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Sadie and Haiti

Being a mom to two small girls changes things. It’s changed things for me.

These girls are wise little sponges of imitation, and they are soaking me up. With these tiny shadows tailing me I can’t help but think long and hard about the kind of woman I am – about what kind of little women I am leaving in my wake.

I remember what it was like to watch my mom. Before it was all said and done, I would admire her, envy her, dissect her, reject her, become her… She was a case study in what it meant to be a woman, and I did not. miss. one. thing.

My girls are no different. They are watching. They are learning. What are they seeing?

I know what I want them to see.

But how do you go about crafting tiny girls into the beautiful/remarkable/empowered women they were created to be when women and girls all around the world are still trafficked, sold, abused, and belittled?

The trouble is, I started listening. I started listening to the things being said about the moms who are selling their girls to brothels because they can’t afford to feed them; about the women and girls fleeing Syria who are being brutally raped as a way of waging war; about the moms who are giving their babies away to orphanages because at least that way they know that they will eat…

You can only listen for so long before the listening turns to aching, which turns to praying, which turns to asking – “Why not us, Lord? Why are we safe and fed and healthy and rich?”

And then the burden of what do I do with all of this?

The Lord is so kind to plant these desires in our hearts, and then to give us the answer to the question He urged us to ask in the first place, right? So in this aching, tired place, this place of searching for a way to make a real and lasting impact in the lives of the 1,000s of women and children that so desperately need hope, and to leave a legacy for my girls, the Lord put “Trades of Hope” right where I could see it, and I jumped in with both feet.

Meeting Holly“Trades of Hope” is now my passion, my ministry, my joy, and (incredibly) my job! This missional business was founded in 2010 by two mother-daughter duos. The story is more complex (and beautiful) then this, but essentially, Holly Wehde and Gretchen Huijskens were just a couple of moms moved by the brokenness they were encountering in the world, and pursuing a God who loves the broken.  I recently met Holly at a little burrito place in Manasquan, New Jersey, and as she shared her heart and the story of how God dreamed up this big thing called “Trades of Hope,” do you know what struck me the most about this world-changing woman? She is just like me: a mom, loving Jesus, loving people, following Him wherever He wants to go. And that’s basically what she did. Holly & Gretchen (along with their daughters Chelsea & Elizabeth) have created a home party company with a purpose – one that is making a significant impact in the lives of 1,000s of women artisans (and their families and their communities and their countries) all over the world. As a Compassionate Entrepreneur, I am one of about 1600 other women who now represent an army of marketers (many of whom, myself included, didn’t exactly “do” the home party scene before becoming a CE), who are now dead set on getting into people’s homes and lives each and every week in order to empower our sisters around the globe to be the heroes of their own stories.

The idea behind “Trades of Hope” is really very simple: if you give a woman the tools and the opportunity to provide for her family by earning a living wage she will be UNSTOPPABLE. She will feed and clothe her children. She will send them to school. She will invest in her community and even become a leader in it. She will empower generations of girls to follow after her. And she will BREAK the cycle of poverty. That’s how it works. As a Compassionate Entrepreneur with Trades of Hope, I have the incredible privilege to partner with these women, selling their handcrafted items (jewelry, home décor, scarves, handbags, etc…) using fair trade principles and creating a market for their products, which empowers them to provide for their families in a way that is dignified, sustainable, and income-generating. The artisans we partner with live in extreme poverty, some have come out of sex work, some live in the slums, others have been acid attacked, or rejected by their communities – but they are brave, they are beautiful, they are talented, and this work is filling their lives with HOPE. Currently we partner with 16 countries, and about 20 specific artisan groups.

And the absolute highest honor you can earn as a Compassionate Entrepreneur with Trades of Hope? A million dollar salary? A brand new car? Nope. The end goal for so many of us is securing a seat on a Vision Trip, where we have the privilege and honor of meeting face-to-face with some of the women artisans we partner with. There are currently groups of Compassionate Entrepreneur’s traveling to artisan groups in Costa Rica, Haiti, and Guatemala several times a years, with more locations in the works. We actually get to meet her, to see what her life looks like, to hear how our work is making a difference in it! If this doesn’t speak to the transparency of the company, and to the heart behind the movement I don’t know what does.

Since Vision Trips are such a unique element of “Trades of Hope,” I asked fellow Compassionate Entrepreneur, Veronica Martinez, to share with us what it was like to visit our artisans in Costa Rica:

“A couple of days after my 34th birthday, I boarded a plane to Costa Rica to meet some of the women I partner with through Trades of Hope. These women (and one man) are in a very poor suburb area of the capital city, San Jose. Gangs, drugs, prostitution (which is legal in Costa Rica), and poverty were about to surround me and I wasn’t sure how much of the energy bubbling up was excitement and how much was anxiety [fear]. Was I going to be safe? Were my two boys going to be OK while I was gone? Was it going to be worth it? All of the answers were yes, thankfully, but it didn’t end there.

What impacted me the most during my time in Costa Rica was my connection with two women, Ileana and Maria. Maria was recently widowed and has a family who depends on her. She makes our Eternal Seed Necklace, and does so with joy. Maria knows what it is to have a job without dignity, and to not be paid enough to provide for her family’s needs. She makes in two days what she made in a week at her former job, and is now treated as part of the family with the other artisans in the group. Ileana is one of the leaders of the artisan group in Costa Rica. She and her husband have such an enormous heart for their community. They reach out to youth who don’t have hope or a good home environment.

Veronica and Maria

Maria making the eternal seed necklace

Two things Ileana said to me have stayed with me. The first is that the partnership we have formed with them is an answer to prayers as they were coming out of a very challenging time. Ileana says, “This is helping us out of the pit.”  The artisans we partner with around the world are able to work – and willing to work. They just lack the opportunity. We have a chance to provide that! The second thing Ileana said that has stayed in my heart she said after we had visited one of the artisan’s homes in the slum. She was sharing her heart for all of the women in the community who need what she has – sustainable income with dignity. It really hit me that I have been empowered to empower Ileana to fulfill her dream. The more women I invite to be Compassionate Entrepreneurs and to be a voice for the voiceless, the more of a demand there will be for the products we carry. To fulfill that demand, Ileana will be able to continue to bring on more and more women who desperately need the hope and sustainability. There is no magic to what I do. I am just inviting others to join me, to open up their homes and invite their friends to party with a purpose… to shop conscientiously… to create an opportunity for another woman to earn an income with dignity. There are myriad ways to change the world. Each of us living passionately, for the glory of God, will turn the world upside down.”

Oh, and on top of all of that goodness, the products are stunning. They are unique, fashion-forward pieces with a very reasonable price tag.

eternal seed necklace

If you can’t tell, I love everything about this company, and am incredibly honored to be a part of what they stand for and what they are accomplishing. If you’d like to learn more about how you can join this world-changing sisterhood or would like to see the pieces up close, hop on over to my website, www.mytradesofhope.com/jolynngraubart. And feel free to email me at cejolynntoh@gmail.com with any questions. I have learned so much in recent months about the women we partner with and am so eager to share their stories and to spread the Trades of Hope love with anyone who will listen.

 

“I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.” – Mother Theresa-

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