Some of my favorite moments when we travel to visit the artisans we work with is showing them their creations in the lookbook. Such a sense of pride and accomplishment, and usually giggles, fill the room. In the last few weeks, we have gotten to show off our latest lookbook in Uganda, Ecuador, and Peru.
When I first started buying products from Jalia and Daniel in August of 2010, I would wire over some money, and they would send me a box of 40-50 pieces. They truly were living in poverty, their kids were not in school, and they were fearful of how they would even eat that day. They now have a home, a car, their kids are in school and they are employing 35 people (and growing). Our orders are now in the thousands and the impact has been more that I could imagine. Employment opportunities are scarce in Uganda. Jobs where they can have confidence of ongoing work that won't be short term is even rarer still. Then, finding a place where you can work in a positive, safe and encouraging atmosphere where bosses care for you as a person, pay you well and pay you on time every pay period is possibly the rarest circumstance of all. Your purchase of these items creates dignity and opportunity.
Our new La Jolla necklace has quickly become a top seller. Travis and I finally got to meet the faces behind our famous seed pieces a couple of weeks ago. I quickly fell in love with Ecuador. We shared lunch with Nancy and Carlos in their home, and it was right when their kids were getting home from school. Their 7 year old walked in, plopped her backpack down, grabbed a snack and turned on Nick Jr in Spanish! It felt like home in so many ways- which is what I love. The more I get to know our artisans, the more similarties I see in our hopes and dreams. Only 6 years ago, Nancy and Carlos were living in poverty. Now their children are enjoying a top notch education.
Carlos gave me a ride in his family's new car to the airport and shared more of his story with me. (so thankful my dad “forced” me to study abroad and learn Spanish. Thanks Dad!) His father left their family when he was only 11 years old, so Carlos had to drop out of school to work and provide for his family. His odd jobs have included playing music on the street for money, to going to Colombia to sell his crafts. With the consistent work he now receives from our orders, combined with others, his dreams of providing for his kids’ education is a reality. Nancy and Carlos are so endearing, and it was obvious they have a strong marriage and commitment to their family. Nancy is the community leader for their neighborhood. They have moved far beyond only thinking of their daily needs into now investing in their community. Wow.
I have to admit, I definitely have a dream job, but it is only a dream because you are spreading the word about Noonday. Collectively, we are utilizing our purchasing power to create lasting and sustainable change to traditionally marginalized groups. Some day, you will have to come with me and give them hugs for yourself!