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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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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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Share the Importance of Fairtrade by Joining the World Fairtrade Challenge

It has been a crazy last few weeks. Sickness has ran its course through our house, busy schedules have not slowed down even though we have been sick and I have a husband who is getting ready to go to Haiti in a week. It always seems to go this way before one of us heads out on a mission trip. However, this can only mean one thing: God is getting ready to do some amazing this on this trip! My husband will be doing a blog takeover once he returns to share his stories.

A few weeks ago, fashion revolution week took over to show everyone the beautiful people who make your clothes and accessories. This week, there is an opportunity for you to be a part of this global community by participating in the World Fairtrade Challenge. Starting Friday, May 12th, through Sunday, May 14th, Fairtrade America is hosting a fair-trade celebration and they want everyone to join. The concept is simple: to show the world the importance of buying fair-trade products. More and more people are buying fair-trade produce and products which allow farmers and workers to have a livable wage and a sustainable lifestyle. This continues to have an ongoing effect within their local communities.

How can you join in on the challenge?

You can register here to say that you are joining the challenge. Once you join, make a fair-trade purchase (it can be food, coffee, clothing, accessories, etc), post it on social media and use #fairtradechallenge. You can also treat your friends, family and/or coworkers to some fair-trade goodness. If you need some more specific ideas, you can check out more here and you can follow me on Instagram @thefairleslie.  

The purpose:

The goal behind the World Fairtrade Challenge is to show not only the importance of buying fair-trade but how it is becoming more accessible. I get so excited when I find new fair-trade produce available in my grocery store or the number of stores that are carrying fair-trade clothing and accessories. The best way to know if something is ethically sourced is to look at the label. Some will have a fair-trade logo while others may not have a logo but will state they are ethically sourced and produced.

Join the World Fairtrade Challenge this weekend! Do not forget to use the #fairtradechallenge to tag your photo. If you are unsure what to buy, remember Mother’s Day is coming up this weekend. What a great time to buy your mom something amazing and ethically made.

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Why Good Advice Is Not Always Good

I remember, back in my late teens, when well-meaning people counseled me on improving my circumstances. I’d sift through their kind words looking for applicable wisdom but their advice was often oversimplified and unadaptable. Before me stood towering obstacles built over years of living in poverty under the rule of an abusive father. I’d wonder, “What would they say if I told them the uncut version of my story?”  Most of the time, I didn’t dare and I’d just smile and nod my head. Little did they know that their clean and simple formulas were foreign to my daily struggles.

But I wasn’t going to tell THEM that. Why bother spoiling their good efforts?

 

I think about these experiences in my work today. I try to resist giving well-meaning advice to young men who have experienced more horrors than my heart could handle. Sometimes I wonder if the words I choose to share with them is like a blind person trying to give physical directions to someone who is lost. How will I know when to tell them to turn left or right if I’m unaware of the pylons and potholes in the road?

Instill a Them a Moral Compass

Yet, as former street children, it is clear they need guidance. They need someone to help them find their way just as I did 20 years ago. So if you’re in a position of serving the marginilized, acknowledge that you will NOT get their whole, explicit story and therefore can’t apply blanket statements to cover their problems. Give them the means to discover their own truth and empower them to create their own map towards success. No one knows the pylons and potholes better than they—

If you want to build solidarity with the people you are serving; you MUST be relevant–not in some dorky poser way–but a connection must be pursued on a deep and meaningful level. Below are FIVE THINGS I’ve learned over the years of working with marginalized people.

  1. Listen.

Don’t be afraid to ask for details if you are not understanding a person’s predicament. You need to make it clear that the details are important to you. If they don’t want to share, that’s okay. But try to set your preconceived ideas aside and listen to them as if you were living in their home or community. Try to see life through their perspective.

  1. Emphasize the Process.

Often, the boys in our program think that money will solve their problems. If Jesus had intended for money to be the fixer of all things, he would have nailed hundred dollar bills to the cross. Instead He gave us His life. There are no quick fixes to most problems because He intended for us to learn through the process of following Him. Whether it is to cultivate faith, learn problem-solving skills, attain wisdom, live out experiences or give opportunities —God works His good through all circumstances, but we must be open to allowing the circumstances to teach us.

It may sound naïve to say this—but I have been in situations that made NO sense outside of clinging to the process for the sake of spiritual growth. I always try to stay open to what God is trying to teach me, but it’s hard to say this to others who are suffering. Instead, I ask questions that might lead them to understanding the “whys” and “hows” of their circumstances.

  1. Be Vulnerable. Be Real.

I don’t have all the answers and don’t pretend that I do. Sometimes I just listen and lament alongside the stories I hear. Sometimes I am reminded of a story that I lived through that could possibly be of encouragement to the listener. There is a solidarity built among leaders and the people they serve when we allow our humanity to show.

Paul Woodward, from Impact Houston, an inner-city missions church, was the first to teach me the beauty in vulnerability. I had always seen my vulnerability as a weakness but he taught me how to use it as a tool for ministry. I was on staff with him for a few years and was struck by the way he empowered the people he helped. He mitigated their “neediness” by punctuating his efforts with an “you would do the same for me if I needed it.” Such simple words but significant for people needing a handup.

  1. Search God’s Word for Applicable Wisdom.

Someone recently told me that they wished there was a third biblical testament to address so many issues that we have in modern times. While I understood the sentiment, the relevance of God’s word never ceases to surprise me. Your search engine is great for looking for applicable verses if you put in the key words. Take some time and research relevant scripture and set up a follow up conversation to share the insights gleaned. For example, this past week at HandUp Haiti, we learned about the importance of planning and prayer before launching new ministries.

Several of our young men want to give back but I realize that they haven’t been given the tools to minister effectively. In the midst of explaining this concept, one of them stood up and read Ecclesiastes 7:8. This verse alone opened up conversations in a way that I wouldn’t have been able to do on my own. It impacted them deeply as they realized, some for the first time, that a ministry mustn’t be started if there are no steps in place to see it through.

http://livingfree.aubreecherie.com/2014/04/thoughtful-thursday-ecclesiastes-78/
  1. Take a Risk

I realize you can’t take a risk for everyone if you are in a leadership position in ministry, but you CAN let people know you care by doing one thing apart from praying and encouraging. There is so much TRUTH to the cliché; “Actions are louder than words.” My life changed radically the moment a ministry leader jumped into my messy life and helped me with specific obstacles that I couldn’t fight alone. That single “yes” on his part, opened up doors that allowed me to heal and grow.

I think about the measured risks that I can take for these young men not because I have something to prove, but because God’s love has already been proven to all.

The last thing I want is for these young men to smile and nod and politely wait for me to finish giving them the “wealth of my knowledge”. Perhaps I’ve done a little of this and they walk away wondering what in the world I just said. So sorry!!!!

It’s only when they see the relevance of ministry in their lives that they will become DOERS. They are the ones who will fill the potholes and tear down the pylons that stand in the way of progress. Your job is to help them etch out the road map.

How do you make your ministry effective and meaningful to the people you are serving?

 

 

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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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Sustainable Basics Perfect for Your Capsule Wardrobe

My fair-trade capsule wardrobe is coming along!

There are still moments of, “why did I get rid of all of my clothes?!” and “I have nothing to wear!” But overall, it has been a great experience. The best part is that it truly has been so freeing. I love knowing that my clothes tell a story. Not just any story, but a great story.

My next item off my capsule check-list was a good (neutral-ish) color t-shirt. So I just sat down and started an online search. I came across an awesome company that has fantastic basics. Alternative Apparel focuses on creating beautiful basics that are comfortable and a style perfect for every person. What makes Alternative Apparel so unique, apart from their wonderful quality made clothes, over 80% of their clothes are made from sustainable materials and a sustainable process. They also believe in the importance of taking care of their workers and believe in the importance of fair trade practices.

I recently purchased the Cap Sleeve Crew T-shirt in Redwood. It is so soft! Like a lived-in kind of soft and the color is absolutely beautiful. The fit is true to size and the price is great. I had a difficult time narrowing it down! With it feeling like Spring in February here in Texas, I felt a cap sleeve was a necessity.

Below are so pictures of how I have incorporated it into my capsule wardrobe. I even wore it to a conference this weekend and it was perfect.

Head on over to Alternative Apparel and let me know what you think. They have styles for both women and men. Pick yourself up a little something.

Treat yo self!

For work
Out to dinner
Mom life
Rocking this cute shirt at a conference
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It’s a Valentine’s Giveaway!

Tomorrow is THE day. The day of candies and hearts and showing all of those who are important to us just how much we love them. And because of this, we have an awesome giveaway that you do not want to miss out on.

HandUp Global Goods has teamed up with two different companies to bring you today’s super cute giveaway!

You cannot have a proper Valentine’s Day without chocolates. So, our first giveaway is delicious chocolates direct from Haiti. Les Chocolateries Askanya is Haiti’s only premier chocolate company. This bean-to-bar company is produced and ethically sourced from over 3,000 Haitian cacao farmers. Haitian cacao is one of the toped ranked in the international cacao market.

askanya

We also have the privilege of partnering with Magnolia Mey. Magnolia Mey is a super cute, one of a kind store in Huntsville, TX with various assortments of fair-trade and American-made items. They have donated a beautiful Bridgewater candle for our Valentine’s giveaway. What a perfect pairing of chocolates and candles to enjoy a nice date-night in. Bridgewater candles are American-made and with every purchase of their candles, a portion goes to Rice Bowls to help provide food for orphans around the global. You can read more about them here.

bridgewater

To add the frosting on the cake, the cherry on top of the ice cream, the tiara on top of your fresh do: HandUp is pairing the delicious Les Chocolateries Askanya chocolates and the amazing smelling Bridgewater candle from Magnolia Mey with His and Her HandUp Global Goods bracelets. A handsome looking HUGG original for Him in navy with burgundy and cream beads. And for Her, a stunning red focal bracelet with a beautifully hammered silver oval.

valhugg

For your chance to win this giveaway: Like this post on Facebook or Instagram, follow HandUp Global Goods, Magnolia Mey and Askanya, and tag a friend in the comment section! Winner will be announced tomorrow, Tuesday, February 14th.

From all of us at HUGG, Happy Valentine’s Day!