Membership in Action: Sarah Adeel, LettuceBee Kids

 According to UNICEF, there are more than 30 million street children in Asia including two million in Pakistan alone. Surviving by sorting through trash and begging for money, these children–some as young as three years old, are among the most vulnerable, neglected, and exploited in Pakistani society. Targeted interventions, social inclusion, and sustainability have the power to prevent criminals from taking advantage of this vulnerable group and help create a better, brighter future for Pakistan. This idea became the cornerstone to the inception of LettuceBee Kids, a social enterprise founded in 2012 by Sarah Adeel.

Sarah received a Fulbright scholarship to study iArchitecture at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), where she explored the intersection of architecture, inclusion, and development, and how a prosperous and sustainable social structure takes physical form through design.

Upon graduation from RISD in 2009, Sarah returned to Pakistan to convert her research and skills to benefit children living on the streets of Pakistan.

LettuceBee Kids | Establishing Ties

Following her return to Islamabad, Sarah founded LettuceBee Kids (LBK) as a social enterprise offering an entrepreneurial solution to overcome the challenges of integrating street children into society while equipping them with skills they need for future success. Led by a dynamic and young team, LBK started its programming with 20 street children, conducting art therapy workshops.

LBK offers skill-building activities, including those designed to improve self-image, confidence and potential through creative expression, digital literacy, and social integration. The program aims to enroll participating children in formal education, provide support, follow their progress, and establish a financially and environmentally sustainable and scalable organization for students and their families.

Program activities are informed by research and designed to help street children unlearn certain destructive behaviors while developing valuable new skills. The activities involve:

  1. Music, arts, and crafts [LettuceBee Artists/Musicians]

  2. Reading, writing, and digital literacy [LettuceBee Literate]

  3. Developing a relationship with nature through Vegetable gardening [LettuceBee Farmers]

  4. Respect of elders through facilitated intergenerational interaction [LettuceBee Yours]

Since 2012, LBK has enriched the lives of 120 street children and generated revenue from the sale of products inspired by the artwork and imagination of the young artists to provide sustainable income for the program and entrepreneurial experience for participating street children and their mothers.

Economic Empowerment of Mothers

LBK model addresses one of the greatest challenges to implementing programs for at-risk children. In order to encourage the parent(s) of street children to allow their participation in the program, a replacement of the family income they would have otherwise generated by begging on the street is needed. To meet this challenge, LBK involves the mothers of children in economic empowerment and capacity building activities that also utilize design to provide new avenues for revenue generation. A design lab called Sammaan (“trust” in Urdu) was established in 2014 to meet this need.

Products made by the mothers of participating children

The Future:
Financial/Environmental Sustainability & Social-Corporate Partnerships

LBK eventually aims to become an energy-efficient shelter for homeless children.  The space would combine affordability and design with optimized solar energy production and rainwater recycling for the children’s farm, including a deli where the food produced would be prepared and sold. The space will act as a community space to bridge the societal gap, in addition to exhibiting and selling LBK products.

The LBK business model capitalizes on design, product development, and collaboration, in house designers create functional products inspired by LBK children’s artwork.

Process for creating designs based on children’s artwork

Children’s textile product ready for market
Safety pin necklace made by the mothers of participating children

The products, ‘For Children, By Children’ establish ties between the street children and their more fortunate counterparts while offering the opportunity for awareness and empathy among privileged children through smart packaging and visual storytelling. After the success of designing and selling stationery products in recent years, LBK now plans to offer interior textile products thoughtfully designed for children. These products will be sold at markets, exhibitions and fairs, on the LBK new website and through new retail and corporate partners.

Since its founding, LBK has focused on a “dignity not charity” approach, successfully generating market demand for the goods produced while also contributing to a shift in cultural consciousness. The result is a link between otherwise disconnected segments of society by way of a mindful children’s brand that generates awareness and empathy among privileged children while also offering dignity to those less fortunate. To explore further avenues of scalability and collaboration, Sarah recently registered LBK in the U.S. and is now working on product and business development while establishing retail partnerships in the bay area.

Sarah Adeel is a design enthusiast, social entrepreneur. She is also an Acumen, iCats, and Rajeev Circle fellow. She is a frequent speaker on entrepreneurship, strategy and brand: Engagements include FUSE Design, Tedx, World Future Society, Foresight & Trends etc.

Currently, Sarah is the San Jose and Peninsula Lead for Kiva and an active member of American Pakistan Foundation, developing a nationwide cohort of emerging entrepreneurs and problem solvers to foster thought leadership within APF and beyond.

Follow her @sarah_adeel and @LettuceBeeKids

Learn more: lettucebeekids.org