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The Lulls Between the Hustle

Congratulations fellow human! You survived Christmas!

Go ahead and take a deep breath. Jumpstart those post-holiday, oxygen starved neurons sluggishly making their way to your brain. Don’t worry. They have 365 days to pull together before 2018 festivities arrive. Breathe in……breathe ouuuuuuuuuut….

If you’re like me, you may have teetered between madness and magic over the last month. Let me paint a picture:

Endless sipping of coffee, white-knuckle clinging to the “Choose Joy” campaign on my local Christian station, reminding myself to take it all in, deep breathing through clenched jaws and perhaps coddling a mini-break down (or two).

Christmas concerts, teacher gifts, bonuses, holiday cookies, Amazon Prime Christmas delivery deadlines, hiding Christmas kittens, family gatherings and sneaky last-minute gift wrapping behind counters, in pantries and in cold garages.

By the way, our family holiday picture didn’t go out but I think they can double as Valentine greeting cards or maybe 4th of July? Be on the lookout.

But in between the bursts of madness, the magic seeps in. I’m not talking about elves on the shelves, Santa Claus or twinkling tree lights.

I’m talking about the magic that happens when we give of our resources, time and especially, when we give out of the joy of our salvation.

In spite of my own induced merry mayhem, I tried to take in the lulls between the hustle. I gift you THREE of these merry moments and hope that you will share one or two with me.

The Gift of Resources

About a month ago, I posted this picture. Several of our artisans in Haiti had recently opened up their home to a young man who had been living on the streets. His name is Guetchine and I had the pleasure of meeting him on my last trip to Haiti (2nd from the right).

One evening, I stepped out onto the HandUp house terrace to capture one of these lulls between the hustle.  Under the lamp post, Guetchine was sitting with a sandal on his lap. He was braiding the top strap while Patrick, stood over him helping him with his newly learned technique.

I silently watched as this depiction of generosity unfolded before me. Guetchine needed a place to live and some food to eat and some of our artisans provided that. Patrick knows he also needs some work to live. It brought joy to my heart to see him giving of his skills and experience so that another can have a chance to thrive.

The Gift of Time

This year because of tight budgets and limited staff, HandUp had made the hard decision not to make our yearly Christmas trip to Haiti. It broke our hearts that we wouldn’t be able to help Max deliver a Christmas blessing to the children of Canaan. That is…until Shelby came to me and asked how she could help. Before we knew it, a mission trip was on its way. My Sunday school class also stepped in and took on the purchase of Christmas gifts for the 16 children that Max supports in Canaan. In addition, Shelby and the other young women, collected money and gifts in order to provide our artisans with gifts for the season. NONE of this could have happened without their “yes” to embark on a trip just days before Christmas.

The Gift of Salvation

I had just sat down at our Christmas Eve dinner with family. It had been a wonderful afternoon with a scavenger hunt, a snow machine and we were about to enjoy a wonderful meal together when this text came through from the founders of our partner orphanage Grangou. 

“I just got back from Haiti with Carrie and thought of you guys. I know Haiti is hard and running a business there is hard but the payoff is such a blessing from God. This week, among other things, the Be the Change Guys had a Christmas party for 100 street kids. So these guys that we found 8 years ago with nothing, are now ministering to other street kids. We taught them Jesus and gave them a home. You guys gave them hope and a life and built their spirits. Now they are offering that same help to other kids.

The result from the Christmas Party: 22 of those street kids accepted Jesus as their Savior. No better example of why we fight through the challenges and why we celebrate.”

THIS is Christmas. We live for these moments. We FIGHT for these moments. It is this MAGIC that sustains us through the grind and toil of good works that don’t always feel so good.

So my wish for those of you recovering from the hustle of the holidays–May the magic of the Christmas lulls linger for you in 2018.

Happy New Year!!!!

 

 

 

 

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Have you Met Max?

A long time ago Max had a vision that one day he would be a leader in a village called Canaan in Haiti. His heart hurts for the people there, because of his role with HandUp Global Goods—he gets to do his part to bring relief to the fatherless children there.

He and two others (pictured below) from our program, are providing shelter, nannies and discipleship to 16 children. Max is in the center.

THIS is what happens when you think BIG about tackling problems like extreme poverty and orphan care.

Our formula, Job Creation + Spiritual Discipleship = Orphan Prevention comes ALIVE through the hands of young men like Max. He believes in the power of our formula and he invites you to become part of this story of redemption.

He wants you to know he believes in this revolutionary way of thinking—your investment in HandUp provides Max with essential training and tools to be able to guide his people in a more impactful way. 

He personally wants to make a piece of jewelry for every donor that donates to HandUp.

Donate today and let’s help them become the spiritual leaders God created them to be.

Learn more about Max here. 

 

 

 

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Revolutionize Your Giving

We’ve all heard the ancient proverb,

“Give a man a fish and he eats for a day. Teach him how to fish and he eats for a lifetime.” But what if I told you that together, we can revolutionize the fishing industry?

Have you ever wondered how much of a difference your donation makes in the lives of the people to whom you donate? Efficiently run organizations maximize your dollars to create deep impact for the people they serve. But often, good intentions fail to stimulate economic growth for the people in need of a handUp.

The irony is that most of the time it is the lack of economic stimulation in communities that keeps people relying on handouts. Although your donation helps for a day, months or even years—

Does it revolutionize entire communities & promote lasting change?

80% of orphans actually have living parents.

Up to 80% of children in Haiti are poverty orphans. Many of them have parents that love them but can’t scratch out enough of an existence to meet the basic needs of their sons and daughters. The lucky ones end up in institutions.

But many of these poverty orphans end up on the streets, sold as slaves, trafficked, exploited, the list goes on and on.

And who is doing most of the exploiting?

The broken men raised in these impoverished communities.

At HandUp, we believe we can equip former street boys to radically change their trajectories from broken men and future orphan makers to leaders and future hope makers. We do this through one powerful formula:

Job Creation + Spiritual Discipleship = Orphan Prevention

 When you say “yes” to investing in HandUp Global Goods—you forge new pathways for economic development in communities as we seek to:

  • Employ 100 Haitian young men by 2020
  • Diversify production in order to meet the demands of the global marketplace
  • Scale our current Spiritual Discipleship program to create a strong, replicable model
  • Expand both U.S and Haiti marketing efforts to create more streams for revenue
  • Seek to sustain Haiti operations through sales revenues

What does this all mean?

Each HandUp work day begins with a devotional.

It means less orphans, less extreme poverty and more strong men making a positive impact within their communities. Let’s stop settling for handouts and give them a HANDUP together.

Do you want your resources invested in this kind of revolution? Learn more here!

DONATE TODAY & we will send you a handmade gift from Haiti.

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Here’s a Coupon for your Support!

Because you said “yes” to giving a “handup”; he can say “yes” to lifting himself out of poverty with the work of his hands.

Here is how YOU changed the harsh reality for these teens through your purchase or donation:

  • 23 young men who were facing life on the streets are part of the HandUp program
  • 10 new teens in transition are under the loving guidance of our new TNT House Parent
  • A new Program Director oversees production and programming
  • 16 former street boys work at HandUp & earn a fair wage, health insurance & more
  • We achieved highest monthly sales to date this November
  • An artisan microloan system has been implemented into our savings program
  • All 3rd year artisans were able to pay their housing this year
  • HandUp artisans founded two ministries; Be the Change & Ti Moun Canaan

The good that you’ve poured into these young men is spilling out into their communities and fueling social change one bracelet at a time!

Thank you for supporting our work. We can’t wait to see what we can do together in 2018!!!

Donate today and help us create jobs for 7 more teens in 2018!

$5 off your purchase of $25 PLUS Free Shipping:  Use Code THANKYOU

There’s still time to do your holiday shopping HERE!

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Did We BRING IT HOME???

I believe that good resides in all people because God made people.

AND there is a little bit of HIM in every person—even when we don’t recognize that it comes from Him. ALL GOOD COMES FROM HIM. I try to remind myself of this when I am disappointed in people. I think of Brene Browns comments in Rising Strong that she MUST choose to believe that everyone is trying her best. Seriously. It helps a great deal when I choose to believe in these two things:

That there is a little bit of good in everyone AND that everyone is doing the best they can.

But I have to confess, sometimes things happen that shake my heart a little bit and these two thoughts are tossed out the door.

Let me explain.

We recently had a fundraiser so that we could bring on TEN more teens in transition that have aged out of our partner orphanage. Instead of these boys ending up on the streets and perpetuating the problem of poverty—they get to be part of a story that is seeking long-term solutions to poverty. The lives of young men aging out of orphanages are changing and we believe that they will one day become the leaders in their communities.

THIS is why we give a handUP; to break them free from a life of handouts.

This is WORLD CHANGING stuff I’m talking about!

Yet at our fundraiser—we failed to raise the $60K that we so desperately needed to bring on these ten teens. Although the event itself was pretty amazing, we did not bring IT home. IT as in being able to offer our FOUR CORNERSTONES to all of these young men.

I was striving to find my peace with this lack of resources and was doing okay until I saw this:

As a country, we spent $3.4 billion on costumes that we will most likely use once. I know-I know—it’s fun and we’re making memories and visiting with neighbors and eating chocolate. But for me, it’s a REAL struggle. It’s like choosing to have a Pina Colada at a pool while knowing there’s a kid drowning in it!!!

Okay–so maybe it’s not a fair analogy but I’m confessing to you that this is how it made me feel. It’s times like this that make me wonder if I’m cut out for this kind of work. But then I get footage like this:

This is Richardson teaching English to impoverished children from a nearby village:

This is Patrick and he’s started a street ministry where he teaches young boys on the streets how to read.

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is Jean Ricard and he teaches the older boys at our partner orphanage how to make jewelry so that they can have the skills they need to get a job at HandUp.

THIS. This is the reason to keep moving forward and advocating for what we believe is right.

I believe that there has never been a better time to come together and put an end to extreme poverty.

I believe that HandUp is on to something revolutionary for Haiti’s aging out youth and that there is a BIG YES around the corner.

Will you believe alongside us?

The ripple effects of your donation to HandUp doesn’t stop at these young men. It spills out into their communities & THIS is what it takes to tackle poverty.

You can still TEXT to DONATE at 41444, TYPE in HUGG & follow the prompts.

At the end of the day, we want to know that we inspired you towards being part of this amazing story of redemption. We want YOU to know that you have the power to effect change on a global scale–so let’s tell this story TOGETHER!!!

 

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Why the THREE P’s are Vital for Success

HandUp Global Goods was birthed in passion and desire.

It was all at once…

whimsy and whirlwind,

deeply spiritual and taxing

hectic but steady

From the time that the idea was conceived to the time of our production launch was NINE MONTHS.

I had delivered a baby social enterprise. But just like delivering baby humans, the pangs of childbirth came quickly and fiercely. But THIS was the easy part.

This, my friend, is the hairy nature of a social enterprise. Social enterprise you say? What is it?

social enterprise is an organization that applies commercial strategies to maximize improvements in human and environmental well-being.

In other words, we function like a business but have the heart of a ministry. Managing both facets is tough and for this reason, I call HandUp my ever-hungry twin babies!!!

Have you ever thought about a more sustainable way of bringing relief to a need you’ve encountered? Maybe it’s a local social issue or perhaps you’ve gone on a mission trip and were left shaken over the poverty you saw.

I want to MOTIVATE you to DREAM & DO your part when it comes to promoting social change. But I also want you to know that there are THREE ESSENTIAL INGREDIENTS you must have in order to launch and maintain a social enterprise. Without these, your twin babies will be doomed from the start.

Passion

That’s right, Mama—the same passion that fueled the making of those babies will need to carry you through the initial hustle of getting this thing off the ground. HandUp was fueled by the novelty of the project and the dream that job creation and spiritual discipleship would change the lives of young orphaned men in Haiti.

I was obsessed. I read everything that I could and researched similar models working in Haiti. I was designing jewelry, fundraising, creating a website, sourcing raw materials, pricing, researching some more, traveling to Haiti AND managing my family of 7.

I wasn’t afraid to reach out to people out in the field and set up times to talk to them about their work. I was super nerdy about the approach, asking lots of questions, taking copious notes and giddily making my own plans based off the interviews. My initial passion for this project threw any semblance of balance out the window but it was sink or swim!

Prayer

I remember one all-nighter as I counted beads, typed up instructions and packed up supplies a couple of nights before heading out on my second trip to Haiti. I lacked the knowledge and experience to properly execute this grandiose idea that I had but because of this—I found myself praying A LOT. I didn’t have a clue how to successfully build a company whose backbone would consist of former street boys. So I prayed some more.

I had my first rude awakening when I learned that the boys weren’t used to the concept of measuring. They hadn’t been taught how to use measuring tools to calculate length. It took 3 days to figure out how to convey to them what measuring was and why it was critical to learn. I clung to my notes and tried to keep it together as the guys barraged me with questions

…in a language I didn’t understand

…as I pounded away at the brand new managers

…who were trying desperately to grasp my shallow knowledge of jewelry making.

I tried to stay strong on the production line, but in the evenings, I’d get on my knees begging God for intervention. To make matters worse, there were bouts of vomiting and diarrhea on those early trips. I’d visit the bathroom, lay down for five minutes to recover and then head back out and face the HandUp mayhem. It wasn’t pretty, but I prayed like a mother of HUNGRY BABY TWINS.

Persistence

Eventually, people with more experience and knowledge stepped in to help (hallelujah Jesus!), but I don’t believe that would have happened without the first two ingredients. People saw my stickwithitness and began believing the power of the story. They were inspired by this idea that a small social enterprise had the potential to radically change the lives of former street boys.

They believed that life was BIGGER than the daily grind and that GOD created them to change the world—in deep small ways and in MONSTER SIZE ways.

This is YOU reader! You are reading this because you know there is something MORE for you to do. Maybe you’re afraid of the ever hungry twins crying to be fed! Maybe the dreamer inside of you has drowned in a sea of to-do lists. The truth is God will use your hands and feet to bring hope to those who have no hope.

PASSION, PRAYER and PERSISTENCE are not just vital for social enterprises, they are required ingredients for transforming your dreams into DOs. 

I KNOW you are going to make it, sister. Know where you are going and don’t be afraid of the pylons and potholes. Before you know it, those babies will be walking and talking and you’ll have a deep gratitude in your heart that you got to be part of who they are. That’s how I feel about HandUp Global Goods–forever thankful that I get to be part of this amazing story.

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Imperfectly Beautiful

Perfection is boring.

Yes—it’s beautiful and we can “ooh and ahh” over it, but there’s not much you can say about it. It’s perfect already so adding to it will only muddle its perfection. You can’t add numbers to an already perfect equation, you can’t add another stroke to a canvas with a soulful painting, an entrée seasoned and cooked to perfection gets devoured—not discussed.

It’s kind of like that “perfect” friend of yours. Yes—she’s beautiful and has it all put together but she’s not super interesting when you think about it.

There’s something about our oddities, our eccentricities, our “skeletons” that draw us to one another. It may have a little to do with sick curiosity or our need to have friends who love you no matter what (or a combo of both)! I read one of those clever picture frames that said a good friend is one that will bail you out of jail—a great friend is the one sitting next to you in the cell. Ha! Which friend are you?

Inside all of us there is this need to relate to others but the problem is that we tend to compare our inner self—the ugly thoughts, vulnerabilities, judgements, self-loathing, smugness with the outer self of others—the put togetherness, beauty, good deeds, ambition, clean house, positive attitude.

We’re comparing apples to wrenches and its keeping us at an arm’s length!!!

My 20s…

I say this because I think I spent my 20s trying to prove to people that I was a stellar Christian in spite of my upbringing. I had a split personality, too. My Christian friends got one version of me, not necessarily the better one, and my secular friends got another. It was so natural that it didn’t occur to me that I wasn’t being authentic but in my defense, I was in my 20s. The dust from my childhood hadn’t settled yet and I didn’t know who the heck I was. I spent a lot of time trying to reconcile my past with my new married life.

I felt like I had to live up to the name I had married into. I went from being a hot-blooded Latina Ramirez from a long line of drama-mamas to a cool-headed Middlebrook from a long line of thick-skinned Texans. The two cultures didn’t exactly synthesize within me nor in my marriage, but that is another story for another day.

 My 30s…

The first half of my 30s are a blur mainly because I was either pregnant, having babies and lactating on and off. Throw in foster care, adoptions, surprise baby #5 and a non-profit start up and you understand why I now get to the point quickly, prefer dry cabernets and talk to people like they either work for me or once slept in my womb. I have to remind myself to be casual. I try hard to be leisurely.

Almost 40…

I’m learning to kick that make believe finger-pointer in the teeth. So, my friend, I share this with you: Stop aiming for perfection and stop comparing apples to wrenches. Let’s grab a cup of coffee or a glass of wine and be real. I think Jesus can work with ugly-real more than he can with fake-beautiful.  Don’t you think?

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Fall Collection is Here!!!

Did you know that former street boys make up the backbone of our organization?

It’s all at once the most amazing thing about us and the most challenging. We work with orphaned young men who, in addition to figuring out their manhood, are redefining how they engage with the people in their communities. Through their roles at HandUp, they have an opportunity to live out a different, better story than the ones to which they were born.

We’ve carved out a sanctuary where these young men come together to use their hands for something beautiful and meaningful. They receive mentoring from Haitian leaders and are paid fair livable wages. In addition, they have opportunities to get health insurance and are offered scholarships to finish out their education. In other words, they are breaking free from a life of handouts every time someone purchases their work.

 

THEY are the reason we started this business.  So, when I opened up this season’s shipment, I wanted to shout to the whole world,

“Hey! Look at these amazing pieces made by thriving artisans who are eager to see you wearing their tokens of success!”

Here is the sassy Sonje with all its boho fringe.

 

Look at the Hello Heather in all her 62 inches of macramé glory.

Stack our clay bead bracelets…

Layer our necklaces…

I think shoppers are getting this concept and liking how they feel wearing fashion that fuels social transformation.

When you buy HandUp jewelry, you are getting more than handmade jewelry. You become a social justice collaborator, a perpetuator of good things and fellow storyteller. Now THIS is using your purchase power for good.

From all of us at HandUp– Happy Shopping (and changing the world while you’re at it)!

 

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Dusting Off The Sewing Machine

I did it y’all. I dusted off the old sewing machine and I made something.

Not just any something. I made myself a dress. And I can actually wear it! I am sew excited! (See what I did there)

Now, for some this is not a big deal. For me, this is huge. I have always had an envious bone for those that can just whip something together. I am still sooooo far from this, but I am patting myself on the back for this one.

On this journey into fair-trade, I have also looked at the amount of excess I have in my life. Is everything I have a need or are most of my items wants? Having wants is not necessarily bad, but I was determined this year to really focus on not having too much stuff for the sake of having stuff. Reusing and recycling have become a part of my life this year.

I really wanted a new dress for an upcoming wedding but I was determined not to buy anything else. I am not sure if you follow Miranda Anderson from Live Free Miranda but I basically want to be her. She was the emcee at a conference I was at in February and I loved her. Her blog is amazing and filled with all kinds of crafty and beautiful items. She recently posted about a Kimono dress she made and I thought, “Yeah, let’s make this Leslie!”

The patterned looked pretty straight forward and with my mom at my side talking me through it all, I made this super cute and pretty simple Criss-Cross Kimono.

Cute right?! Here is the link to Miranda’s blog post (here) that takes you through each step. The only thing I changed was where it says you need 1.5 yards, I bumped it up to 2.5 yards to help with the length of the dress (I like mind right at my knees—this, of course, is your own personal preference).

It took a little more effort than going to the store, but I now have a one-of-a-kind dress that cost little and utilized items I already had.

Tell me what you think.

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When you Want to Buy the Trend: Confessions of a Capsule Wardrobe

Back in January, I made a commitment to create a fair-trade capsule wardrobe. Here I am, over halfway through the year and I have discovered a few pitfalls. Some of these pitfalls are purely psychological–I want to shop! Others are from a lack of planning; diving straight in to this idea. However, I have learned a lot about this process over the last 7 months. Here are a few things I wrestled with and how I am working on overcoming them:

  1. Never Buy the New Trend–Ugh! This has probably been the hardest. There are so many cute trends that are out there. What can make this more difficult is the fact that so many of these trends are available through fair-trade companies. It is amazing how far the fashion industry has come. We still have a long way to go but it is encouraging to see it moving in the right direction. But the purpose of my resolution is not to only buy fair-trade but to create a capsule wardrobe. This demands of me to be intentional in my purchasing. A trend will come and go, but a capsule wardrobe will last.
  2. Moving Away from Buying the Same Thing–I must be careful with this one. I have chosen a color pallet and tried to be intentional in what I need to search for when purchasing. But suddenly, I find myself looking at only black and white t-shirts, or jeans, or moving away from patterns. This does not have to be the case with a capsule wardrobe, but I just gravitate there now. I love patterns and textures and I need to learn to embrace that even in my capsule wardrobe. I can still look like me while being thoughtful in my purchases.
  3. Plan, Plan, and Plan Some More–There are great options on where to start building a capsule wardrobe. Just search for a capsule wardrobe checklist and hundreds will pop up. I downloaded one, checked off boxes of what I had, wrote in items I wanted rather than what was on the list and had a good plan of attack. Then, I stopped. This can’t happen. When the planning stops, you lose sight of why you started. So, as fall approaches, I am working on putting more planning in place as I add pieces. I will be posting about that process later.
  4. Give Yourself Some Grace–If you are a fellow Type-A individual like myself, this can be difficult. I have learned that this process is messy. I have messed up. I get lured like everyone else by cheap prices and trendy outfits that will only last a season. But it is ok. Mistakes will be made. I have learned so much through this process that I will be sharing on another post. What I have loved: When I am giving myself a hard-time, when it is not going smooth, my tribe around me has supported and encouraged. I love it and I am thankful for it.

If you are thinking of creating a fair-trade capsule wardrobe or maybe you are thinking about starting something completely different, know that the process is messy. Embrace that mess and push on. I am rooting for you.