Friday, October 14, 2016

An Interesting Proposal from Horage

You might be forgiven if you have not heard of the folks at Horage.  They are a small, not terribly flashy outfit that are making interesting watches.  But they are doing something more, and that is why I am writing about them this morning.

One of the model families is the Omnium -

Courtesy of Horage

Horage has been quietly doing something very positive for people in need, who will likely never be customers.

I will be checking them out next Saturday at NYC's Wind Up event and hopefully will have a much more in-depth story for you and the charitable work that Horage are working to support.  But for now here is an example of one of their efforts to support some people with a hand up.

In 2009 they created a limited edition of 35 pieces with the intention of donating a significant amount of the proceeds to a charitable program in Bangladesh.

Here's part of the story, in their own words -

2009~ / BANGLADESH& Prof. Muhammad Ibrahim

35 Omnium (18K gold) – special edition dedicated to Bangladesh. Donation of the fund to CMES* for higher level of education of Bengal students *: Centre for Mass Education in Science.

Can science help to make the world a better place? 

You might expect to find an answer to this profound question perhaps in one of the top level universities in Europe or the US. I have made my very own findings in a country which I had previously only heard about in relation to there massive flooding or kids labour. 


Thanks to our Onmium concept of randomly selecting countries every year in order to deal with the country, its people, the problems and the chances, we were not driven by pleasurable sensation of today’s world wide news broadcasters. We accidentally drew Bangladesh in our first annual event ever at Basel trade show. And from this point the journey with and into this country began. 

Known as one of the poorest countries in the world, where kids probably have knitted together some of the shirts I own; very densely populated, with 170 million people squeezed into a country around the size of Germany: this is what most of us know about the scary side of the country. 

But we have also heard about a Nobel Prize winner who invented micro credits, a poor country which misses out the era of the land line and goes directly into the cell phone world. Rice fields, floods and cell phones used by farmers to trade rice? Hmm, this is getting interesting. Then we started to dig into this country’s socio economic structure, to figure out if there are people in this country who work on the root problem of all our societies – lack of education! 

And we found somebody who matched our profile, Ibrahim Yunus, a physicist teaching science at Dhaka University. But this is only one of the parts of his life. Studying in England decades ago, he was involved in the fight for independence when Bangladesh separated from the far distant Pakistan and became an independent nation. Ibrahim told us that this was an exciting time, driven by students. But the biggest problem in this so-called revolution was that the participants involved had no real clue how to build the complex infrastructure needed to run an independent state. Perhaps this can be compared to the control vacuum we see at the moment in the Middle East. Anyhow, Bangladesh became an independent state with no infrastructure, or at best an infrastructure based on corruption. And of course the poorest of the poor are the ones who benefit least in such a country. 

So it became his mission to give the poorest of the poor the possibility to participate in education and work their way out of poverty. But Ibrahim chose a very scientific approach naturally driven by his profession in science. Ibrahim observed that it is important, even for the poorest and youngest, to understand the basics of how our world works, to argue against their parents who are often driven by religious beliefs. And he recognized that parents wouldn’t send their kids to his school if, at the same time, they could be working in a sewing factory earning money for the family. Of course there are many other factors to consider but I think these are the two main pillars on which Ibrahim built the CMES (Center for Mass Education in Science), the largest non-governmental schooling system helping the drop-outs to get back into the society. 

But what has science to do with kids labour. 
Kids do work half a day in the CMES, so they can earn their food, create products for the CMES shops and in return the kids are paid part of the profits so they do not come home empty-handed. But in order to get work there, they need to stay in the afternoon to get proper education through the educational system of the CMES. Sounds like a deal! The products they produce are fertilizers, mushrooms, toilets, pottery, clothes and many other things, things which can on the one hand be sold and on the other hand require some kind of science to succeed. In their school of course they learn writing and reading, but also how the world ticks. For example, I have seen a teacher with little 5 year olds sitting in a barn searching with a magnet for iron particles in the sand which they have brought up from the river. A simple but very effective way to understand where this expensive iron comes from. Such ideas and many more, Ibrahim and his team have developed to make this CMES model work. And it is a great success, a self-sufficient school system fully based on logic and a passion for making the world a better place. 

Today CMES runs 400 schools with teachers all recruited out of their own schooling system and they have more than 20.000 pupils. 
Being in this place is like being in a different world rather than in one of the poorest countries. 

By the way, Ibrahim in Bangladesh is the brother of the Nobel Prize winner and they seem to be something like rock stars in Bangladesh. At least that’s what it felt like when we made a sightseeing tour through Dhaka; once people realised that this is Ibrahim, the person they know from TV shows and the radio, the cell phones popped up to make pictures non-stop. 

But it is not only the status of the CMES which makes him an extraordinary person. It is the curiosity of a scientist, one who is in fact more a scientific philosopher, with whom you can get into a very intensive, exciting and enduring discussion about everything, which makes this world and its inhabitants tick. 

But why are we working with him? Not to fund more schools which they already have! We agreed with Ibrahim that it is necessary to try to give some of the bright kids who come out of the CMES a chance to receive even higher education, because this is where his organization stops. So Ibrahim told us that if we donated 1500 CHF, he would be able to send one person for graduation to university. And higher education for the poor is perhaps the only chance this country has to stabilize its organization. 

So, in our case, Luxury is being redirected straight into young potential which later could help to improve Bangladeshi society. 

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