Proof Eyewear, the in-the-family wooden sunglasses company founded in 2010, teamed with 501(c)(3) HELP International to donate, time, money and manpower to underserved communities in Guatemala and El Salvador.
By Jahla Seppanen
A collaborative team of Proof and HELP volunteers formed The El Salvador project – the umbrella name for a slew of different initiatives completed this summer as part of Proof’s Do Good Program. The team hosted a school education camp, lent a hand to a home reconstruction site and community center build, planted trees on a farm, donated funds for microfinance loans and a girl’s orphanage and safe house, and got inspired by the natural beauty of the colorful country.
Six major project stops split between El Salvador and Guatemala made up the trip. The team stopped in Guatemala City, Antigua, Lake Atitlan, San Salvador, Amatecampo and San Miguel. En-route to each major project, the team performed small acts of giving back, from roofing to library improvements, and even purchasing soccer equipment for youth teams.
The venture came to fruition after Proof released a special edition sunglass collection, where the colorful print on the brand’s classic wooden frame was inspired by the internationally renowned Salvadoran artist, Fernando Llort Choussy. Proof enlisted the partnership of HELP, a nonprofit devoted to empowering people to fight poverty through sustainability and life-changing programs, and the plans were set to make way south of the border.
All proceeds from the Choussy design collection were donated by Proof to the El Salvador Project, and each frame within the collection was handcrafted using a complete skateboard deck with the printed El Salvador Project graphic.
This tradition of using wood as the primary material for Proof eyewear is at the heart of the brand.
Although a fairly new company, Proof’s origins date back to the 50’s, when Bud Dame, the grandfather of the three Proof brothers – Tanner, Brooks and Taylor -started a sawmill in rural Idaho. Thanks to Bud, the brothers grew up in a haze of sawmill and nature, exploring the Idaho outdoors while learning the woodwork trade.
Once the brothers finally took Proof to the public, it had an explosion of popularity among outdoor fashion/function users with an eye for sustainable and eco-aware materials. At a media event at Outdoor Retailer Summer Market, Proof stood tall next to accomplished brands such as Mammut, Petzl, Stanley, Sea to Summit and Stanley.
Proof works carefully to make all handcrafted products from sustainable materials, including FSC certified wood, cotton-based acetate and repurposed skateboard decks.
Along with heritage and sustainability, the last ingredient in the ethos of Proof is, “Giving Back.” The company released its exclusive footage and photos from the El Salvador project, along with a meticulous Travel Journal outlining the projects and communities the over $12,000 donations were given.
However, despite the positive influence of monetary funds donated by the sunglass brand, the El Salvador Project really found its power in the personal interaction and physical labor of lending an actual hand. Money is great, there’s no denying that, but experiencing the cause tends to make a greater impact. By focusing on cultural emersion, as shown through Proof’s photos and journaling of historical and natural landmarks, local fare, and personal exchange with locals, Proof and HELP were able to give back in an unimposing and unique way, providing long-term solutions as opposed to quick Band-Aids.
Simply look to the Proof logo of a bird with a wind-up key to see that the brand is more concerned with interactive helping than blind donation. Proof COO Tanner Dame said, “The bird logo represents the belief that everyone has wings to fly, some just need a little help.”
Since its founding in 2010, Proof’s Do Good Program has encompassed philanthropic work from tsunami relief in Japan, child-soldier rehabilitation in Africa and reforestation in Haiti. In early 2015, the brand started donating funds to build eye clinics in India. In the short time frame following the El Salvador project, Proof donated $12,000 to The Nature Conservancy in Idaho.