Brazilian food, music and art filled Annie Doran's childhood home in Westport, Mass. Beyond the rhythm of a samba or the aroma of black beans and pork stew, Doran was intrigued by the stories her parents told of people they knew during their days as Peace Corps workers in Brazil during the 1970s. She was determined to one day visit the country.
While Doran dreamed of that future journey, a group of young women were leading 250 Brazilian families to a strip of coastline in Fortaleza. There they established "Terra Prometida," or "Promised Land," a community aimed at a better life for themselves and their children.
Call it destiny or coincidence, but 16 years later, Doran has made Terra Prometida her second home, and created Fairloom, a non-profit organization dedicated to strengthening the community's cultural, economic and educational health.
Doran first made it to Fortaleza and Terra Prometida, Brazil during her junior year at UVM (fall '02) where she developed art programs by drawing on her early childhood education studies.
She returned to Brazil two years later, observed the centuries-old art of bobbin lace making or renda, and knew she had a plan: work on more efficient, marketable designs for the wares woven from renda, market the pieces, and funnel the profits to Terra Prometida. She incorporated Fairloom in 2004 with several small donations. Today products are sold mainly at fairs and bazaars, or on the Fairloom website.
Doran's belief in the power of open, strong communities is what initially led her to enroll at UVM. "What they teach is what I believe: when you work with people, you don't get in the front seat and just drive. You take a back seat approach, where you really listen, then help people create an environment that helps them find their own path."