A whole lot more goes into Intrepid tote bags than you might think 

written by Emma Sparks March 6, 2023

Intrepid tote bags. Handy for carrying stuff. Help us avoid single-use plastics. Make good mementos of great adventures. 

But we’re proud to say there’s a bit more to it than that. We are a B Corp after all – which means we squeeze every drop of goodness we can into our business and consciously choose to work with suppliers who create a positive social impact. 

When it comes to tote bags, that means carefully handpicking local producers to ensure that wherever possible, your on-trip gift directly supports small social enterprises within your destination. We offer free totes to travellers on most of our trips, wherever it’s practical to do so – but if you’ve come prepared or would rather borrow one and hand it back to your leader in good condition at the end of your trip, that works for us too. 

So how much good can a bag really do? Turns out, quite a lot. Here are some of the ways Intrepid totes are empowering communities, challenging harmful stereotypes, preserving cultural heritage and changing the lives of people all over the world. 

All smiles in Chiang Mai 

Keeping families together in Thailand  

When textile worker Mrs Isada left her factory job to go freelance, she simply hoped to gain more freedom. She enjoys working from the comfort of her home neighbourhood, On Tai, on the outskirts of Chiang Mai. Little did she know her business would eventually blossom into a community enterprise supporting almost 30 artisans.  

The sewing work her organisation brings in enables more local women to remain at home with their families, rather than having to leave for bigger cities to find employment. COVID-19 hit the group hard – but thanks to orders from the likes of Intrepid, they’re starting to bounce back. Our travellers in Thailand each receive a unique tote featuring traditional Thai fish designs made by Mrs Isada and her colleagues. 

Asylum seeker Rosemary has been part of the Naomi community since 2016 

Creating community and opportunity for refugees in Greece 

We work with humanitarian organisation Naomi to produce our totes bags In Greece. As well as providing emergency aid to refugees and asylum seekers, the organisation also offers language lessons and courses in sewing and tailoring, equipping them with tangible, transferable skills. 

Rosemary Onwugharam came to Greece from Nigeria as an asylum seeker in 2006. She learned to sew at the Naomi workshop in Thessaloniki in 2016, and has stayed in touch ever since. She gained a part-time contract on their textile production line in November 2022, and went full time in January 2023. 

“At Naomi I can work in a safe, friendly and fair work environment. I earn money for my family and can cover my needs and be independent. It’s great being part of a team with a strong sense of belonging.” 

On our Mainland Greece Discovery trip, travellers even swing by the workshop to meet Rosemary and her colleagues and learn more about Naomi’s work. 

“It’s a good feeling to meet people from all over the world,” says Rosemary. “I’m very proud that the tote bags we make are travelling all over the world, spreading a message of solidarity and respect for human rights.” 

Providing a safe space for trans women in Peru 

Since 2019, Casa Trans – a project created by and for trans women – has been providing a safe space for the trans community in Lima, Peru, offering sexual health advice, HIV tests and counselling. In a country where life expectancy for trans women is just 35, support systems like these are crucial. 

Gaining safe paid work is another significant challenge facing trans people in Peru. According to a recent IPSOS Peru survey, only 3% of Peruvian trans women are able to access formal employment. 

Enter FUERZA by Casa Trans – a textile startup launched during the pandemic that originally produced protective clothing and face masks. These days, orders from the likes of Intrepid help Casa Trans to provide training and employment to the community and a vital stepping stone towards a brighter future. 

The Kisisyo women hard at work 

Breaking down barriers for women in Kenya  

If you want something done right, do it yourself. That seems to be the way at Kisisyo Women’s Group in Kenya. This collective of 12 women formed the self-help group in 1995 in an effort to improve their living standards and find mutual support. For Lucy Gichu, a 55-year-old founding member from the Majengo slums in Nairobi, their mission is simple: “We formed the group to empower our women.”  

“Ever since we partnered with Intrepid, our members have been economically uplifted. Thanks to the orders from Intrepid, members of Kisisyo Women’s Group are not falling victim to drugs, alcoholism, sex work and other negative impacts that come with living in slums. We have been economically empowered, as we can afford daily simple meals and to take our children to school”. 

Young adults and women from rural areas gain valuable skills at Jugaad 

Maximising the potential of young adults in India  

In Hindi, ‘Jugaad’ roughly translates as ‘making the most out of the little you have’. And that’s exactly what happens at Jugaad, the sister project of children’s refuge Karm Marg, located near New Delhi, India.  

Here, young adults (mostly Karm Marg alumni) and women with limited employment opportunities from surrounding rural areas learn to create bags, wallets, stationery and other handicrafts. They often use donated waste materials such as newspapers and second-hand textiles to up the eco-credentials of their products. This vocational training helps to empower people in Indian society who are often overlooked, while supporting Karm Marg’s important work. 

‘Say no to plastic’  

Supporting ethnic minorities and people with disabilities in Vietnam 

Organic cotton, hemp and natural dyes – so far, so modern eco-warrior. But the use of these textiles and techniques is by no means new and trendy. In the mountainous regions of northern Vietnam, ethnic minority communities have been using these materials to create traditional costumes and handicrafts for generations. Now, with the support of Indigo in Hanoi – a workshop aiming to preserve Vietnam’s ethnic minorities’ cultural heritage – they’re transferring these skills to our travellers’ totes. 

This year, we’ll also be working with new Intrepid Foundation partner Vun Art. They work to eradicate social stigma and discrimination against people with disabilities by providing them with training and employment at their textile workshop.  

Intrepid leader takes a break on a Volcan Sierra Negra hike in the Galapagos 

Empowering the indigenous Otavalo community in Ecuador 

Ecuador’s indigenous Otavalo people are known for their intricate embroidery and textiles. The best place to see their wares is the colourful Otavalo market – which happens to feature on the itinerary of our Ecuador Highlands trip.  

We work directly with the Picuasi family from Otavalo to source tote bags for Intrepid travellers in the region, as well as our leaders’ vibrant t-shirts and bags. Through their business they provide employment to at least 10 local indigenous families. 

Improving the lives of women from townships in South Africa  

In South Africa we source our fairtrade tote bags from Township, an umbrella organisation representing seven independent women-owned cooperatives based in Cape Town.  

They’ve been operating since 1997, providing sustainable economic opportunities to  women living in South Africa’s township communities. Today over 60 women produce beautiful handmade clothing and bags made from 100% natural cotton, jute and recycled PET fabric. 

Want to travel with Intrepid and get your hands on a tote bag that changes the world? Check out our small group adventures. 

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