The Storyteller Flagmate

At last, a souvenir of your travels that is stylish, lightweight and helps the places you visit. Liz Gill reports

Most travellers hanker for some sort of memento of their trips. The trouble with snow globes or fridge magnets, tea towels or ornaments though is that they can be heavy or bulky and in some cases downright naff.

But now there’s a souvenir that’s stylish, lightweight and can be personalised. Storyteller Flagmate is a key ring with a faux leather fob to which one can add beautiful little hand-painted ceramic flags.

Not only is the kit reasonably priced – the basic keyring is £9.99, the flags £4.99 each – but 10 per cent of the purchase price goes towards sustainable educational projects in developing countries.

The company with its slogan Travel More – Do Good is the brainchild of 29 year-old Birmingham lawyer Bhavesh Patel who wanted to combine his love of travel and volunteering with an ambition to start up his own company.

When I’d travelled with friends we’d kept journals and stuck in ticket stubs and other bits and pieces but journals get unwieldy and hard to carry with you. We’d also been very fond of those badges that stick on your backpacks so the flags sort of emerged from that idea.

Measuring just 2cm by 1.3cm and weighing a mere three grams makes the flags easy to carry, though the one commissioned by the wife of a famous rock musician to mark all his gigs over a 30-year career was obviously only intended for display. Each bears the country’s name on the reverse and three lines of up to 45 characters can be engraved for an extra £1.69 which lends them to being part of a theme.

For instance, I’ve just bought my son the ones from the four countries where his Sunday League football team have played their ‘international tours’: Iceland, Belgium, Latvia and Lithuania.

Other engravings, says Bhavesh, have included a marriage proposal, a honeymoon destination, a brief motto or quote, the memory of a funny incident.

Since April 2018 the company has donated £6,405 to local NGOs in countries including Tanzania, Laos and India with Sierra Leone and Kenya next on the list.

Travel has given me some wonderful experiences,” says Bhavesh who still works part-time in the law, specialising in medical negligence. “I’ve seen incredible sights, tasted amazing food and made friends all round the world. But it’s also shown me how hard it is to gain access to quality education. There are an estimated 750 million illiterate adults and 264 million children and youth who can’t go to school for all kinds of reasons: affordability, lack of teachers, family pressures, politics, military conflict.

I’ve always been interested in giving back and I’ve been involved with a number of educational charities over the years so I know how best to make an impact.”

Not only do they send money, however: Storyteller’s four-strong team also visits some of the projects to run workshops in the skills they possess such as digital media, communications, marketing and sales and product design which they hope will be useful as the children grow to adulthood and look for jobs in the modern world. They have recently returned from helping renovate a very poor school in Nepal.

The next scheme is to recruit 15 travelling ‘ambassadors’ of different nationalities – they already have four – who will promote the product, taking samples with them on their travels, but will also stop off on their journeys to do a stint of volunteering.

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