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Why I Said “Yes” to the HUGG Story

Four years ago, I found myself burdened by the number of orphaned children in the world. Even though our family had adopted and fostered and become active members in the orphan care community—the burden for me grew heavier.

Until one day, my husband came back from a trip to Haiti and gifted me with a handful of bracelets. He told me that orphaned young men made these colorful street bracelets and how they had just aged out of a Haitian orphanage and were struggling to survive. “Survival bracelets” I called them.

The burden I had carried for so long changed into a God-sized dream to stop children from ever having to become orphans in the first place. By equipping these young men with Jesus first and jobs second, they would stop perpetuating the problem of poverty and orphans and lead their spheres of influence for the glory of God. And that is exactly what happened.

These young artisans are earning a fair wage, receiving spiritual discipleship and the best part is they are giving back to their communities. Max, one of our original 8, lost both his parents at a young age, he knows what it feels like to be homeless and hungry. For this reason, as soon as he started earning a salary, he began feeding children in Canaan, a village close to his heart. In the last three years, he has started a foundation and now houses and provides for 12 boys.

He uses the same principles he learned with HandUp and applies them to his own ministry in Canaan. In fact, I am happy to announce that we recently launched Max to lead his own artisan cooperative in Canaan. Why is this so significant?

Because he has chosen to employ several of the mamas in Canaan so they can keep their babies out of orphanages. This is orphan prevention through job creation. Jesus first and jobs second. The HandUp model is working!!!

What started out as survival bracelets has flourished into the HUGG Mission Market concept. The items you buy are tokens of success for the makers with whom we partner, but they are also reminders to all of us that everyone deserves the chance to earn a dignified wage.

The Mission Market is a powerful way to do missions as 100% of the proceeds go back to our mission to equip young men who’ve aged out of orphan care in Haiti with Jesus first and jobs second. For 2019, HandUp aims to:

  • Hire an on-the-ground Program Director to oversee all program-related initiatives
  • Develop a 6-month character-based development program (LeKol HandUp) targeting young Haitian men
  • Formalize our Christ-centered business training workshops for program participants to launch their own businesses
  • Extend our HandUp House lease for another two years to provide a safe working environment for our artisans

So it turns out that this burden I had in my heart had a purpose. God planted it there to answer the prayers of 8 orphaned young men in Haiti and of course—in true God-sized fashion, He turned it into something so much bigger and beautiful than any of us could have imagined. All it took was a “yes” and one small step of obedience on my part……and countless other “yesses” from family, friends, supporters and shoppers!

We have learned that it takes local community to make a global difference and I am asking that you take a moment to ask God what your “yes” looks like today.

You can click here to make a donation or check out our HUGG Holiday Market and pick up a gift with a powerful story. It’s a win win!

May His name continue to be made famous among the nations. To God be the glory….always.

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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 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.

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My Trip to Haiti: Part 1

Short-term mission trips to different countries have a way of causing us to glamorize every experience we come across.  We go expecting every experience to be exotic, unfamiliar and exhilarating.  This can cause us to romanticize even the mundane parts of our trip.  From the transportation methods, the language, the pace and the food, we tend to put too much emphasis on experience. 

One example: while in Belize a few years ago, we were eating at the hotel restaurant and drinking some very fine coffee. If you know me you know I have a deep love affair with coffee.  Several of us were lamenting how great the coffee was and wondering if we could find this coffee locally.  We asked the server what the brand of coffee was and where we could find it.  He wasn’t sure of the brand but said it was easy to find as it was in a bright blue container.  We looked everywhere for this coffee over the next few days to no avail, so we begged him to show us the container so we could finally see where this finest of coffees could be found.  The server went searching for the container as we waited excitedly.  He emerged from the kitchen looking half confused and annoyed carrying a bright blue plastic container of…Maxwell House coffee. Our server proceeded to tell us we could find it anywhere, including in the states.  That wasn’t what we were expecting. It was this moment that allowed me to re-evaluate how I was approaching the trip and each experience I came across.

The International Mission Board (IMB) posted a blog on their Facebook page recently titled “5 Ways Not to Return Home From a Mission Trip.”  In it the author, Elliot Clark, looks at ways Christians can return from a mission trip and have the wrong attitude and outlook as they are asked to reflect on their trip.  The author defines the wrong ways as; the Expert, the Called, the Critic, the Exaggerator and the Enthusiastic.  I believe how we come home from these trips can be heavily determined by how we prepare beforehand.

As I prepared to go to Haiti, my second trip there, I thought about this blog post. I thought about how might I prepare myself before I left so I stay grounded in what we’re going to do.  I wanted everything I saw to be through the eyes of God, so I could see what He has been doing in Haiti way before I even thought about going there.  I reminded myself God has not been waiting around for me to go back to Haiti so He could finally get to work. No, I needed to see where God has already been working and join Him in that work for the short period I am there.  I needed to allow Him to show me, “This is what I am doing, will you join Me?”  Also, I needed to listen and respect those that spend many weeks a year there, those that live there and have been called into a life of ministry to the people in Haiti.

Beach day with the HUGG boys

Two of those groups that have been working in Haiti for some time now: Hand Up Global Goods and Grangou.  They are who we went to support in the ministries they already have established in Haiti.  Come back next week to hear specifically what these organizations are doing in Haiti, how God is using them to not only minister to orphans but how those they are ministering to are starting their own ministries.  What an amazing concept…minister to some of the neediest people in Haiti, disciple them into Godly young men and then support them as they begin to minister to their own people.  It is one of the most beautiful, touching things witnessed.  Oh, what God can do when we simply allow Him to take control.

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End of Year Teacher Gifts that Give Back!

I’m THAT mom-the last minute gift shopper.

I buy birthday gifts on the way to friends’ parties and wrap (if stuffing tissue qualifies as “wrapping”) them in the parking lot. There was a while that my car console was a cornucopia of ribbon and tissue paper. I got quite good at the whole “panic shop for party” thing. No need for plastic grocery bags, just ring up the gift bag—pop that baby open and fill ‘er up!!! Seriously—this is how I roll.

As much as I try to get ahead of the game, buying gifts never seems to scratch its way to the top of my daily lists!!! So for now, yes, it’s hurried and probably not very thoughtful—but by-George—we make it to the party.

With the end of year teacher gifts up ahead, I need to find something super-easy that I can throw together without hassle—but it HAS to be thoughtful, you know?

After all, this is the person who has lovingly guided my littles for the last nine months. One of my children’s teachers, in particular, deserves the Teacher of the Year award for never calling me to complain about my son. I KNOW him—there is no way his passionate convictions were laid to rest in the classroom. Yet—not one call or complaint. This lady is a saint! Blessed are the teachers who don’t take ALL matters to the parents.

So how do I genuinely show her my appreciation without having to scour stores and spend A LOT of time and money? If you are wondering the same thing and you, like me, pick out gifts sort of last minute—I do have some thoughtful ideas that are easy, inexpensive and packed with meaning.

Your teacher will be thankful for the goodies AND the benefits each one brings to impoverished communities. THIS is using your purchasing power for GOOD!

Package 1: $30 – Teacher Love Bundle

Our classic “wrap the world around your wrist” bracelet with a burlap bound journal and orange flavored Zambeezi lip balm!

Teacher Love Bundle – $30

Package 2: $45 – FOUR Handmade Bracelets

Buy 3 Akolads and Get the 4th one Free! Each waxed cord bracelet comes in a cute HUGG muslin bag and shares the story of the artisan who made it.

Buy 3, Get 4th Free – Akolad!

Package 3: $15 –THREE Handmade Macrame Bracelets

Need a little something extra to complete your perfect teacher’s gift? Add this beautiful gold-filled macramé bracelet for just $6.00/piece or  buy any combination of 3 for $15!

So, dear mama, make it easy for yourself and get these artisan-made beauties shipped to you today.

Teacher Special will run through May 24th.

 

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Our New Spring Line Will Have You Looking Sustainably Chic!

New clothes, new jewelry, new home décor—I love them. I love the excitement of wearing something new or having a new piece of furniture in the house. Who does not love that? We may be in a world where fashion and style varies from person to person, but I think we can all agree that we all feel some sense of excitement when that new item we worked hard for comes in.

Over this past year, my journey has shifted. I still enjoy new things, but at what cost? I want to know where my items are coming from. Are the items I am purchasing helping the artisan that developed it or are those items aiding to the ever-growing issue of forced labor?

The good news: I am not the only one asking these questions. There are so many wonderful and progressive companies and individuals out there that have also asked these tough questions. These companies and individuals are the trailblazers in a whole new world of how we should shop. This is one of the many reasons why I am so thankful to be a part of the HandUp team.

This past week we launched our new spring line! If you have not checked it out, you can here. An amazing innovator in the world of ethical and sustainable living, Natalie from Sustainably Chic, did a write-up about us and introduced our spring line launch! We are beyond thrilled that she has shared with her audience about HUGG.

Picture by @sustainablychic wearing our new Ombre Pendant, Katelyn and Akolad bracelet

If you do not know about Sustainably Chic, I highly recommend you check her out. With a background in fashion, Natalie decided she did not want to work in the industry unless she could see a change in the way business was done. She has since started a blog to build a community of fair trade and sustainable fashion. You can truly see her heart in all that she promotes and we are in love with the write-up she did about us. If you missed it, you can check that out here.

Picture via @sustainablychic. Did you know that each purchase comes with a picture of one of artisans?

If you are as passionate as we are about fair trade (and I know you are), check out Sustainably Chic. You can follow her on both Facebook and Instagram @sustainablychic. From all of us at HUGG, thank you so much Natalie!

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Sneak Peek into Spring

I am not sure about the rest of the world, but Spring is in full bloom here in the great state of Texas. Bluebonnets, Indian Paintbrushes, and various other beautiful wildflowers are popping up all over. I will admit, as much as I love the winter, there is nothing more beautiful than springtime in Texas.

Not only is the weather awesome, but spring also blows in the new HandUp Global Goods spring line! Next week, the full line will be available for you to purchase. We also have a blogger who I have been fangirling for a long time to introduce our new pieces, Sustainably Chic!

Today is just a tease. A small peek at what our artisans have been working on diligently. Each piece of our new line is an extension of our HandUp team. We work together to collaborate on developing new designs so with each design you see, you are really seeing a piece of each one of the team members.

Our new Filigree Earrings

 

Our new Ombre Pendant

I hope you enjoy this snippet of our newest line. Remember to stop on by next Monday for the launch. Until then, I hope the start of your spring is filled with all of the Bluebonnets, your closets are ready for new spring lines of ethical fashion and daylight savings time does not destroy us parents. 

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Small Purchases Make a Huge Impact

I believe the hardest part about moving our purchases to fair trade items come from changing the way we think. The old saying, “Go big or go home” starts to play over in our heads. We think that if we cannot make some large, expensive purchase into fair trade then we feel as if there is no point.

This is simply not true.

Changing one purchase to fair trade can make a huge difference. That one purchase makes a tremendous impact on another person. And that purchase does not have to be large or expensive. It can be small and, in this case, delicious!

Today I am talking about gum. That’s right, gum. Project 7 makes specialty gums and mints that are made in America and have a global impact. Their focus is to aid in 7 Missions through the purchase of their gum: save the Earth, house the homeless, feed the hungry, quench the thirsty, heal the sick, teach them well and hope for peace. In their mission statement, Project 7 states, “Little purchases when added up, can pull many people together and make life changing impacts every day of the week.

What I enjoy most about their gum is all the unique flavors. I recently purchased Birthday Cake which legit tastes like birthday cake. It was amazing and my 4-year-old especially loved it! Now they have Girl Scout cookie flavored mints and gums! My girl-scout-cookie-loving heart is full.

Let the change in our perspective start here. Small changes do make a difference and small purchases do make a huge impact.

You can pick Project 7 gum up at most grocery stores. Give Project 7 a try and let me know what you think.

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Thank You for “Getting” What We Do!

Deflated. That’s how I felt when I walked into Market Hall in Dallas for one of the biggest shows of the year.   As I headed to our tiny booth, I took in the lavish displays of our competitors.  My thoughts went something like this—“Holy crapola!  There’s a lot of jewelry here!”

It quickly became apparent that our efforts to go “all out” for this show seemed to pale in comparison to the gloriously shiny booths that stuck their tongues out at me as I rolled my cart through.  It made me feel like yuck, much like the bottom of my muddy rain boots.

So I did what I always do when my optimism is viciously attacked by outside forces.  I pulled out my little cheerleader angel and she whispered what I wanted to hear:

“Our product is unique and crafted with love.  Surely shoppers will “get” our story.  It is unique and crafted in love….ra ra ra!”

Still feeling a little crappy.

Once the jewelry was laid out, I began placing photos on the white walls of our booth and slowly, ever slowly, the magic of our ministry began to unfurl before my eyes.  There were pictures of bright pink bougainvillea and beaches that boasted the beauty of Haiti. There were also pictures of trash and filth that revealed the brokenness from which our artisans come from.  There were dark, beautiful hands knotting bracelets—white faces, black faces, laughing, praying, working, playing.  This is us!

This is what sets HUGG jewelry apart!

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We didn’t have three glorious booths side by side or bounties of overflowing stock on our tables. We had us.

We had honest to goodness hand-made products that honestly empower young men in Haiti and that, honestly, is something that we are straight-up proud about.

We have Lindsay who designed and put together an amazing global chic display for us.  Robin, our in-house “jewelry lady” crimped and braided and beaded and hung chain on our demos down to the night before we left for market.  Kiley crunched numbers and cranked out pricing for our new pieces and Valerie photographed and curated a last-minute spring insert that we literally picked up from the printers on the way to Dallas.  This is the incredible story that I get to be a part of and I share it proudly.

I’d like to say that we had some killer sales and we had the ONE retailer who  thrust us into mainstream markets and now we can hire a hundred more teens aging out of orphanages.  But that is not how it works, does it?  I can say that we are now in several more stores than we were before we got here.  And for those people that did “get” us; please know that your joy over your purchase makes us feel successful because we know there are people out there that share our belief in our purchasing power.  It IS possible to positively impact the lives of people because of what we choose to buy for ourselves.  Now that is worth cheering about….ra ra ra!

Dallas Market….get ready for Round 2.

kiley-and-valerie-dallas-market         dallas-market-lindsay-and-natul

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Dressember Part 3: What Does the Money I Donate Do for Human Trafficking?

Imagine that you are the sole provider for your family. Times are hard and you have tiny mouths to feed and tiny people to clothe.

Then one day, you see a job offer. This one seems too good to be true, but you are so thankful for the opportunity. Things are looking up. How could this be bad?

But the job offer is merely a front. An opportunity to take advantage of a person in a place of vulnerability. Suddenly that ray of hope is extinguished. Now you are trapped. Owned by strangers. Strangers who are selling you to the highest bidder. An ache inside you grows as your world continues to grow darker.

Stories like this are real and there are a lot of them out there. All of these stories may have a different beginning, but the ending is the same. Trapped by strangers, forced to do things against their will. Human trafficking is the fastest growing criminal industry. It is an industry that focuses on the trading of human being, people like you and me. This is happening to men, women, and children and the statistics are mind blowing. Every 30 seconds, a person becomes a victim of human trafficking. Of the 27 million individuals believed to be bondage, only 1-2% of those are rescued.

But There is Hope

Those at A21 and IJM are working tirelessly to rescue those who are held against their will. A21 works on a 4P paradigm: prevention, protection, prosecution, and partnership. They want to educate everyone to help prevent people from falling victim to human trafficking. To protect those who have been a victim, they provide safe houses and restoration programs. These programs provide a safe and healthy way to transition back into society. A21 works to prosecute human traffickers and provides legal counsel for their victims. They also rely on partners like you and me to provide funds and education to the public. You can learn more about A21 here.

IJM, or the International Justice Mission, provides similar aid as A21. They are also a global organization that seek to end human trafficking. They work to restore those who were victims of trafficking by giving them the tools necessary to successfully move back into society. IJM works to strengthen the justice system so they can stop violence before it starts. They also focus on rescuing victims and bringing justice to human traffickers. You can learn more about IJM here.

How We Can Help

By donating to our HandUp Global Goods’ Dressember team, you are providing funds to aid in rescue operations. All the money donated goes directly to IJM and A21. By donating, you are partnering with us to make a stand. A stand against modern day slavery. You are saying that no one should be bought and sold. Join us and consider donating to our team today.

You can donate here: https://support.dressemberfoundation.org/team/92438

A few pictures from Dressember

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