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“You are never to old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.” — C.S. Lewis
He was found in a trash can, only hours old, barely alive. Nothing is known of his mama, one of hundreds of hopeless women in Haiti who abandon their babies because they can’t even feed themselves, much less provide for another life. I hold him in my arms at the orphanage, singing softly over him and am stirred again to do more, to try harder, to help other mamas in Haiti and in countries around the world to keep and feed and clothe and send their children to school — to give them hope and a future.
I am in Haiti as a result of a journey that began last year, to make a difference for women and children caught in poverty and oppression, to “speak up for the rights of those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute.” (Proverbs 31:8). Faced with overwhelming statistics, that today more than 30,000 children will die of starvation or preventable disease, that there are over 147 million orphans, that between 12 and 27 million children and women are caught in human trafficking, I also hear the challenge that we all have the power to change these statistics if we would each do just one thing to help — just one thing — and I searched for how I could make a difference. A statement I read in “Kisses from Katie,” by Katie Davis compelled me: “I know that I can’t change the world, but I can change the world for one person.”
Today I am a Compassion Entrepreneur with Trades of Hope, founded by two women who wanted their young adult daughters to know that they were born to make a difference in the world. Together, the four of them began Trades of Hope two years ago as a business with a mission, to hold “Parties with a Purpose,” selling Fair Trade, hand-crafted artisan products that would empower women out of poverty, sweat shops and the sex trades through creating a market to provide sustainable incomes. Fair Trade ensures that the women are paid a living wage in workplaces where they are treated with dignity and respect and where the community as a whole also benefits. By offering opportunity instead of handouts, the cycle of poverty is broken and people are helped to become self-sufficent. Trades of Hope has a vision of an army of CEs changing the world!
In Haiti with our founders and 10 other CEs from across the country, we see for ourselves how we are changing lives. At the ApParent Project, we meet with Shelly Clay, who came to Haiti to adopt an orphan and stayed when she discovered her “orphan” had a living mom who couldn’t feed him. Shelly and her husband started this nonprofit to enable moms to keep their babies. They began with six artisans, teaching them to make jewelry out of recycled cereal boxes, and now employ more than 200 men and women in jewelry making, sewing and pottery crafts, providing an income that is twice Haiti’s minimum wage. We visit with the artisans, many with babies on their laps, as they teach us to roll beads, to try our hand at pottery, to observe their creativity, and I am thankful to play a part in the hope I see in their eyes, the smiles on their faces, the plump, healthy cheeks of their children.
We visit a new partner, Heartline Ministries, where their artisans are creating new handbags on sewing machines purchased by Trades of Hope, so that they could begin a training program to provide jobs for these new moms. We hear how women have been able to leave abusive relationships, move into a new home, send children to school for the first time because of this opportunity.
At Three Angels Children’s Relief, we meet three school girls sponsored through the sales from Trades of Hope, girls who will have a future because they are getting an education, and we meet the women in the artisan program who are learning new skills and crafts to provide for their families. We see hope, dignity, pride in what they are producing, and we know that what we do matters.
Back home in Tennessee, far from the constant crowing of roosters, honking of the tap-taps (brightly painted trucks with benches for public transportation), roar of motorcycles, pervasive smell of gasoline and burning charcoal, my heart and thoughts remain in Haiti. As I picture the faces of the strong women of Haiti, I remember the warmth of the abandoned baby in my arms, and I realize anew that every choice women here in Tennessee make when we spend our money really does impact our sisters in Haiti, in India, in Uganda, in Guatemala, the Philippines, in all the places women are working in safety and dignity through Fair Trade groups. And I am encouraged to advocate even more for women here at home to realize the power that we possess to impact women around the world.
Just by choosing to shop with organizations that support Fair Trade, we can help women out of poverty, sweatshops and oppression — every one of us can change the world for one.
For more information on Fair Trade visit www.fairtradeusa.org.
Deborah says her desire is to continue to follow the Lord into every new dream He has for her life and to encourage other women to do the same.
She is a member of Columbia’s First Baptist Church, where she teaches a Kindergarten Sunday School class and second graders in Wednesday night Kids Club. She is also active in the ladies Bible study group at First Baptist as well as in Community Bible Study. She blogs to advocate for Christian women becoming involved in social justice at http://todreamanew.blogspot.com.