One Sustainable Business Gives At-Risk Kids The Chance to Work as Professional Artists

'FairMail' teaches children about photography, business and personal accountability.
FairMail allows gives at-risk kids the chance to learn a skill and earn their own money. (Photo: FairMail)
Sep 16, 2012· 1 MIN READ
A Bay Area native, Andri Antoniades has previously worked as a fashion industry journalist and a medical writer.

While living in Peru, Dutch couple Janneke Smeulders and Peter den Hond noticed that the local children were particularly excited about cameras. As a result, they decided to hire the kids to photograph the area's landscape for greeting cards the couple would later sell. That simple idea was the starting point for Smeulders' and den Hond’s Fair Trade-certified business, FairMail, according to the company website.

FairMail operates in Peru and India, and just expanded to Morocco. According to GOOD, the company partners with locally-based outreach programs to hire and support at-risk and underprivileged kids. Children are supplied with a camera and photography lessons, allowing them to take pcitures of whatever peaks their interest. FairMail then sells those images to publishing houses, which licenses them to a multitude of businesses like stock photography sites and print shops.

Smeulders keeps track of each of her photographer’s progress on the site, and pays them quarterly. According to GOOD, some kids have made as much as $10,000 since the beginning of their photography careers. Many state that their income goes to housing and education.

But it’s not only professional training that FairMail gives to these children. The business also supplies them with medical coverage and career counseling.

Den Hond said in a statement, “There are big income differences between the teenagers, depending on their talent, motivation and effort. We want to show the kids that they can control their destiny by working for it.”

Indeed, FairMail isn’t about a hand-out, but personal accountability. The kids are even contractually obligated to repair or replace cameras that are broken or lost with their own earnings.

“Our teenagers don't need pity. They need customers who buy their product just because they love their pictures.”

Would you like to see a business like this for under-served kids the U.S.? Let us know your take in the Comments.