More than just a craft

Women sell jewelry in JC that comes from needy Filipino residents

People who have said “When life hands you lemons, make lemonade” might consider a group of women in the Phillippines who have taken the wastepaper they’ve found in dumps and fashioned it into jewelry. Now, two women in Jersey City are importing that jewelry to sell on Grove Street.

For the Lumago community in the Phillipines, recycling is a livelihood, and reducing and re-using is a way of life. As truck loads of trash are brought in every day, natives sift through it looking for marketable materials that can be resold or reused. Whatever they find, they are allowed to keep and sell.

The two Jersey City residents, Evelyn Von Gizychi (who has her own non-profit organization Slow Fashion), and Babett Gil, a local teacher who is Filipino, have decided to help market the needy women’s jewelry that they import. They have set up a table at the Grove Street Path Station at the Groove on Grove on Wednesday evenings.

This is not to say they are making a fortune. Most of the women who scavenge to find materials earn about $48 a month. “This is how they make their living,” said Gil.

The two women receive the jewelry and materials from Lumago Designs, the Filipino company that buys the materials from the needy women. Materials used in the jewelry includes aluminum pull tab rings from cans, leather that comes from old bags, and cloth that comes from clothing such as scarves, t-shirts, bed sheets, and other items. The jewelry also incorporates discarded bamboo found around the community and plastic cut from plastic bottles.

Located in Dumaguete City in central Philippines, Lumago Designs is a social enterprise, committed to triple bottom-line sustainability: People, Planet, and Profit.

“I decided I wanted to give them more exposure than just selling to tourists at the airport.” – Babett Gil

The company employs skilled craftswomen who can earn a fair wage while providing distant customers in places like the United States with an environmentally-responsible product that is beautiful and handcrafted, without compromising green principles.

Gil, a resident of Jersey City Heights, worked at a teacher in New York City for about 10 years. She said she first saw the items on sale during a trip to her ancestral home of the Philippines. Her family emigrated from the Philippines.

“I decided I wanted to give them more exposure than just selling to tourists at the airport,” she said.

She has since returned to the Philippines and met some of the craftswomen with the idea of bringing their work back to Jersey City, where she sells it to an environmentally-conscious community.

“This is a real cottage industry,” said Von Gizychi, who has set up her own program in Jersey City collecting fabric and shoes to help benefit people in her ancestral home of Ecuador. “I felt a strong connection with this, and so I got involved.”

The jewelry includes a wide variety of multi-colored bracelets and necklaces, for men and women.

“You would be surprised how many men buy things from us,” said Gil, who sees a strong bond between Jersey City and the Philippines. “Jersey City has a large Filipino population, and so this makes sense that we should be helping the poor from where we come from.”

The two women hope to expand the program to various other venues around the city in the future such as the farmers’ markets located in various parks.

“Everything we sell helps the women who make the jewelry and the people who collect the items from the trash,” Gil said.

Al Sullivan may be reached at

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