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Beads, beauty and global good guide Nirvana’s Daniel Isner here and abroad

Beads, beauty and global good guide Nirvana’s Daniel Isner here and abroad

Many people today write their own job descriptions – but none may be as diverse and meaningful as the ever-developing roles of Tennessee native Daniel Isner.

It’s nearly impossible to coax Isner into talking about himself. But ask him about his years of volunteer leadership in community and economic development in Africa, agricultural enrichment in Appalachia, his road adventures as Nirvana Bead’s west coast product representative and, especially, his beautiful wife, Tarinni, and toddler daughter Kaevalaya– and he is a verbal fountain of information, advocacy and passion.

His twice-annual 7,000 plus mile circuit visiting stores and designers west of the Mississippi helps support the projects and people he loves while offering new adventures and inspiration. He started in Southern California last week and will be circling back there to end this route in June.

“I really enjoy visiting the diverse natural wonders I have proximity to on the western sales loop, from hot springs and beaches to state and national parks. It’s what helps to maintain my personal balance on the road,” he explained. Isner has been known to eschew hotels in favor of the sunrise vistas occasionally available by pitching a tent.

But, it’s visiting with diverse artists that truly inspires him.  “Most of the bead shop owners and designers I meet are true artists. Their passion for their work is contagious,” he said. “I have learned so much from our customers and am genuinely interested in what they have going on.”

Isner said he loves to see the various ways Nirvana beads are incorporated into customer creations. “Doing this work over the years, I’ve humbly picked up some cool techniques, enjoyed some enriching conversations and made some lifelong friends,” he said.

Between 2011 and 2013, Isner spent a few months each year visiting his Nirvana customers to earn money and then head back to Burkina Faso – a landlocked country of 17 million people in West Africa with significant economic and political challenges – to co-create solutions there as an AMURT volunteer.

In the village of Bissiri, he launched the ESPRI Moringa initiative. “ESPRI translates to ‘social entrepreneurship and integrated rural production’,” he explained.  “In short, we designed this program to tackle malnutrition and contribute to reforestation while creating equitable livelihood opportunities.”

While the goals may sound esoteric and lofty, Isner’s energy, commitment and inexhaustible work ethic delivered on all counts to create a thriving program that makes a significant difference in hundreds of lives today – and he still hasn’t celebrated his 33rd birthday.

Google “moringa” and you’ll immediately be bombarded with ads extolling the virtues of the latest “super food.” But dig a little deeper and you’ll discover this prolific tree provides an abundance of protein and nutrient dense leaves — and can be grown, harvested and consumed without degrading the landscape. It’s quickly becoming a popular alternative there to other input-heavy, non-edible crops like cotton — which is grown for export while those working in the fields suffer from chemical exposure and related symptoms.

But simply growing moringa was not enough. The program needed a grant to fund the bricks-and-mortar agro-processing facility necessary to dry and process the moringa leaves into potent nutritional supplements and teas. Nirvana’s  Nir Kronenberg and Cynthia Shanti Moralez, long-time friends of Isner’s, stepped up with the donation from the company. Moralez travelled to Burkina Faso to photograph the program progress and prepare the materials for a successful crowd funding campaign that enabled the team to deliver the finished product to market.

“A little support can go a long way,” Isner stated.  “With minimal input after that, our moringa operation has grown to become arguably the top moringa producer in Burkina Faso in terms of quantity, quality and systems. We work with a network of vegetable farmers in the area  helping them integrate moringa into their annual cropping systems.”

Local women organized to run the program. “The  Fulbes Pottal Women’s Association takes care of all the post-harvest processing and packaging. There is so much more I could say about the experience of working with them, it has been a super meaningful relationship,” Isner said.

“Our products are now found all over Burkina Faso in shops and rural clinic depots. We also have folks coming to us regularly to source larger quantities of moringa for their own product lines,” he added.  “It’s a success story that is still unfolding.

The program is currently working to increase production and decentralize facilities in other remote areas. Isner looks forward to going back to concentrate on those efforts – and introducing his daughter Kaevalaya, 2, to the continent.  “I felt it a privilege to live and work in rural, isolated villages in Burkina Faso’s interior, where life is lived as it was in times of old,” he said.

But for now, he appreciates the interaction with the Western vistas, Nirvana’s customers and the support Nirvana Beads has provided to his larger goals.

Nirvana Beads Scribe

Nirvana Beads Scribe

Writer Judi Griggs designs and sells jewelry in Western New York in the summer and Texas in the winter.
Nirvana Beads Scribe

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  • Cornelia Meye, Harbour Island
    Posted at 08:09h, 28 March Reply

    Makes the Nirvana Beads even more beautiful!

  • Barbara Zinkhan
    Posted at 09:58h, 28 March Reply

    Thanks for sharing! A very interesting person and it’s wonderful that Nirvana Beads is helping him to achieve his goals as well. Beautiful family.

  • Raven Cheyenne
    Posted at 07:09h, 11 April Reply

    Wonderful story. It’s heartwarming to know that there are people that care about what goes on in the rest of the world and try to make a difference. What a blessing!

  • Christine
    Posted at 09:48h, 12 April Reply

    What an beautiful work schedule while helping those to live a sustaining life!

  • Stephanie Fredin
    Posted at 10:09h, 12 April Reply

    Thanks so much for this beautiful article about Daniel, a very special person. Not only is he a great salesperson, but a great husband, father and philanthropist. Africa has benefited so much from his generosity and kindness. What we take for granted, clean water, he has made possible for so many needy people. Please pass along my love and good wishes for his future. Thank you!

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