My husband, Dan, and I made plans this year to attend the 44th Annual Carolina Balloon Fest in Statesville, NC with his parents in late October. I had never been to a hot air balloon festival, and found myself looking forward to this new experience in a North Carolina town we hadn’t yet explored.
Well, we all had a wonderful time and found Statesville, NC to be a very welcoming & charming town. The festival itself was very enjoyable and made for a memorable experience. So much so, that I wanted to devote a blog post to it and share some beautiful pictures with you!
The first day of the festival, we went to the Evening Glow, which was a stunning display of over 20 balloons inflated at sunset as if they were going to take off. The balloons glow simultaneously like huge lanterns, which is a spectacular display. Below is a picture we took of this experience.
The next day, we enjoyed some lovely music from local bands, North Carolina wine, and viewed the equally stunning Mass Ascension. The Mass Ascension is a launch of all the participating balloons, done in several waves. The variety of balloons and colors made for a beautiful visual display. It was quite an experience to see this! Some pictures of the balloons and Mass Ascension are below.
At the festival, I couldn’t help but think about how the hot air balloon pilot really has to “go with the flow” in terms of piloting the balloon. While the pilot has a general idea of where he will go, the hot air balloon essentially goes wherever the wind takes it. The pilot can seek higher or lower altitudes to find wind currents and sail in various directions. Watching this in person really made me think about the saying “life is a journey, not a destination.” There is a joy in savoring the present moments, and “going with the flow” as new challenges present themselves.
Something about Trades of Hope really hit home for me when I learned that the company partners with their local Arc Chapter for employment opportunities in their Distribution Center.
The Arc is America’s leading advocate for all people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The packages customers receive are packaged by these amazing men and women.
One of my cousins has Down syndrome, and I immediately thought about her when I learned this. My cousin is fortunate in this country to have respect and opportunities through programs like those at The Arc that so many similarly challenged individuals in developing countries struggle to find. Trades of Hope is changing this through its partnerships with artisan groups. Having these opportunities is life changing to those that have disabilities here and in developing countries. This is just one more reason I’m passionately pursuing my Compassionate Entrepreneur business with Trades of Hope, and sharing the opportunity with others. Together, we can truly make a difference & touch so many lives!
Feel free to reach out to me if you are interested in learning more about this opportunity!
As a new Compassionate Entrepreneur, I’m learning the ways Trades of Hope builds artisan partnerships and tackles human trafficking issues that go beyond the initial purchase of artisan products. One of these ways is through a program called “Gifts of Hope.”
“Gifts of Hope” is the vehicle through which Trades of Hope gives back a percentage of profits of product sales (currently 10%). Donations are given to various organizations that empower women around the world, with a focus on:
Fighting Against Sex Trafficking: Sweetwater Girls Ranch in Minnesota, A21 Campaign, International Justice Mission;
Sustainable Agriculture: Donating baby chicks to families in need as a way for them to create a sustainable food source and income;
Disaster Relief: Relief from Hurricane Matthew in Haiti, the earthquake in Nepal, the Orlando shooting, the Louisiana flooding in 2016, and various emergency needs of our artisans worldwide;
Education: Supporting Three Angels School in Haiti, starting and supporting Apparent Project School in Haiti, fully funding Good News School in India, donating supplies to schools in Thailand, and giving to Freedom Global’s Girls School in Kenya;
Empowering Through Resources: Counseling sessions for artisans in need, water wheels, wells and water pipes, bikes for girls in Cambodia, sewing machines for women around the world to start their businesses.
It is wonderful to know that by gifting a Trades of Hope product, you’re actually giving twice – once to the gift recipient, and the other to organizations such as those mentioned above.
You can check out this video to see all of the amazing things that were done through Gifts of Hope in 2016!
What an honor to be able to represent such an amazing, compassionate company that is truly a Force for Good in this world! Feel free to connect with me to learn more about how you can get involved to spread Hope + Dignity.
If you ever questioned how much of a difference purchasing a piece of Fair Trade jewelry can make, I invite you to read this post on Trades of Hope’s May Lee Necklace.
This summer, our Co-Founder Holly traveled to Asia. While there she went into some of the brothels and met women who were so much like her, but lacked choice, education and the opportunity for a better life.
Trades of Hope is changing this. The women alongside Co-Founder Holly in the above picture have been empowered out of the brothels and are now learning new skills while making beautiful jewelry! The May Lee Necklace is one of these pieces that is now available in our Marketplace. These women are also being given holistic care. This means each woman has the opportunity to receive vocational training, healthcare, shelter, counseling, as well as education grants.
When you purchase Trades of Hope products, you are wearing the story of our Artisan Partners. You are wearing stories of Hope + Restoration. You are making a connection to other women who are proud of the products they have made for you. You begin to realize that we are all connected and part of a bigger story.
If you search for Trades of Hope products made by artisans in the Philippines, you will learn that they are very skilled in using Capiz shells to make gorgeous earrings. I want to share a little bit about the Philippines and one of our artisans, Grace, with you.
Currently, almost 33% of the population in the Philippines lives below the poverty line. Local artisans are often forced to try and sell their products to tourists for very low compensation because they lack access to foreign markets. The artisan group Trades of Hope is partnered with is changing lives in the Philippines by helping artisans develop skills to sell their products to the world! These artisans are benefiting through micro-financing, technical training, product development assistance and special incentives for their quality craftsmanship. They now have this steady income to help the provide for their families.
One of the artisans in this group is Grace. When she applied for employment in the group, she did not know the skill required for working with Capiz, but was determined to learn. Grace knew that, “with determination, nothing is impossible.” She soon overcame her obstacles and has now been with the group for over 13 years. She has advanced in her position and receives legal benefits, training seminars, group retreats, and loans so she can send her children to school! She also has been able to purchase the home and lot where her family is living.
My Capiz Earrings have a special place in my heart now that I’ve heard Grace’s story! I’m glad to see we are empowering these women to be heroes of their own stories with a sustainable income.
While India has experienced rapid growth and development in the past years in many spheres, gender equity is not one of them. Women deal with numerous structural and social barriers preventing them from fully participating in the economy, especially in rural areas where almost three out of four Indians and 77 percent of the Indian poor live. One of these barriers is a real, constant threat of gender-based violence that discourages women from leaving their homes. This threat also leads some parents to marry off daughters before the legal age of 18 in an effort to protect them. However, the act of marriage does little to protect women as domestic violence is often a result and there is very little that can be done in the legal system to punish the abuser.
Trades of Hope has been able to partner with some women artisan groups in rural Indian villages. Through this Fair Trade partnership, many of these women are now finding their voice and are empowered to be self-reliant! By making these products for Trades of Hope, they are stepping out from the thinking that women have no value. Rather, they are respected for their contribution to their families.
Below is a picture of an artisan working on our Love Bowl.
As a result of our partnerships, some of the groups have been able to start schools for their villages and provide clean water to them. This is an example of how sustainable business has a ripple effect on raising living standards for whole communities.
The finished Love Bowl, pictured below, is symbolic of these women’s love of family and community. Every time I see one of these handmade bowls, I think of how it is inspired by their hope to create a better future for themselves and generations of Indian women to come.
I recently read an article that dealt with the Rana Plaza building collapse in Bangladesh, and what has been done to create more transparency in the garment industry. I wanted to share a little bit about this article with you before I introduce one of our Bangladesh artisans, Sajeda.
On April 24, 2013, the deadliest disaster in the garment industry occurred in Bangladesh when the eight-story Rana Plaza building outside Dhaka collapsed. The building housed 5 garment factories that manufactured goods for major retail companies in Europe and North America. More than 1,100 people were killed, and many more were injured. No one knew which companies were sourcing clothing from the building, and investigators actually had to go through the ruins to collect the clothing labels so they could hold those brands accountable.
Bagladesh has the second largest garment industry behind China, and the industry accounts for 12% of its GDP. There are many issues with transparency in the supply chain that result in dangerous working conditions going unchecked. Unfortunately, according to the Clean Clothes Campaign, only 17 of 72 apparel and footwear companies have agreed to implement the Transparency Pledge by the end of this year. The Transparency Pledge aims to set minimum standards for publishing supply chain information.
Despite this, Trades of Hope has been able to make a difference in Bangladesh through partnering with an artisan group there and providing a marketplace in the US for their beautiful products. One of the artisans in this group is Sajeda.
Sajeda is married, but could not see her husband often due to his work at a brick factory in another village. Sajeda wanted to help contribute to her family’s household income, and decided to develop a skill in embroidery. After developing this skill, she met an artisan partnering with Trades of Hope and was able to join the artisan group. She is now the supervisor over all embroidery and has even learned how to craft jute handles and scarves. As a result of her success in this group, she has been able to send her children to school and has saved enough money to send her husband to Dubai for a better job. According to Sajeda, “Now I have no fear…. I am fully self-reliant.” She has become an Empowered woman.
The Safari Sunset Scarf is only one of the beautiful products this artisan group creates. Made of 100% silk and covered in tribal shapes, it’s a unique scarf to wear and I love being able to share the Empowering story behind it. These women take enormous pride in their work and are beautiful pillars of strength for their families and communities.