As I try to put the complexity of this into words, I cannot help but acknowledge the beauty of an early spring that is bringing forth new life here in Texas. As much hope as that brings, Haiti sits in dark contrast.
Very little media coverage has documented the events of the past week. Due to political unrest, large demonstrations have paralyzed most of the country. Roads are barricaded preventing Haitians from accessing food, water and medical care. Gas and diesel are difficult to find, if one can even make it out of his home. Businesses and schools are closed. Gangs control many of the major roadways. Their money has little purchasing power.
The problems are so complex and it’s hard to begin to understand the corruption, injustice and unfairness that we will never personally know.
However, the people of Haiti are resilient. They are survivors. They are beautiful. But, they need our help. We are asking you to stand with HUGG during this time. Here’s how:
PRAY! We will update prayer needs daily. Only God can bring hope and peace to this beautiful country.
DONATE! While we continue to operate on our founding principal of providing a hand up and not a hand out, we need to stand with our Christian brothers and sisters in Haiti to support them during this time. Many people we know and love there are unable to purchase the necessities of life right now – water, food, medical care and fuel. Help HUGG be the hands and feet of Jesus today.
PURCHASE our products! We have an amazing inventory here in the states of beautiful HUGG products. Not only will your purchase encourage our artisans, it will provide the necessary funds to continue programs in Haiti.
We are in constant communication with our Haitian staff. All are safe and riding out this storm in their homes. In the meantime, we make sure they have access to food, water and basic living supplies. Our founder’s brother, Denim, said it best today:
“In these situations, trusting the Lord takes on a whole new meaning. Here at the HandUp house we have fuel, food and God’s favor.”
Denim Ramirez, Director of Manufactoring
Thank you for supporting us during this critical time. We know that God is in control. We pray that calm will return soon, and our artisans can work. Our Spring collection is AMAZING and we are working hard to overcome the chaos and deliver the goods that you love.
Kandis Dennis, HUGG Founding Board Member
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world!” John 16:33
Let me assure you that this is NOT a call for donations.
What I am asking is the following:
For you to consider carrying HUGG pieces in your church book stores, coffee shops, gift shops and lobbies.
For church leaders to learn more about a movement that seeks to create jobs in impoverished communities such as Haiti. We should be casting a vote to support artisans like Max by using our purchasing dollars for good. 100% of HUGG sales go back into our operations to create more jobs in Haiti. But more importantly, your purchase is saving lives.
Let me explain HOW:
Two weeks ago, I had the privilege of meeting with the Association to Save the Children in Canaan and Onaville.
This committee was founded on the principles that all children have the right to shelter, education and access to food. Canaan is located about 10 miles outside of the capital city of Port-au-Prince. It is a post-earthquake, make-shift city settled on dry dusty hills with no plumbing nor electricity. It is a hard place for a family to carve out a living, but it is even harder for the children that drifted to this settlement without an adult to care for them.
Max, a HandUp artisan, knows just how hard it is to be an orphaned child in Haiti. He found himself a homeless teenager in Canaan. Although he loved his village, he knew that God was calling him to the city of Port-au-Prince. He didn’t know what he would find there, but he knew the answers were ahead of him.
After a few months of living on the streets of Port-au-Prince, Max was approached by a young man by the name of Patrick. Patrick had just aged out of an orphanage and was living with 6 other young men who had transitioned from the same boys’ home. Later Patrick would share with me the reason he was drawn to Max.
“I knew we needed someone like Max in the apartment. We needed someone to teach us more about the Bible and Jesus.”
After several visits with this young evangelist, Patrick invited Max into the tiny 3-room apartment he and the other young men shared. It wasn’t long before Max carved his place within this band of brothers. It would be months still before I’d show up in their apartment, asking these young men whether they wanted a job. These 8 would become the backbone of the HandUp program.
As soon as Max started receiving a steady income through HandUp, he went back to Canaan. It was simple at first. He started out by purchasing rice, beans and oil for a local lady to cook for some of the orphans there. Then it grew to him building a shanty for 16 parentless children.
He had very little resources and several of the other HUGG artisans started pitching in to help meet some of the children’s basic needs. Aside from taking care of the 16 most vulnerable children, he started working with other needy children in the community. Bible studies, crafts, singing and dancing all became part of a weekly program under Max’s leadership.
But it was too much for him to bear. He witnessed two little children die simply of infections that could have been prevented with antibiotics. After this incident, my Life Group in Conroe, Texas started supporting some of Max’s efforts by providing for food costs and allowing him to set aside some savings for emergencies.
These extra funds were the catalyst that Max needed to jumpstart his program. He formed a committee with HandUp artisans and local community members to bolster their efforts towards saving children from the grips of poverty.
Under Max’s leadership, the group has committed to taking care of 12 of the 16 orphans under Max’s care. The 12 boys will be living in a one-room house rented just for them. The rest of the group are girls and I will save their story for another day. We will continue to partner with the committee until we’ve placed each little girl in a loving home. But for now, this committee does the best they can to meet the needs of these children that God has entrusted in their care.
Without HandUp Global Goods…
There would have been no job for Max and the other artisans.
Without a job, they would have been too busy surviving Haiti rather than helping Haiti survive and THRIVE.
Tools for Ministry
Max’s efforts to build a program in Canaan is a result of what he has learned under the leadership of HandUp staff. Education, spiritual discipleship, and mentoring are all things that have been poured into Max over the last three years. Without this holistic approach, Max would not have had the necessary skills to lead this ministry in Canaan.
A HandUp, Not a Handout
Because of one job, 16 orphans have their basic needs being met.
Because we give a handUp and not a handout, young men are experiencing a dignity attainable only through the work of their own hands.
Young Haitian men like Max must be employed, mentored, and trained so that they can be the ones to help their communities.
Once, these young men were destined towards the path of becoming orphan makers. Because of their jobs with HandUp, they’ve broken through systemic poverty and are being transformed into Opportunity Makers.
The Struggle is Real
Although our retail and wholesale orders are slowly gaining momentum; our donations are at an all-time low. Without these funds, we are unable to meet our operational expenses on the ground.
But I’ll be honest–it’s the sales that we need. We have beautiful pieces that tell an equally beautiful story. If we tell it right, God’s church WILL RISE to the occasion. I know God cares about the makers that make the things we wear and He desires to use the church to bless them, not to exploit them.
There are 23 young men in our program. Many who are also making an impact in the communities in which they live. Would you allow us an opportunity to share their stories in your church?
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 Maxdeliver 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.
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.
“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?
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:
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!!!
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.
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!
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.
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.
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)!
“All my life, people have seen the palms of my hands, but now they get to see the back of them, too.” Marcial spoke these words to me as we were finishing up a satisfying dinner in the cool of the evening. It had rained that day in the capital city of Haiti and the showers had absorbed the heat released by the Caribbean sun. These powerful words seemed out of place coming from this meek, slender young man with a sheepish smile.
It’s hard for my first-world mind to grasp how a child survives life on the streets. For many of the orphaned children of Port-au-Prince, there are no families who can lend a hand. There are no government programs, shelters, soup kitchens or even friends whose houses they can crash for the evening.
There is hunger, violence, drugs and the daily struggle for survival. No one knows this better than Marcial.
As he spoke, I tried to imagine him as a child. I pictured him, small and timid, begging for food and money on the street corners like so many children do in Haiti. Hands out. Yet, he is one of the lucky ones. An American couple started a boys’ home in Port-au-Prince and Marcial was able to live out the last five years of his adolescence there. He relied on the kindness of strangers for his survival.
The problem is that no nation has ever climbed out of poverty with their hands out.
That is why HandUp Global Goods (HUGG) seeks to eliminate a life of handouts for teens aging out of orphanages. By giving them a HandUp, we allow them to lift themselves out of poverty.
Today, Marcial is an artisan at HandUp and for the first time in his life, he gets to show others the back of his hands. He earns a fair wage and can now take part in a transactional-based economy where more than two-thirds of adults lack formal jobs.
Carving out opportunities is critical in ailing economies and from my experience, charity doesn’t typically forecast long-lasting solutions. Commerce, on the other hand, is a powerful catalyst for positive social transformation.
Our hope is that the ripple effects of these artisanal jobs will open doors for more jobs, trades and innovation in impoverished communities. Imagine hands that have begged for so long transforming into Haiti’s workforce. This is our vision and the reason we give a HandUP.
It feels good to be in a place where you can give of your time, talents and resources, and Marcial is getting a taste of that through the community work he does through HandUp. There is dignity, joy and gratitude when we give back and as he puts it, “people can now see the back of my hands.” Powerful words from this young man. But as experience has shown me, these former street boys need to consistently be reminded that they have the right to live out these new stories of givers and leaders. It’s so easy for them to sink back into what they thought they were for so long. It takes convincing, patience and unconditional love.
Fashion that Fuels Social Transformation
I think of all the Marcials of the world and wonder how something as simple as shifting my shopping habits could potentially allow people like him the freedom to give for the first time in their lives. To give food to their loved ones, to give them a roof over their heads, to give something to those with nothing. To SHOW the back of their hands.
That night, preparing for bed, those words repeated themselves in my head. “I now get to show the back of my hands. Back of my hands. Hands.” Every garment touched by my hands in a fancy department store was MADE by someone else’s hands. I know this. While I don’t know their story, I do feel a connection to those workers who make my beautiful things. Because of people like Marcial, I now feel compelled to ask “Was this person paid a fair wage?” “Were their human rights violated in any way?” “Is she able to give her loved ones what they need?” My hands have the potential to transform a life when I choose to use my purchasing power for good.
Buying fairly-traded apparel and accessories not only allows impoverished artisans to earn for themselves, it gives them the freedom to give. For Marcial, this one act has given him a deep satisfaction. For me, it’s done the opposite. I know it will take all of us to pursue fashion that transforms lives.
Ready to join the HandUp movement? Here is a great place to start!
Natul writes about running a non-profit, social justice, orphan care and prevention, faith in the works, and reaching out to local and global neighbors.