For the Love of Trees: The Story of Kasiiya’s Lead Carpenter and His Wood Shop

25 November 2021

As an ecologically sensitive luxury lodge in Costa Rica, Kasiiya is all about treating the planet and the particular ecosystem it’s part of with utmost respect and care. But the land and sea are not the only ones who benefit from this attention.

The same nurturing and philanthropic attitude extends to the local villages and community of Ticos who Kasiiya can positively impact, too.

You can hear an audio recording of the interview below:

 

The lead carpenter of Kasiiya, Doilin, is an example of just that. Coming from an inland part of Costa Rica, he first became part of the adventure in Guanacaste as a builder who erected the first tents in 2017. When the team needed someone to maintain them, Doilin asked if he could bring his wife and the pair stayed on at the coast, with him picking up fishing as a hobby and becoming the very first staff member.

“I am used to being on construction sites, and when you see people working, which is one of my favorite hobbies, there is a sense of them being good at what they do,” says Mehdi Rheljari, Kasiiya founder and owner. “There is a sort of slowness around them—no gesture is unnecessary. There is calm, and definitely, Doilin is a very calm person. He’s good at what he does, and he focuses very much.” These attributes that made Doilin an attractive first hire have also served him well as his role on the property has evolved.

Sustainability is a significant focus of Kasiiya, and Mehdi admits it’s a constant work of balance. In visualizing what his Costa Rica eco-resort would be, the founder made the choice to use wood over concrete. “We thought the most important thing was to not leave something left behind,” he says. “There are many, many projects around the world that are half-finished or nearly destroyed, and they are scars in the countryside. Wood simply disappears slowly, slowly. But concrete destroys the reason why we fall in love with nature.” To him, wood was the only option to do it properly, and that meant not taking out any trees on the property as well. Kasiiya also sources all its wood from forests that are replanted to be conscious of not destroying anything.

Admittedly, Doilin was accustomed to working with concrete when he first turned up at Kasiiya, but over time he grew to love and prefer working with wood. And his role in maintenance grew into that of a carpenter. During the COVID pandemic, Doilin took on learning to make complicated wooden furniture pieces that had been manufactured in a top shop in Spain. “We gave him the equipment,” says Mehdi. “And we were surprised by the quality, though we should not have been. So we asked, ‘Are you more interested in the structural work or building the furniture?’ And he said the furniture is more fun. We have two more rooms to build, and instead of having 85% of the furniture built outside Costa Rica, we are going to try to achieve 85% locally from the next village,” says Mehdi, adding that they installed a small workshop for Doilin.

In that shop, Doilin has trained himself to create curvaceous pieces using a mold or drawing. Instead of using industrial dryers, he covers the wood with fabric that creates more heat, drawing from the power of the sun. “I do not feel nervous about making the furniture,” says Doilin. “As long as we have a design we can make it. It’s not an easy task, but we can make it.” The workshop is off Kasiiya’s property, and Mehdi wanted to go an extra step to help Doilin make it independent. Enter the Entrepreneurship Foundation.

Essentially, Mehdi is building a legal company for Doilin’s workshop—dubbed Eco after the fluffy construction site dog that adopted Doilin and that Mehdi loves seeing every time he visits—and assisting financially and with legal advice, accounting and administration for a number of years until he can become independent. “Then at one stage your shop will be able to sell their services to other companies beyond Kasiiya and you will be sustainable and have your own company,” Mehdi explains. This is a concept Mehdi has practiced in other parts of the world, but in Costa Rica it is not common. “Risk, in the beginning, is where companies usually fail,” he says. But Mehdi, through his foundation, wanted to take that threat out of the equation for Doilin, who with his wife Steffany recently welcomed a new baby daughter. “It has been quite a success,” says Mehdi. “His work as a carpenter is amazing and soon his wife will start training to work the administration, which is a big job in Costa Rica—administration is heavy. So she will have a lot to do and will be instrumental.”

So far, Doilin reports the business is going very well. “As the company grows, it will be important to hire employees and that is the idea, to make it bigger and be able to not only offer the furniture to Kasiiya but also to other companies,” he says. Mehdi, who has created properties and built projects around the world, sees that happening easily because Doilin’s work is of such high quality, better than most of what he sees in the country. “The idea in the long term with Doilin is also to invest in the culture of Costa Rica, meaning finding designers and bringing them to him and creating models. Those models will be popular, I think, because people are looking for new things, and in the shops in Costa Rica in general you find roughly the same items, even though there are some very exciting new creative designers in the country.” Making sure he grows his business safely and slowly is one of Mehdi’s goals, and his guidance and encouragement will surely ensure it.

For his part, Doilin hopes that in five years, Eco will have more sales and opportunities and, possibly, a new location. He and Steffany are currently trying to learn English, and she is studying finances so that they are eventually able to handle that element independently.

Mehdi is perhaps most excited to see Doilin in a position to employ and teach other Ticos the art of carpentry, something he feels attracts a unique breed of men and women who feel a profound relationship with their natural materials. “Honestly, that’s where we would love this project to grow,” says the hotelier. “If we could have an impact, not only on the families of colleagues, but if we could have an impact on all those companies that we hope to help build, and then they employ many people, then the ripple effect of what we are trying to do here would be very rewarding for us. We are going to give it every chance.”

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