The moment Vancouver Community College (VCC) international student Mariana Carneiro saw people struggling to meet their basic needs due to COVID-19, she started thinking of ways to help.
As a fashion professional and jewellery designer, however, Mariana’s skills weren’t typically the kind needed in a global health emergency. Having only recently moved to Canada from Brazil, her connections were limited, and living with an at-risk family member meant she also had to be extra careful about leaving the house.
Still, she was resolute. “I really wanted to do something that would help people beyond my friends and neighbours,” she says.
Watching the news one day, she saw that the food bank needed extra help, so she decided to donate 10 per cent of sales from her online jewellery shop, Kaju. Additionally, she gave numerous pairs of earrings as a token of thanks to health care workers, and began promoting donations to Canadian Blood Services on her popular Instagram account.
“If you can, I think you need to share,” she says. “Every little bit counts right now.”
Before moving to Canada, Mariana studied industrial design and earned a master’s degree in fashion business in Brazil. She started her career in a large clothing company where she also designed jewellery, but never crafted it herself.
“I drew the designs, picked the stones and materials, but someone else would make it,” she says. “I love jewellery but I never learned the making process.”
In Vancouver, Mariana began experimenting with jewellery at home using colourful clay and metal. Her designs soon became popular on Etsy, but she wanted to refine her techniques, so she enrolled in the Jewellery Techniques 1 course through VCC Continuing Studies.
“I learned so much in two and a half months,” says Mariana. While the focus of the class was making silver rings, once Mariana had learned the basic techniques, she’s grateful that the instructor allowed her to shift to her real passion – making earrings.
Mariana is now planning on taking Jewellery Techniques 2 in the coming months, and enrolling in VCC’s full Jewellery Art and Design diploma program in 2021.
A ten per cent donation may sound small, but for a solo entrepreneur, it’s huge. “I wanted to find some way I could help, and I wish I could do more,” says Mariana, who independently looks after every aspect of her business, from manufacturing to web design to customer service.
With her elderly mother and grandmother homebound in Brazil, Mariana is especially grateful for a family friend who has been shopping for them, and encourages everyone in Vancouver to seek out a need and lend a hand right now. “You can always help,” she says.
Read more about how VCC students, grads, and employees are working together to fight the spread of COVID-19.