Switzerland works with women for holiday decor with a heart

Published November 20, 2021, 8:19 PM

by Carol RH Malasig

Touched by angels 

CHERUBS AND TREES In photo: Ambassador Gaschen with QC Mayor Joy Belmonte and guards of QC Female Dormitory. Cover design by Jules Vivas

By this time, Christmas decorations are starting to go up in most Filipino homes. That is, if they haven’t been there since September. There are, however, a couple of angels that deserve to be added to one’s existing decor arsenal. The Swiss Embassy in Manila in cooperation with women empowerment organization SPARK Philippines, and SM Supermalls recently launched the second year of Angels for Angels. It’s a project that helps women, the environment, and those who want to really amp up the holiday spirit at home.

Supporting a community

The embassy and SPARK engaged communities of marginalized women to create sustainable Christmas decor. “We wanted to build on the experience of supporting a community, similar to our work with the Negrense Volunteers for Change (NVC),” Swiss Ambassador Alain Gaschen shared at the launch event he hosted in his official residence. “Previously, we only worked with one organization to make a Christmas angel made from sustainable materials such as upcycled Nespresso capsules, but for this year, we are now working with and supporting seven different communities who are each producing their own angels made from different sources.”

Women of Taguig practicing pandemic protocols while making their angels

NVC is once again a beneficiary, along with women communities from Quezon City, Taguig, Pasig, Cebu, Bicol, and HABI – the Philippine Textile Council. Using materials that would otherwise go into landfills, each community makes a unique angel design.

Tetra-Pak packaging is turned into a silver angel with an elegant sheen. Angels from the HABI community, meanwhile, are sporting scrap indigenous weaves, which would have gone to waste if not for the project. From Quezon City, 75 women deprived of liberty from the QC Female Jail Dormitory worked together to craft an angel using red, discarded eco-bag cloth. They adorned their angel with garter, cardboard, metallic foil and glitter.

Empowering people financially

For Ambassador Gaschen, the project is so much more than showcasing a community’s creativity and skill. “Angels for Angels aims to provide another source of income to their members, as proceeds from the sale of these ornaments go directly back to the producers themselves,” he said. Each angel costs ₱100, of which ₱80 goes to the women who made them. The remaining ₱100 is donated to World Vision. The donated amount is used for children’s nutrition projects.

WOMEN’S SUPPORT Maica Teves (leftmost), SPARK Philippines executive director, and Mme. Daniela Gaschen (second from the right), wife of Swiss Amb. Gaschen, with the women of HABI

Quezon City Mayor Joy Belmonte, who was also at the event, shared how they wanted to help build a life for women coming out of prison. “The community we selected are women deprived of liberty from our women’s jail. A lot of them are there for small, petty crimes connected to being in poverty,” she said. “Hindi pa sila nare-release,may income na sila. (Even though they haven’t been released yet, they’re already earning.) We have already registered them for bank accounts where they can keep their hard-earned money.”

Bringing women together

Maica Teves, SPARK’s executive director, explains that during the pandemic, women who were already marginalized found themselves in even more difficult positions.

FREEDOM TO CREATE Women deprived of liberty in QC, creating their angels

“We can all agree that 2021 has continued to be challenging and unpredictable, and more so for women who bore the brunt of the pandemic,” Teves said at the event. Calling on everyone, especially women to support their fellow females. “This holiday season is a time to make women and children feel the care and generosity from all of us as a community.” 

We hope that this undertaking could serve as a bright light to those who need it this Christmas season. —Ambassador Alain Gaschen, Embassy of Switzerland in the Philippines

Actress and female empowerment advocate Iza Calzado echoed Teves’ call at the event, sharing that it was women who were often hard on themselves and those of the same sex. “I just want to put it out there that we can be so empowered together. I admire so many women,” said Iza. As co-founder of She Talks Asia, another female empowerment organization, she’s been working on getting more women to speak up for themselves to help inspire others. “The women I work with, SPARK Philippines, She Talks Asia, they all inspire me,” she added.

ART ANGELS The different angel designs

Commitment to the climate

Ambassador Gaschen also shared that night that Switzerland was highly committed in helping the environment, especially at the heels of COP26 in Glasgow.

“Switzerland has been committed for some time now to zero carbon by 2050,” he said. “We have a strategy to reduce our emissions. If I look at the Swiss companies in the Philippines, the commitment to zero-net emissions is strong. You mentioned Tetra-Pak, Nestlé – they are committed to reducing their emissions and I think they have achieved zero-net emissions. I think since last year.”

COMMUNI-TREES At the launch of Angels for Angels are congresswoman Lani Cayetano, former speaker Alan Peter Cayetano, Lazada Philippines CEO Ray Alimurung, and QC Mayor Joy Belmonte, with Ambassador Gaschen

He added that Swiss companies stood for sustainable solutions and innovation. “I was talking to a Swiss company recently, DKSH, probably one of the oldest Swiss companies with a footprint in the Philippines,” he said. “They have a clear strategy for cleaner, leaner, and greener. If you talk to Swiss companies, they are going in this direction.”

Going back to sustainability, the ambassador also highlighted their partnership with SM where decor from the Angels for Angels project could be purchased. Megamall, Mall of Asia, Aura, The Podium, Seaside City, and Lanang Premier branches will be selling the angels made by the community closest to them, further reducing the carbon footprint of the products. Alternatively, the angels can also be purchased online—via Lazada. 

“Solidarity has always been a Swiss value that we continue to embody,” said the ambassador. “We hope that this undertaking could serve as a bright light to those who need it this Christmas season.”