Announcing the Tolos Project
Posted on June 23 2018
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Pit Liquor is a unique product from the start, but now every bottle of deodorant means more than just non-toxic, stink-free pits. (As if that wasn't enough to start with!)
Proceeds from purchases made at Distilled Bath and Body, LLC are also used to finance micro-loans and help people cover their medical costs in Guinea-Bissau, West Africa.
We (Erica and Jason) used to live and work in Guinea-Bissau, West Africa. This is us there visiting when we were 20 weeks pregnant with Eve (and just starting to work on Pit Liquor). By accident, we stumbled on this video and our friend Iliezer came to mind. Instead of working with a would-be hacker, we have the chance to work with someone we have a lot of history and trust with. Iliezer is a dear friend and we've done a lot of different kinds of work with him over the past 11 years as well as having spent a lot of time together both in person and over Skype.
We know Iliezer well and trust him implicitly, and he has just moved back to Guinea-Bissau after obtaining his second master's degree as a lawyer. This picture is his family a month ago on their wedding date.
A lot of little things add up...
So in January, we made a business proposition to Iliezer. We told him we wanted to know if he had known needs in his community. We didn't even have to wait for the answer. Guinea-Bissau has been called the worst place in the world to be a woman, it has been in the top 10 poorest countries for most of the past decade. The country has had more political instability than I can stomach. And the beautiful, resilient people are hungry, sick, and struggling financially. He wrote us back with a list of families he knows who have immediate needs and he had brilliant ideas for how he wanted to reach them. His ideas included micro-loans, paying for life-saving prescriptions and medical procedures for families who can't afford them, paying for expensive medical treatments, starting a neighborhood cleanup effort that includes creating jobs, paying kids' school costs, etc. He has a plan to help kids actually finish the school year. For almost half a year, he's been chipping away at these needs, and he's making a rocking difference in his community.
The picture above is Bruno who sat in the hospital for more than 6 months waiting for life-saving surgery. His surgery was moved multiple times because he was extremely anemic. Iliezer (left) came to pay for food for Bruno and a few weeks later, he was healthy enough to have surgery. He went home and recovered fully. His is one of many such stories.
On Christmas day 2017, we and our friends and community in Guinea-Bissau suffered a devastating loss. The man above, Tolentino, lovingly called Tolos, passed away in Guinea-Bissau. He devoted his life to helping and caring for people in his country. He loved Guinea-Bissau with his entire heart and turned down opportunities to live abroad because he cared deeply for his "terra." He died of completely preventable causes, and his loss was felt around the world. We've had tear-filled conversations with friends in Brazil, Tunisia, Guinea-Bissau, and the USA about how his loss was felt.
Because of his life of service and his incredible, beautiful mission to love the people of Guinea-Bissau, we want to call this the Tolos Project. It is an outpouring of love for Guinea-Bissau, a place we consider a second home for our hearts. We've been involved with loving Guinea-Bissau for over a decade now. This grief and sadness we feel is turning into change that Tolos would have been delighted by. I still can't believe he's gone, and I will always remember the last thing I saw him doing: working in the rain and mud with a beautiful smile on his face. He was working on a water filter factory to make filters for the people of Guinea-Bissau at affordable prices.
The Water Filter Project
Tolos was actively involved in working on a water filter project to make affordable water filters in Guinea-Bissau. It was the final project he set his hands to, and he worked at it for many years. This picture shows him working on testing and creating the filters. Other friends of ours are currently working on the water filters. They worked closely with Tolos on a daily basis. We don't presently have a nonprofit organization for our work. We felt it was more important to get funds to Africa and we will organize an official thing later. Saving money on taxes is less important to us than getting real needs met.
If you're feeling a desire to be involved in Guinea-Bissau in a way that is meaningful and more direct than just buying a bottle of Pit Liquor, please check out the work being done by West African Vocational Schools and our friends, Jason and Emily Atkins. Jason and Emily were our teammates when we lived and worked in Africa. We visited them while I was pregnant with our daughter. We love them dearly and believe strongly in them and in what they're doing. Jason and Emily are working on the water filter factory that Tolentino was working on. It's a direct way to continue his work. They worked alongside Tolos for many years in various capacities.
To support their work directly, you can use WAVS secure giving page to give online, or send a check with "Atkins" on the memo line to: WAVS / P.O. Box 25455 / Seattle, WA 98165.
This is our story
Thanks for taking time to learn about the heart behind Pit Liquor. It's a fun, lighthearted product, but it has a serious impact as well. A little bit goes a long way in Guinea-Bissau, so we started sending money, and now it's growing because a large portion of it is going in the form of micro-loans. We will send Tolos Project Updates as they become available. We look forward to seeing this grow and change. My most recent conversation with Iliezer shows a lot of potential on the horizon for this work. Please keep quenching your stench and we'll keep using the proceeds to make this world better.
*We give in a percentage, so the more we sell, the more we can send to Iliezer. We are putting money toward growing our company as well, but felt that this was of vital importance and wanted to make it one of the early things our company started to do.
As always, feel free to email me, Erica: email@example.com for any reason. I love hearing from you and look forward to getting to know you!