The Orenda Tribe, a Social Venture that Tries to Help the Child Refugees

Valeria Saccone

Zaid Souqi never imagined how his life would change when he decided to pursue an International MBA at IE. This 30-year-old Jordanian, who studied Computer Systems Engineering in Bristol, wanted to change his professional life, turn his back on the security that big companies offer, and embark on the risky adventure of becoming a social entrepreneur.

From this profound change emerged The Orenda Tribe, a brand of children’s wear that seeks to have a social impact in vulnerable communities such as the Syrian refugee camps. The children provide the patterns, which are based on their drawings, and a team led by Souqi turns them into a line of shirts that are manufactured with organic material. Parts of the profits are reinvested in the communities to support educational activities.

The name he has chosen has a lot to do with the philosophy behind this startup, which hopes to receive donations in its initial stages. “Orenda is a mystical force that’s present in everyone and that empowers them to change the world or their lives,” says Souqi. It’s a word used by the Iroquois Indians in the United States. “I chose it because it has a lot to do with what I’m trying to achieve: to inspire people to change their lives and to instill hope,” he adds.

The idea came to him in Madrid, one of his favorite cities. “IE has played a fundamental role in making me what I am today. Doing an MBA with students from 67 countries opened my eyes and allowed me to meet many different people. Some of them even collaborate with The Orenda Tribe. IE gave me the entrepreneurial spirit and something even more important, the concept of social businesses. If it weren’t for IE, I never would have taken part in Emzingo, a fantastic program that allowed me to travel to South Africa and work with the NGO called The Lonely Road Foundation,” says Souqi.

The experience of working side by side with people who dedicate their lives to the most needy –orphans and vulnerable children– was a determining factor when it came time to conceiving his company. “One day I decided that I had to make a choice between doing things well or doing good. I left my work and my comfort zone, and now I’m trying to achieve the perfect equation that allows me to help certain communities and, at the same time, make a living from it. It’s a model that can have an enormous impact on the world,” this young businessman says.

Based in Jordan, The Orenda Tribe is organized around three main lines. On the one hand, it organizes artistic workshops in needy communities, such as the Za’atari refugee camp, temporary home to more than 80,000 people who have had to flee the war in Syria. Half of them are children and young people up to 17 years of age. The aim is to provide them with relief from their daily, precarious grind through arts therapy. In the second area, the team selects the drawings of the children, scans them, and chooses those elements that will be included in the final design. The shirts are made from organic textiles at a factory in Istanbul.

The third activity is perhaps the most moving because it gives something in return to the participating communities. “Our focus is to make education attractive for the children. We want it to be something they desire. We do this through painting and graffiti, we buy them backpacks and educational toys,” Souqi explains.

The company wants to expand to help needy children anywhere in the world. “We want to reach a size that will allow us to make a difference. Our plans involve social and economic aspects, which go together,” says the founder of The Orenda Tribe. In the social area, Souqi wants to expand the field of action and the degree of his company’s commitment to the different groups that participate. On a strategic level, he wants to increase production of all kinds of children’s clothing and sell it all over the world. “Social businesses in Jordan are still in a very primary phase. This is one of the main reasons why I decided to create this company. I hope to inspire other people to follow the same road,” Souqi concludes.