36-hour goal. “We’re not looking to stop there,” Collins says. “We’re looking to make a bigger impact on the community. We have high aspirations for the rest of the Kickstarter campaign.”
They hope to add more items to the Ecuador product line and eventually branch out to include volunteer projects throughout Latin America.