Jamaica is a special place. It's unreal in many regards as you drive through the winding roads avoiding pot holes (which Rich manages to fall into every trip), the smell of food being cooked and so much diverse styles of living all around you. Richard used this phrase as soon as we landed in response to me watching a motorcyclist run into the back of a van trying to cut off traffic - “Jamaica is not a real place…” And it’s not. One road can take you from rough terrain right through to jungles and back down to coastal cities and then city life. The danger is palpable with constant near misses and military checkpoints, but the beauty and people will inspire you. We often hear Chronixx sing of a Jamaica that once was and needs to return to being. But it’s more than just a beautiful land to us, it’s also home to my team. Although some of our families migrated to the states and abroad many years ago in search of better opportunities, the love for our country hasn’t changed. Memories fade slightly but more and more I find myself burdened with finding a way back to utilize our American resources to improve some of the condition’s there. Back in August I had the opportunity of joining my now business partner Richard on a trip to Jamaica to meet his amazing family, his childhood friend and his childhood mentor. This experience was important to me for 3 reasons:
- about my culture from the people that still live it every day.
- Fully what life is like for most people that live on the island.
- Join Rich on his mission to his loved ones that are doing their best to build up themselves and their country.
Classism is very evident in Jamaica with so many warring ideals of what Jamaica should be. All I see is people living with limited resources and bombarded with “being educated” as the new pre-requisite for living a fruitful life in Jamaica. What challenges that Western philosophy is with how fruitful the land is and how resilient the people are. Rich said it to me best, He said, “it’s hard to go hungry in Jamaica with so many fruit trees growing around you” and I conclude “and so many beautiful places to rest your head.” The fact remains though that most of the people are living with little to no financial means to do anything beyond survival.
As a result, our trips to Jamaica will document the 3 following principles of Knowledge, Understanding and Empowerment. These ideas will inform our decision for how we support Jamaica here on out.
In August of 2019, a couple days before my birthday, Rich introduced me to his Mentor Binghi and his childhood friend Barton. Both men are leaders in their community and not much happens in these neighborhoods without their knowledge and support (politely putting it). These men have lived pretty much their entire lives here and they love & respect their home and the people living in them. Respect is a core principle in Jamaican culture, and I witness that every time I visit. I’ve watched Rich walk the streets and say “manners and respect” to almost everyone he passes.
We spent time with both men on each of our two trips so that Rich can catch up with them, understand what is going on in their communities and where they would like us to lend support. On our last trip we went to Rockfort Mineral Bath with Barton to talk and clear our minds. Shortly after we went back by Binghi’s brothers shop which is also connected to Binghi’s home. Rich surprised Binghi and introduced me and my products to him (we weren’t partners yet). I made a commitment that day to support them and their shop by bringing $1000 worth of product back to Jamaica for them to sell so they can raise capital for themselves and community. Jamaican people are strong and very resourceful people, so it doesn’t take much for them to thrive. December 2019, we made good on our promise before the year let out. With 70lbs of soap and Moringa capsules in our shared checked luggage we paid that ridiculous bag fee of $150 and jumped on our Spirit flight straight to Mobay (I’ll save this story for another blog post).
2019 was a challenging year on our families; With it being my first year of marriage, almost being laid off from work, Rich transitioning from active military duty & recovering from military injuries and us taking on this business…it was a lot. I’d be lying if I said we weren’t looking forward to this trip and to just take a drive through the country side and the mountains. It took us 30 minutes in the car driving from the airport for us to really relax as we were making our way into Ochi from Mobay. We started back to our usual pastime of vision casting and looking at land and dreaming about what we could put where and before you know it, we were enjoying ourselves again. FYI, we also didn’t make any sleeping arrangements because we typically don’t sleep when we’re there. We work all day talking with people, go out for a bit at night and then drive until sunrise, taking turns until we reach our destination.
To make a long story short, the $1000 worth of products and leather bags that we gave them were free to them, paid for by your loyal support over the first year of our business. We decided not to take income for ourselves in the first year of the business and invest that back into the business. After speaking with these men, the understanding that we came to isn’t that they don’t have people to work. The challenge is in finding the work to give the people. With them having these high-quality products before anyone else gives them an advantage that the Chinese can’t replicate on the street because it’s dictated by our community involvement and website launches. A brand that belongs to them that they can manage is the type of support that they needed. They know what their communities need. That’s what we are giving to them with your support.
If you would like to contribute to the initiative without having to buy product, our cashapp handle is $herbalgods and we also have a donation link that you can purchase on our website at www.herbalgods.com . There you’ll be able to contribute in increments of $20 and you can leave encouraging, personalized messages for the community leaders and their teams. herbalgods is more than a business, it’s a lifestyle. We thank you for taking this Journey with us because we would not have made it this far without you. When using and talking about our products just know that it’s not just about the quality of the products, its also the communities that those products support.
Blog Contributed by: Dwight Stewart CEO, herbalgods, LLC