The world is in a great amount of turmoil these days. Nearly every day there is a report of events, whether great or small that break our hearts.
Boko Haram kidnappings
More and more and MORE people arrested and charged with human trafficking (which is bad news, but also good!)
There seems to be very little to grasp on to, very little hope for so many people in our world.
But as Christians, we know that we have the greatest Hope of all, the hope of eternal life in Christ Jesus. And even if we get everything else set to rights in this world, if we leave Him out of it all, it is all pointless.
There are a great many organizations working toward making things right in their countries, bringing hope and joy back to very dark situations. I greatly admire the work that they are doing. These posts that I’m sharing with you about how you can make
purchases that make a difference are my way of furthering their work and opening our eyes to the great amount of good that IS going on.
Today I’m sharing a little bit with you about ARZU Studio Hope, an organization working out of the Bamyan region of Afghanistan. The relationship of ARZU and their location in Bamyan is unique because of a great and rich tradition of arts that is there. It was once considered the center of the East meeting West, and so with that came a meeting of a great many styles and cultures of architecture and artistry. But on the flip side of this great cultural heritage comes the reality that today there is very great poverty.
ARZU, which means “Hope” in Dari, was founded in 2003 by Connie Duckworth. After retiring from a 20 year career with Goldman Sachs, which included a position as the first woman managing partner, Duckworth was invited by President George W. Bush to join the inaugural U.S. Women’s Afghan Council as the business representative. After her first visit to Afghanistan, Duckworth was compelled to do something to help the destitute women that she met during her travels and founded ARZU.
For the past ten years, ARZU has successfully engaged with rural Hazara women and families in multiple villages in Bamyan Province, one of the poorest, most remote and underserved regions in Afghanistan.
We create economic opportunity for adult women and provide an eco-system of holistic social support for their families, including adult literacy, maternal healthcare, preschool education, low-income housing, and community training facilities such as women’s centers, coop agriculture facilities, preschools, playgrounds, and public parks.
ARZU’s long-standing and consistent presence in Bamyan has allowed us to build strong relationships and credibility with all strata of society there from Provincial, tribal, and community leadership to homeless displaced widows. ARZU’s ten-year outcomes data demonstrates the true impact of our work. While, rural women in Afghanistan lag across the board on all measures, the outcomes for those engaged with ARZU are significantly better. ARZU weavers:
- Earn 68% more than the average Afghan per capita income (which includes men and urban areas):
- Are now 100% literate (compared with a national illiteracy rate for women of 82%);
- 20% are putting at least one child through college;
- 55% own their own homes; 70% own cell phones;
- No woman or baby has died in childbirth since 2006, when ARZU began its maternal health outreach.
The rug industry employs over 6 million people in some way or another, from the start of the process in gathering the wool to the sale of the rugs in a shop or market.
Connie’s goal in starting ARZU was to cover the most bases possible, from start to finish, and broaden the impact that providing these jobs would have.
The rugs are beautiful, high quality pieces of art and ARZU has won many awards for the work that they have done, both in their products and in how they work as an organization.
They’re a model organization for how to work effectively on the ground and have received a lot of praise for for being able to execute their model within the communities.
Not only this, but they truly understand the relationship of connecting the consumer to the ideal of making better choices with their purchases. Connie says:
From the consumer side, once people really do embrace this idea of product with purpose—they’re converts. The immense scale of intractable global problems, like poverty alleviation, makes it really hard for people to wrap their minds around them. Often people feel overwhelmed and think they can’t possibly do anything to help. But, actually they can! You can lead with your pocketbook. When people understand that the act of making a conscious choice can and does result in direct transformational change, it’s empowering. In fact, I think ARZU is almost as empowering for the consumer side as it for the women weavers in Afghanistan. (ICOSA Media)
Our kids really got into para cord bracelets last summer, and our new homeschool co-op is doing a para cord class with them as well. Along with their rugs, ARZU also makes PEACE Cord bracelets.
PEACE CORD® PROVIDES ECONOMIC OPPORTUNITY FOR WOMEN WHO ARE UNSKILLED, PREGNANT, ELDERLY, OR CHALLENGED IN SOME OTHER WAY.
These are a great gift or even just a fantastic reminder of how good is being worked out in the lives of these Afghan women and their families.