The LEX-NG Artisan Fund in Galápagos

Helping local artisans turn trash into treasure

In many rural parts of the world, handicrafts are the second largest income generator behind agriculture. It is also, in many cases, a key component to preserving cultural heritage and empowering communities that might otherwise be left behind in today’s global economy.

The Lindblad Expeditions­-National Geographic (LEX­-NG) Artisan Fund was created to support craft communities by helping artisans develop their handicraft potential more effectively, safely and successfully. In the Galápagos, the LEX­-NG Artisan Fund launched the Glass Adaptive Reuse Project and Paper to Pearls Project: programs that help local artisans realize both an environmental and economic benefit through their crafts.

Conditions in the Galápagos are unique. Due to the isolation of the islands, artisans need to import many of their materials. The Galápagos is also 97% National Park, so all consumer waste has to be exported to the mainland. The Artisan Fund’s projects help local artisans adaptively reuse Galápagos’ trash—specifically paper waste and bulky glass—by turning them into works of art. In conjunction with the Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic Fund and the Charles Darwin Foundation, we supported a project to spread awareness of plastics pollution through art. The result? A sculpture made from plastic marine debris collected by over 1,000 schoolchildren from beaches in Galápagos.

The Artisan Fund has helped establish two fully­-equipped glass workshops on the islands, which has enabled local artisans to achieve real success—now 40% of the galleries and shops in Santa Cruz offer recycled glass and paper objects of beauty and utility. The Artisan Fund also conducted several workshops including a “Recycled Materials Jewelry Making Workshop” and a “Glass Adaptive Reuse Workshop” for the artisans of San Cristobal Island in the Galápagos, helping them improve their craft.

Recently, the LEX­-NG Artisan Fund was presented with an award from the Tecnica/Junta Provincial de Defensa Del Artesano de Ecuador/Galápagos (National Defense Board and Provincial Craftsman Defense Board of Ecuador/Galápagos) for its work. Artisans from Galápagos nominated the LEX­-NG Artisan Fund for this national award in recognition of the help and support the Fund has provided them over the years.

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