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Meet Roy van and Louise van Broekhuizen of Laga Designs International

Today we’d like to introduce you to Roy van and Louise van Broekhuizen.

Laga Handbags was started in August 2006 as a continuation of tsunami relief in Aceh province, Sumatra, Indonesia. Roy van Broekhuizen brought the 1st volunteer team from Saddleback church first week of January 2005.

The destruction and devastation that he saw was horrific and terrifying, 90+ miles of coastline wiped out and over 285,000 people died. It all started with the 2nd largest earthquake ever, the shock had a moment magnitude of 9.1–9.3 and a maximum Mercalli intensity of IX (Violent), the deadliest of the 21st century so far. Indonesia was the hardest-hit country, followed by Sri Lanka, India, and Thailand. The tsunami came in at close to 500 miles per hour and the waves were approximately 65 to 100 feet high, depending on the areas.

After reading and conversing with Roy about the disaster, his wife Louise quit her job in June 2005 and joined Roy in helping in the ravaged province. When the contract with Saddleback church ended a year later, they started a small handbag factory and training center in Banda Aceh with 12 tsunami victims. Today, almost 12 years later, with the help from many including the Oprah show in 2010, Laga Handbags is now helping over 400.

Roy & Louise do not take any salaries and give 100% of the profits back to the people of Indonesia. They continue this adventure and journey and appreciate all the help they have received and are looking forward to helping more.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
There are numerous struggles, just to name a few, logistics, shipping, production, heat, humidity, finding qualified people to make the products, US customs which held up our Laga products for almost 3 months during the Oprah show in 2010 which almost bankrupted the company, finding ways to market and sell the products which are handmade on a treadle machine, no electricity used.

Along the way, we have met some phenomenal people that have helped us, and we even found a niche market, quilters. The current challenges are competing with online retailers and finding profitable live shows.

Please tell us about Laga Designs International, Inc. aka Laga Handbags.
Laga Handbags is a business with a mission and our cause has always been about helping those less fortunate, it has never been about money. We do understand that we have to make a profit in order to survive, so we have done what we can in the area of marketing, sales and publicity.

We are very proud of our team in Indonesia, all of them have lost many family members and friends in the tsunami of December 26, 2004, and to see them go from crying and weeping their hearts out to seeing them smile and having pride in making these beautiful handmade products, this is what makes us continue what we do. We are definitely different than most businesses, in that we are a for-profit corporation that gives all of our profits back to help as many survivors as we can.

Do you look back particularly fondly on any memories from childhood?
The first nine years growing up in Jakarta, Indonesia, when it was a Dutch colony. How I treasure those years, a time of innocence, carefree living, roaming the streets of Jakarta with my younger brother Ray, no fear, eating the best food in the world and the tropical drinks that are available. Everything was fresh, all organic, no pesticides, all natural. Those days are no longer.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Robert Bakker

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