What if you could buy absolutely stunning handmade goods while ensuring that women in Rwanda and Costa Rica had consistent work, many for the first time in their lives? Well, thanks to Rebecca Gardner, you can! We’re so inspired by how Hands Producing Hope combines our love for shopping a really cool site with changing the lives of women around the world. To learn more, read on, and be sure to check out Hands Producing Hope at handsproducinghope.org and on Instagram @handsproducinghope
Tell us about Hands Producing Hope. What does your organization do?
Hands Producing Hope is empowering women in developing countries to rise above poverty and thrive in their communities. We do that through providing skill training for women in vulnerable positions in remote places, providing a market for their handmade goods, and by providing mentorship, life skills classes, and education! We currently have over 70 women that we are partnering with in Rwanda and Costa Rica. They now have consistent work, many for the first time in their lives, and we are selling their stunning handmade goods to the US market as a way to fund our work and share these ladies stories.
What was your inspiration for starting Hands Producing Hope?
I wanted to be a voice for women who didn’t have anyone advocating for them. I wanted to see there no longer be any barriers for women in remote communities around the world to provide for themselves and their families. I saw women longing to provide for their children but not having any resources to be able to do so and I wanted to come alongside these women and help them provide for themselves! I wanted to see their physical, educational, and spiritual needs met – to see them thrive and be whole. I encountered women that had these needs in a remote indigenous village in Costa Rica at the beginning of college and I knew that I needed to start something for them.
How do you know you are making a difference? Do you have any success stories you can share with us?
I know we are making a difference because of the transformation we have seen in the women we work with. There has been a transformation not just in their ability to do things like buy school supplies, make home improvements, and buy healthier food – but there has been significant change in their confidence! We see ladies voicing opinions who had never felt comfortable doing so before, we see women beginning to dream for their futures for the first time, and we see brighter faces filled with hope! One women Josaphine, is now able to write her name for the first time in her 50+ years of living thanks to our literacy class for our Rwandan artisans. Through the income that Yorleny earns with HPH, she has been able to open a small shop beside her home to sell snacks and grocery items to her community. Andrea has decided to take night classes to finish elementary school in hopes that she will one day earn her high school diploma and we are providing her with a scholarship to do so.
You knew you had a great idea for how to bring about change. Who did you have to convince in order to start Hands Producing Hope, and how did you do it?
No one! I just did it. My husband was behind me 100% and I just stepped out and took the leap. We started small, made mistakes, and learned as we went. The biggest thing I had to overcome was not believing that I was capable. Don’t let yourself give into that lie.
You are doing so much to ensure that the women engaged with you are getting an education. Why does education matter?
Education is a launching pad. Once you have education, it can take you anywhere. Being educated isn’t the end all be all, it is a step – a big step – to be able to bring a better future to yourself and your family. When you have received an education, you are that much more able to see your dreams fulfilled, to have the knowledge or HOW to pursue your dreams, and to be able to help educate the next generation.
If you could do college again, is there anything you would do differently to prepare you for founding Hands Producing Hope?
That is such a good question! I would have taken some business classes. I managed to graduate without any business classes other than economics and while I have learned so much on the fly, it would have been very useful to have various business and finance principles in the back of my mind. Oh, and taken a class on Excel. I am still horrible at Excel and I have discovered it is a great life skill to have.
What do you like to do when you aren’t changing the world?
I love to go on walks, to play with my 11 month old daughter, to cook, and to explore new parts of town. I visit our farmers market almost every Saturday morning and love finding an excuse to sit down for a scone and coffee at my favorite coffee shop. I enjoy gathering with my local community so I am always on the hunt for a fun festival or arts event in my city.
What three words would your friends use to describe you? What three words would you use?
Brave, Passionate, Kind
Heart felt, hopeful, dreamer
What makes someone a great leader?
A great leader is someone who is always listening to the needs of those around them and who is a servant. Serving those around you is a KEY characteristic of a great leader. Also, being flexible and is another vital thing needed to be a strong leader.
How can we get involved? Are you looking for campus ambassadors? Do you hire interns? What else can we do?
The simplest way to be part of what we are doing is to become a customer! Truly, we are able to do what we do because people are buying our products—which enables us to impact more women and grow our programs. So whether its buying for yourself or choosing to do your Christmas shopping with Hands Producing Hope, you are becoming part of our artisans stories.
Yes! We are looking for Campus Ambassadors and Interns for Spring and Summer 2017! This is such an awesome opportunities for students to get first hand experience with a new fair trade organization and to put to practice all the things they are learning in the class room. There is info on our website about the different rolls we have available and info on how to apply!