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
The first week of January I hosted a small team from Champion Forest Baptist Church in Haiti. The following entry was written after a beach excursion with the 3 newest children from Max’s Ministry.
What Hunger Looks Like
His tiny arm methodically lifted the large spoon to his mouth. It was slow but steady and with every heaping bite of food you could see him quietly whisper words to himself. Looking at his 20 pound, 4 year-old body, there was no way he could get all that food into his bloated belly—but he did. Every single methodical bite.
One of the girls from Champions leaned in and asked one of the older kids from Max’s home what he was saying. “Mesi Jezi.” After every bite, Jouri whispered “Thank you, Jesus.” Every single grateful bite.
I thought about the rawness and depth of his gratitude. It was a gratitude that oozed out of the hungry belly of a four-year old boy in Haiti.
He wasn’t TRYING to be thankful. This wasn’t some rote one-liner that he was instructed to recite. This little boy possessed a hunger and thirst of the purest kind and I was watching him be filled.
I was reminded of Matthew 18:2—”Unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”
I’m not going to write about how we’re going to help Joure and the other two children who suffer from chronic hunger. We’re helping Max get the help these sweet babies need—I’ll be sharing more about Joure’s journey to food safety over the coming weeks.
What I am going to write to you is a CONFESSION:
I WANT that kind of gratitude—the kind of gratitude that flows out of a hungry heart. Joure made an impact on me on so many levels. It wrecked me but it also got me thinking about my own chronic hunger or, if I’m honest, the lack thereof.
I’ve forgotten what it feels like to be hungry. I can try to generate a superficial gratitude but the truth is I don’t know what it feels like to be without. Those of us who are saved have forgotten what it feels like to be lost. Those of us who are full have forgotten what it feels to be empty.
We are over-saturated, over stimulated, over done and yet—we are so emaciated. We need to get to that place where we recognize our emptiness and take in heapfuls of God’s goodness and thank Him after every single morsel.
Like a child showing pure gratitude.
Like sweet little Joure thanking Jesus after ever bite of food.
My 21-Day Fast
My last day in Haiti was the first of a 21-Day fast that we are encountering at Restoration Church. Joure was fresh on my mind that day and my prayer was that I would experience a hunger for God that got me to a place where every sweet encounter, I would say “Thank you Jesus.”
We were on Day FOUR of our church-wide fast when I wrote this and here is the verse for that day:
“Remember how the Lord your God led you all the way in the desert these forty years, to humble you and to test you in order to know what was in your heart,whether or not you would keep his commands. He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna,which neither you nor your ancestors had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.”
Our hearts yearn to experience that same hunger that Joure felt that day— and we long to have it satisfied in some radical way. The problem is we try to stuff it with junk rather than the pure things that it really craves. G.K Chesterton said it best when he said, “A man that knocks on the door of a brothel is looking for God.”
Our hunger manifests itself in so many ways—for me it’s becoming too comfortable reaching for a second glass of wine at the end of a hard day.
For you it may be too much chocolate cake or shopping, for him it may be sneaking in some pornography late at night. What if we hungered for God like Joure hungered for that plate of food? What if we mimicked the pureness of his hunger? I think then we could experience that raw and open gratitude I saw that day on the beach.
Let’s pray that God causes us to hunger for Him like He did for the Israelites in the desert. Let’s pray that He teaches us to feast on His Word.
Stepping into a Life of MORE
Fasting helps us channel our physical hunger towards a hunger for Him. We experience pangs of need that get so strong that we either break down and eat food or we eat of His Word. We willfully create an environment where we are empty and deny satisfaction with things that will easily fill the emptiness. Dan and I aren’t hard—core fasters (is that what they are called?) and we certainly aren’t gurus on spiritual disciplines, but we are commiting to this 21-Day fast by skipping breakfast and lunch and eating a light dinner after sunset. It is hard, but not impossible.
Maybe you read this and feel like you want to join us the rest of the way—there is power in numbers and I think God is yearning to rain down manna into our communities, our homes, our hearts. You can click here to follow Restoration’s Facebook page and learn about the fast.
I don’t know about you, but I want to get to that place where I can’t help but say “Thank you Jesus.”—not because I know I should, but because every heaping spoonful of Him means LIFE. Like the manna that sustained the Jews, like the feast the famished Joure experienced, spoonfuls of Him is the difference between LIFE or death.
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?
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.
Over the last year and half of blogging for HandUp Global Goods, I have come across so many amazing companies. The fashion industry, while it still has a long way to go, has made significant strides to protect their artisans. What I really love, however, is a company that not only focuses on fair and ethical sourcing but also gives back.
Girl Set Free focuses on fighting against human trafficking by working alongside many reputable human trafficking advocates. Human trafficking is just a new name for slavery, an issue that is still very much alive within all societies. With an estimated 27 million individuals in slavery today, human trafficking is one of the fastest growing crimes. Each purchase you make with Girl Set Free goes to stop human trafficking.
I bought this cute shirt to add to my fair-trade capsule wardrobe (read more about that here) from Girl Set Free. This super cute and soft shirt has been perfect this summer. I love the wider cap on the shoulder and the simple but beautifully stated “By Grace” on the front. The Grace Tee is perfect for a capsule wardrobe because you can easily add layers as the seasons change. It will be summer here until November, but I am looking forward to pairing it with some cute fall outfits once the weather starts to change. It is also a perfect backdrop for all my HandUp Global Goods jewelry!
Girl Set Free just launched a new website where they are offering all kinds of super cute and ethically made products. They have beautifully hand-woven cross-body bags, hand turned pens, and t-shirts with a message I can stand behind. I have fallen in love with the heart of this company.
“Simply stated, I trusted and obeyed and have the most amazing tribe that believed in me but believed in God more and they never let me lose sight of that. Girl Set Free started with my personal redemption story. Little did I know, saying yes to hard and holy things would lead to so much freedom and healing for others. Not only for our artisan partners but for me personally. God called me to rest this year after a long season of healing and years of striving. You see, I felt my worth came from my work because I held onto lies from the enemy. It was time for me to lay that all down. I’m humbled and have cried many tears since we started this journey but the growth has been beautifully hard and I’m counting the fruit now. Ephesians 3:20 – “Now to him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to his power that is at work within us.” -CEO Amy Kratzer
Check out their new website, purchase some amazing items and let me know what you think.
Short-term mission trips to different countries have a way of causing us to glamorize every experience we come across.We go expecting every experience to be exotic, unfamiliar and exhilarating.This can cause us to romanticize even the mundane parts of our trip.From the transportation methods, the language, the pace and the food, we tend to put too much emphasis on experience.
One example: while in Belize a few years ago, we were eating at the hotel restaurant and drinking some very fine coffee. If you know me you know I have a deep love affair with coffee.Several of us were lamenting how great the coffee was and wondering if we could find this coffee locally.We asked the server what the brand of coffee was and where we could find it.He wasn’t sure of the brand but said it was easy to find as it was in a bright blue container.We looked everywhere for this coffee over the next few days to no avail, so we begged him to show us the container so we could finally see where this finest of coffees could be found. The server went searching for the container as we waited excitedly.He emerged from the kitchen looking half confused and annoyed carrying a bright blue plastic container of…Maxwell House coffee. Our server proceeded to tell us we could find it anywhere, including in the states. That wasn’t what we were expecting. It was this moment that allowed me to re-evaluate how I was approaching the trip and each experience I came across.
The International Mission Board (IMB) posted a blog on their Facebook page recently titled “5 Ways Not to Return Home From a Mission Trip.”In it the author, Elliot Clark, looks at ways Christians can return from a mission trip and have the wrong attitude and outlook as they are asked to reflect on their trip.The author defines the wrong ways as; the Expert, the Called, the Critic, the Exaggerator and the Enthusiastic. I believe how we come home from these trips can be heavily determined by how we prepare beforehand.
As I prepared to go to Haiti, my second trip there, I thought about this blog post. I thought about how might I prepare myself before I left so I stay grounded in what we’re going to do.I wanted everything I saw to be through the eyes of God, so I could see what He has been doing in Haiti way before I even thought about going there.I reminded myself God has not been waiting around for me to go back to Haiti so He could finally get to work. No, I needed to see where God has already been working and join Him in that work for the short period I am there.I needed to allow Him to show me, “This is what I am doing, will you join Me?”Also, I needed to listen and respect those that spend many weeks a year there, those that live there and have been called into a life of ministry to the people in Haiti.
Two of those groups that have been working in Haiti for some time now: Hand Up Global Goods and Grangou.They are who we went to support in the ministries they already have established in Haiti. Come back next week to hear specifically what these organizations are doing in Haiti, how God is using them to not only minister to orphans but how those they are ministering to are starting their own ministries.What an amazing concept…minister to some of the neediest people in Haiti, disciple them into Godly young men and then support them as they begin to minister to their own people.It is one of the most beautiful, touching things witnessed.Oh, what God can do when we simply allow Him to take control.
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.