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Why Giving HUGGS is Saving Lives

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.

Max’s shanty for 16 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.

Max, Marcial and Richardson & the new home for Canaan boys.

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?

THREE VITAL Ways to help:

  1. Host a Sunday Pop Up this Spring/Summer in your church.
  2. Invite us to come share the HUGG story at your next Event.
  3. Carry HUGG products in your church.
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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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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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Flirting with Forty

I’ll be 40 in 4 months.

I kept thinking I had more time but I sat down and did the math (yes-I sat for this kind of complex thinking) and holy moly—4 months. When I look in the mirror I don’t look 40.

Granted, I must stand at least 5 five feet away and the lighting should be slightly dim. But not too shabby.  I thought for sure I’d get to 40 with a more mature sense of humor. Surely, my 30s escorted me to a higher state of matronly thinking, but I guess that happens a decade or two down the road.

But then there are the telltale signs that 40 is encroaching.

Like the hands that are typing in front of my face. What are my mother’s hands doing on my laptop? I need to remember to lather them with sun block in the morning.

I get a little giddy when I get in my kid-less car so I can sneak in a Ted Talk or redeem my Amazon Audible credit for the month. Last week, I was at the pool in Port Aransas and looked over my book and NO ONE else was reading. I was the weirdo for reading. Everyone else had their quart-sized Yetis filled with a cold beverage of choice and I was reading Poor Economics with a lukewarm bottle of water. 40.

But I’m okay with all of this. Really. Except there are 3 BIG THINGS that have eluded me these last few decades. I won’t go into the WHY they have eluded me (cough…cough…5 kids) but I’ve had to compromise, put off, maneuver some things and I feel with four months left of my third decade—I am FINALLY in a place to FOCUS.

#1-Good-Bye Flab. Hello Fab and Fit.

I’ve been putting off working out for the last…um…39 years. I always said that I’d be in full workout mode when I was 40. So, about a month ago, I started something I said I would never do (thanks to my friend Kimby). Beachbody videos. By the way, Kimby said she would jumpstart my weeks by doing these workouts with me on Mondays but I think I scared her away with all my grunting and panting.  She flawlessly burpeed and squatted while I lingered in the back pretending to be confused by the movements just so I could catch my breath! But I am still doing the videos AND running 3-4 times a week.

So what if my 21-Day Extreme has warped into 42-Day Not-So Extreme? It’s more workout than I have EVER done in my 39 years. I think I am finally working out because I am finally getting a full night’s rest!!! So don’t worry my sleepless friend–You. Will. Get. There. Don’t beat yourself up. You are burning way too many precious brain cells with babies and toddlers and little sleep to be worrying about burning extra calories.

#2-Grow a Company in a BIG Way.

HandUp Global Goods is a result of Dan and I knowing we could do our part in confronting the orphan crisis in this world. It started from a place of compassion and mercy. But I’ve had to pick up some business know-how and it’s given me a hunger to do more. I’m discovering what a powerful catalyst commerce can be and I genuinely believe business is what is going to fund our work in Haiti. More jobs for more orphans means less orphans in the future. But for most of us, success doesn’t happen overnight. I’ve had to redefine success as puzzle pieces. I’ve managed to get several pieces in place, but there is a jumbled pile of pieces still yearning to be part of the big picture.

I’ve got 4 months to rock this puzzle out, but I confess, I’ve never been good at puzzles and I need my left-brained friends to join the fun!

#3-Forty-fied Faith in Jesus.

I love Jesus. Years ago, I thought time would have naturally woven us together in a very deep and meaningful way. But I learned there is nothing natural about abiding in Him. On the contrary, we must commit and be prepared to cling to faith even when the facts don’t add up. Our relationship STILL gets a little rocky at times. But I find rest knowing that He is still my ROCK.

I constantly lay it all out before Him only to gather it all up the next day—whatever “it” is. A prayer warrior, I am not. I want deep, abiding faith in Jesus. Period.

I’m hoping that this whole having kids out of diapers and sleeping through the night will re-ignite  that pre-children time in my life where I actually had real quiet time and cathartic journaled prayers. I’m hoping my 40s will bring in a little more wisdom and a little less recklessness.

Okay! So, I didn’t include being a good wife or mother on this list. Well–I am. A wife and mother, that is. You’ll have to ask the people living in my house if I’m “good” but I suspect that they will say “yes”. They are generous that way. Perhaps it’s my commitment to them that has kept me from The Three. Perhaps it’s something else. But please know—the struggle between wife and mother and The Three is real. Anyone who says they have hit their stride and beautifully balances profession with family and faith is a liar (or at least too good to be my friend).

Life takes constant adjustments. Give and take.

What about you? Is there something you are wanting to accomplish before your’e 40 or 50 or any other decade? Let’s help each other out!

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Shop & Save….A Family!

Women love to shop. Even those of us who rather get our leg hairs lasered than go shopping admit it feels good to wear something fresh off the rack. It makes us feel prettier, confident and more put together.

It’s even better if that said rack has some sort of discount sign affixed to it. That much sought after shopper’s high ignites when you see the “sale” sign on THAT dress. You peek inside the back of the neck scoop and see that magic little (of course its little) number that marks your size. You look over that sweet drape of cotton/rayon goodness in approval.

Who cares if it doesn’t fit JUST RIGHT, you pretty much stole it at that price and it feels SO GOOD that you go celebrate at the Cinnabon next door. (You buy the small ones of course)!

So that Cinnabon might make the dress fit a little less than “just right” but who cares?  It was only $17.99 marked down from $30, marked down from $58. Well done faithful shopper!

This shopper’s high is experienced by millions of frugal mom shoppers who LIVE for these kind of finds. It feels good to save money AND look awesome doing it. Aside from, you know, clothing our bodies and the bodies of the littles in our homes—finding great deals make us feel like good stewards of the resources we have.

It’s the “I got it at Ross” feeling when people compliment you on your outfit and you proudly declare that you got 116 pieces for only $29. Good job mama who is trying to stretch a dollar so she can save up for that summer vacay!

But I want to ask a question.

What if you learned that the person who made that “great find” dress doesn’t make enough money to feed her three children? She leaves her 9-year-old daughter to take care of the younger two all day in her tiny makeshift home.

What if the hang tag shared this young mom’s photo and explained how close she was to giving up all three to a local orphanage hoping that her children have a chance to thrive?

Would you refrain from buying the dress?
Would you call the brand and demand they pay her more for her 10-hour shifts?

What would you do?

I know. You hate me for bringing this up. I don’t want to step in the way of your savvy shopping. I really don’t. But every garment, accessory, pair of shoes we buy has a story and chances are, it’s not one you want to hear. Because it would break your heart.

I know your intentions are good. You search for that bottom line deal because you want to save and perhaps use those savings to do meaningful things.

But is there a better way to shop?

As Christians, we are called to be good stewards of our money and we often equate that with tithing and saving. But what if we looked at shopping as a way to bless others, too?

Yes! We get things for ourselves but what if we knew that this mother of three was able to send her littles to school and keep her family together because the company she works for believes in more than just the bottom line?

Would you buy that dress and pay the full $58. Sure—you wouldn’t be able to have 29 dresses hanging in your closet but you’d have a handful that you would be proud to wear because you KNEW your purchasing power was literally saving lives FAMILIES.

I don’t know about you, but I think this sort of ethical shopping is more in line with my Christian principles.

He who oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors God. Proverbs 14:31

Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.” Proverbs 31:9

Do not take advantage of a hired man who is poor and needy….   Deuteronomy 24:14

I’m not asking you to go “radical” and blow the dust off your grandmother’s sewing machine. Homemade pillowcase dresses can only take you so far people!

I’m asking you to take a look at some alternatives. You’ll be surprised to learn how many companies are rethinking the bottom line and incorporating fair trade principles that are more socially and ecologically sustainable. I know these words don’t really mean a lot to most of us, but thinking about that single mom struggling to keep her kids should mean SOMETHING.

There is SOMETHING that all of us could do.

A million small pushes is better than ONE giant shove by one person. Let’s do this together!

Here’s a good place to start to learn about companies daring to go against fast fashion……

Want to start with the basics? Click here!

Leslie is rocking this cute shirt at a recent conference!
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How One Shirt can Make a Difference

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!

Summer casual
Dress it up with a skirt and cute shoes
My favorite way is to pair it with my go-to jeans

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.