Wabbani LLC is a for-profit social enterprise that collaborates with indigenous communities to produce handmade, culturally-authentic home décor which personalizes IKEA home furnishings.
Wabbani was spun off the work of two nonprofits, Rupununi Learners Foundation, a US 501(c)3, and Caiman House Incorporated, a Guyanese Nonprofit Corporation who partner to support environmental, social and educational programs in and around Yupukari Village in the Rupununi region of Guyana, South America.
The decision to make Wabbani a for-profit company stems from the mission to create not only fair-wage employment, but also to be able to attract investment for scale, thereby generating significant funds for community development.
In 2005, Alice Layton (Founder), Peter Taylor and their 9-year-old son moved to the Macushi (indigenous) village of Yupukari in Guyana, South America. Peter was there to research a poorly-understood animal, the black caiman. Alice, as a social worker/librarian, established a collaboration with village school teachers to create a public library and classroom libraries to help them improve the teaching of reading. Villagers credit the Yupukari Public Library and its outreach activities with the consistent rise in the pass rate from Primary to Secondary school, from near zero in 2005 to 86% in 2019.
Alice established Rupununi Learners Foundation, a US nonprofit, and a few years later Yupukari created Rupununi Learners Inc. (now Caiman House Incorporated), to manage all the projects and funding, which has included grants from multiple zoos, the IUCN, and others. Everything done at Caiman House Inc. is village owned and operated.
While the libraries took shape, Peter trained villagers to capture the formerly avoided caiman (up to 14 feet long), notate observations, mark, release, and recapture them for a long-term study (still ongoing) to understand the animal and its role in the environment. Tourists in the region soon got wind of the project, and before long the team was hosting "follow boats" of enthusiasts who, once the caiman were immobilized and jaws taped, could enjoy a bucket-list opportunity to get up close with a top predator and help out with the study.
They quickly realized that the village had an opportunity to get into the tourism business, with the "Caiman Project" as our unique attraction. Interest grew, and so did the urge to link with other communities in the region and build a village guest house. Out of that dream the Caiman House Lodge was born. The Lodge has since won tourism awards and mentions by architects. The revenue from the Lodge has been the primary funding for the Yupukari Public Library.
From the experience of “crafting” the Lodge and its furnishings and decorations, the idea of the opportunity to create sustainable income for artisans while preserving the Macushi culture was born. In 2018, Alice founded Wabbani LLC in St. Louis, MO with Paul Dinkins. Their vision is to use their resources and expertise to connect remote, rural artisans with a global marketplace. And it's the combined skill sets of North and South that now bring WABBANI to you.