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Why #Blessed is Not Always Best

She wasn’t the first one to give me this feedback.

This buyer kindly shared with me that our pieces weren’t inspirational enough for her market. Christian shoppers want more crosses, inspirational sayings, more #blessed  please. I GET it.

I really do and at the end of the day we want to make our customers happy. If they want more meaningful pieces that tell the world about their faith, then we want to deliver! But I couldn’t walk out of that meeting without saying the following. “I believe that HUGG pieces are pretty inspirational. We are helping transform former street boys into craftsmen and because of this, they are changing their communities.” It may not have been quite that refined but I think I got my point across. 

I’ve been debating whether or not to post a couple of other thoughts that ran through my mind that day. They’re not ugly thoughts, just wanting us to rethink the whole Christian jewelry thing.

Not as Charming as You Think

Many of the charms, metal tags and inspirational crosses found in your typical gift shop are mass manufactured in uninspiring industrial buildings that may or may not be abiding by labor laws that respect the dignity of its workers. So even though the cute charms that dangle from our bracelets tell others about our faith—it may do so at the expense of another person across the world who is just trying to carve out an honest living.

The mission brand movement is exploding as more shoppers ask about sustainability practices, ethical sourcing and ecofriendly alternatives. It’s a really cool thing that people are wondering about whether the communities that make our products are impacted in a positive way. But here is the not-so-good news–we’ve spoken to many retailers over the years and surprisingly, it isn’t the Christian community that is as concerned for the hands that are making their merchandise. I know–it surprised me, too but it is the hard truth, my friend.

Perhaps there should be a little less emphasis on expressing our faith through cute dangly crosses and more on living out our faith through the way we spend our dollars….

Just saying.

What would Jesus Wear?

I know, I know….this sounds a little too Christian pop culturish for my palette, but really. If Jesus had chosen to humanize himself in this century, what would he have chosen to wear? Would he have accepted clothes given to him by friends or would he have purchased from a second-hand store? I think I can safely say that he would have been mindful of the hands that made his clothing. Think about it–If he could sense a hemmoraging lady touch a sliver of his cloak (Matthew 9:20)—I am certain he would have felt the wounds of the person who made the things he wore. And I believe it would have mattered to him.

I don’t know about you, but I picture him wearing faded jeans and a t-shirt–something super casual. As for shoes–a good pair of broken in Birkenstocks. So this sounds a little cheesy but I can also see him wearing HUGG simple macrames.  I’d give him one in each color and a few extra for him to give away. My point? What we choose to purchase matters in more ways than we think.

With so many ethical brands popping up, it shouldn’t be too hard to make small adjustments to your shopping. Check out @thefairleslie for ideas on how to get started. I’ve said this before—it’s not about perfection, it’s about direction. We shouldn’t leave our faith at home when it comes to shopping. In fact, we should keep our faith in our pocketbooks by thinking twice about some of the products we purchase. THIS is inspirational. THIS is living a life that is #blessed.

P.S—We DID listen to the feedback from our Christian retailer friends. Sign up for our HUGG Happenings and be the first to know when our new “Created to Inspire” Collection releases.

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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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Fair-Trade and Giving Back All in One Purchase

July is in full swing. This weekend brought with it lots of family time, lake, swimming and fried fish! For so many reasons, I love 4th of July weekend. It is on holidays like this that remind me that I live in a place that allows me the freedom to help others around me. The items I buy fall into this category.

At HandUp, we are continuing to feature one of our own and the company they wish to highlight. Last week, Natul showed us the beautifully hand-crafted items from Serrv. This week, Gretchen has purchased cute shorts from Patagonia.

Patagonia is well known for their athletic wear. Growing from a small company that made tools for climbers, Patagonia now sells gear and clothing for all “silent sports”–from fishing, to running, to skiing and more. Their mission is to “build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.” They are Fair Trade Certified, give back a portion of their profit towards many different environmental groups and they use recycled polyester and organic cotton in their clothes. And, best of all, they have products for the whole family!

Check out these cute shorts on Gretchen. They are perfect for the summer and I love the sunny yellow. She is also rocking our beautiful new triple wrap from our beachy keen collection. Let me know what you think!

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How Marcial’s Hands Have Changed

“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.

Job Creation

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.

Giving Back

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!

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Target: Taking a Stand Against Child Labor

I have a love/hate relationship with Target.

My journey towards buying more ethically-sourced apparel and accessories has led me to harbor a little bit of jealousy towards them. Ok? I admit it.

I’m the friend who has given up chocolate and coffee for Lent and suddenly I’m bitter of every woman out there eating chocolate and drinking their cup of Joe! I’m going to spoil your fun and tell you that the chocolate you’re eating is not “child-labor” free and that your cheap coffee grounds taste like dirt. Wah! Wah!

Okay—so maybe I’m not THAT much of a hater—my intentions really are GOOD. I just want people to be aware of the abuse that takes place in the garment industry today. I’m genuinely passionate about using our purchase power for the GOOD of all people involved in the process.

It feels GOOD to be connected, on some level, to the laborers who make the things we wear.

At least it should feel good. It would be nice if shoppers felt anything at all towards the people who produce the products we purchase.

Truth be told, I WANT to shop at Target.

I want to be able to casually look up their brands and see more transparency on where and how their beautiful things are sourced. Maybe if this big-box store was a little more “wal-martish” in their selections, I wouldn’t feel so determined to call them out on some of their sourcing decisions. But they are SO on trend, affordable and oh-so convenient that it makes NOT shopping there a sore subject for me.

But the other night, THIS happened….

Their Spring 2017 HomeStyle Catalog showcased a recent partnership with one of my favorite organizations.

Target has partnered with Good Weave, a non-profit that seeks to eliminate child labor in the carpet industry. This organization was one of my many inspirations when I first started researching the impact of social enterprises across the globe. Have you ever wondered if a child made your clothes? You should. According to the International Labor Organization, over 215 million children are engaged in work across the world.

This may not sound terrible to you, but IF a child is working, it means they aren’t going to school.

IF they aren’t going to school, the chances of that family ever freeing themselves from the chains of poverty is virtually eliminated.

Children are most vulnerable and are taken advantage of in the work place even to the extent of not getting paid at all. Find out more here.

THIS is why it excited me to see that Target was moving in this direction through their collaboration with Good Weave. Demanding that children around the world be spared from industrial abuse should be second nature to us. I’m glad to see Target taking this stand.

As I continued thumbing through their globally-inspired furniture and accents, I saw another golden nugget of sustainable goodness on page 41. Their Threshold Organic sheets are now GOTS certified (Global Organic Textile Standard). This certification demands high ecological standards for the cotton produced but there is a component of social responsibility as well. Compliance with GOTS standards involves fair trade principles like fair wages, ethical employer practices and absolutely no child labor.

Choosing to buy GOTS certified cotton also ensures that you are not being exposed to the dangerous chemicals in traditional cotton. If you didn’t know this already, cotton is considered the dirtiest crop on the planet. Read here and dare to enter the rabbit hole….

Some of you may think that this maneuver is nothing more than a shallow gesture of corporate responsibility. These two collaborations very well could be ways to appease those of us who actually care where and how our stuff is made. Regardless of the intentions, I believe my relationship with Target may be on the mend.

In the words of one of the Good Weave reps when asked about their collaboration with Target… “Having a partner like Target sends a huge message to manufacturers, consumers, partners and other brands around the world.”

Way to go Target! Message heard.

I would love to hear how this might change your shopping!

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Why Helping Men Helps the Women

I never imagined that I would be working with young, black men. Really! It was the stories of the women and children who beckoned my heart to bring aid to the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. Yet, through a series of connections, our church ended up partnering with a boy’s home by the name of Grangou in the capital city of Port-au-Prince. The women and children would have to wait…or so I thought…

But first, let me go back….

My husband and I facilitate an orphan care ministry at West Conroe Baptist Church.  At the time, we were walking with other families who were in the midst of fostering. Fostering did two things for our family.

One—it brought us our 4th child, a little boy whom we adopted at two years old. His name is Daiton and he is about as cute as a 4-year old can be!


Two—it brought us a keen awareness that there are 153 million orphans across the world and God was calling us to do something about it.

So, we invited one of Grangou’s board members to speak to our orphan care group. I clung to his every word as he described how the street children were treated worse than the dogs in Haiti. He talked about his own daughter and son-in-law and how they cared for nearly 100 children, mostly boys, in Grangou. Dan and I knew we needed to go and so Dan did.

We yearned to help the tender faces and big brown eyes that we had seen in photos….

But as it turns out, it was the working hands and hearty spirits of the young men who had aged out that captured our attention. Watch the story here.

From the moment that Dan handed me the survival souvenirs that the young men had made, I knew I wanted to become part of a solution to transform these street bracelets into tokens of success. I knew we could cultivate their spirit of survival into something that would powerfully transform the lives of these boys. HandUp Global Goods is a result of this partnership. We offer jobs, spiritual discipleship and education to these former street boys and thus, we’ve discovered something extremely special…

My desire to help the women and children in Haiti didn’t have to wait.

By engaging the men, we see potential for the lives of the women and children in these communities to improve. This belief has lovingly guided our social enterprise to invest in the lives of former street boys by continuing to develop programming that instills a healthy sense of who they are. While doing so, they also learn how to view the women and children in their spheres of influence. We consider this investment in these young men one that will perpetuate goodness in all facets of not only their lives, but the lives of others around them.

Most social enterprises like us specifically work with women.  While we recognize this is vital, we are less likely to achieve lasting change if we fail to engage the men.

THIS is what makes us different.

Their stories have been weaved into my story along with many other people in this community. Every time I come home from my trips to Haiti, my passion for this movement is refueled.  I see the change stirring in this little corner of the world.  You’ve GOT to see it for yourself.

I invite you mamas and wives and sisters to be part of this story that invests in the lives of young men… who, in turn, will invest in other mamas, wives and sisters living in Haiti.

Want to volunteer and help package incoming products? Ask Gretchen about hosting an online bracelet bash? Share this ministry with your pastor? Check us out here and here.