Friday, January 7, 2011

Project Repat: aid, hipster style!

My dear friend Priyanka is constantly sending me inspiring links, things i should check out, and "why don't you know about this already!?" emails. I am eternally grateful to her for this. Last week she said I just must see her friend Sean's new T-shirt project. While this is not the usual DWSCI type of interview, I just love Project Repat's concept so much I just couldn't help me publish it!
Can you save the developing world with used hipster teeshirts? Sean Hewens and Ross Lohr think so, and have brought Project Repat to show the world just that!

What was the inspiration for this project?
Project Repat was conceived by Sean Hewens and Ross Lohr, the Executive Directors of two Boston based nonprofit organizations active in the developing world. In July 2010, Sean and volunteers from his organization ( were caught in a horrendous traffic jam in the center of Kibera, a neighborhood in Nairobi, Kenya. The ultimate cause of the traffic jam was an upended rickshaw pushed by a man wearing a t-shirt that said: “I danced my rear end off at Josh’s bar mitzvah. Santa Barbara, California. January, 2006.” With still plenty of time to think while stuck in that horrible traffic, Sean became curious about the path that Josh’s bar mitzvah t-shirt had taken from Santa Barbara to Nairobi. And would Josh be curious to know that a t-shirt from his bar mitzvah was now being worn by a small business owner in the heart of Nairobi?

Later that month, Sean met up with Ross ( in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Between meetings at the university and with local business leaders, Sean and Ross ventured to the massive secondhand t-shirt market in Dar to see what they could find. What they learned is that Josh’s bar mitzvah t-shirt is one of millions and millions of t-shirts shipped to developing world markets each year. In fact, 95% of all t-shirts donated to institutions like the Goodwill and the Salvation Army are resold at pennies on the pound to middlemen who ship the shirts to countries like Kenya and Tanzania where they are sold on the open market for around $1 each. These t-shirts are not given away as charity and are instead resold as part of a bustling secondhand economy throughout the developing world.

-How exactly does Project Repat work?
The best explanation is probably the inforgraphic on our website:

But abbreviated explanation:
Project Repat purchases amazing t-shirt castoffs from secondhand markets around the world, brings these spectacular t-shirts home with our team of volunteers, and then rebrands and resells the shirts in the United States in support of nonprofits active in the developing world. At Project Repat, we're harnessing the power of your old t-shirt to support developing world markets far away and local nonprofits around the corner. It's aid, hipster style!

-How does Project Repat benefit all parties involved?
By purchasing just a fraction of the hippest and most ironic t-shirts available at secondhand t-shirt markets in the developing world, Project Repat supports small business owners and the local economy. These shirts are purchased by volunteers already present in the developing world for other reasons and transported back to the US using extra suitcase space they might have. This means that these shirts are being repatriated to the States with no or very minimal additional carbon footprint created.

Once these shirts are back in the States, they are rebranded and resold by Project Repat, creating a truly authentic t-shirt experience for American consumers and providing a second chance at fame for the t-shirts that got away. Best of all, all profits from Project Repat support Newton-Tanzania Collaborative, Smallbean, and other fabulous nonprofit organizations active in the developing world.
-How can I get involved in Project Repat (I being the world!)
The easiest way to get involved is to check out the website and purchase an amazing t-shirt. Each t-shirt comes with an amazing story and looks damn nice as well. The store: We'd also love folks to help us raise awareness about what Project Repat is up to. While the website is meant to be humerous and we are having a lot of fun with things, we're also damn serious about what we're doing and we see a ton of potential with this business model to both support developing world markets and Boston-area nonprofits doing great development work. Finally, if any of your readers happen to be traveling to a country in the developing world or know anyone who is, we'd love to have them get involved as a Repat Agent. Getting involved as a Repatriation Agent with Project Repat is fun, supports the local economy in the developing world country where you're living or traveling and is a great chance to support nonprofit organizations doing fabulous work around the world. Plus, you'll get a chance to compete with other Repatriation Agents on to see who can bring home the most hipster-wonderful shirts of them all! There are a bunch more details on how to get involved here:

-I love this! So if we want to find out more-where can we find you ?

Thanks for taking the time to answer all of my questions Sean-I highly recommend you all go check out Project Repat- Hipster Fashion for a Cause!

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