Friends, readers, new and old. This series has changed me. I’ve lost a lot of sleep. Made a lot of new connections and some dear friends. Done a ton of research, had my heart wrenched with stories of horrible situations, and then leap at the changes made on the other side.
I’ve sent a bajillion e-mails and typed “fair trade”, “ethical” and “make a difference” just as many times. Frantically scribbled down ideas as they came to me on whatever pieces of paper I could find (cuz I’m still kind of a paper gal in this techno age). I’ve followed, added (and maybe instagram-stalked, just a little) a heap of organizations, ministries, businesses and individuals who are making good things happen in the lives of so many people and communities.
You all have been so gracious in hearing my heart and passion for telling others that you can start taking what you buy and use it to make a difference in this world. It doesn’t have to be a lot, but really, every little bit, every little change you make in where you shop, every purchase made from an ethically-minded business, has an impact.
I am sad to see this series end, but the passion for sharing companies will not burn out! On Fridays, as much as I am able, I will continue to share with you my fairtrade, ethical fashion findings. Because there is so much I haven’t even gotten to yet, and I expect to continue to find more as I keep on digging.
Today, I am honoured to close this series out with an interview from one of my favourite ambassadors for fairtrade fashion and women – she’s a wife and mom, an entrepreneur, and the founder of a fantastic company, Better Life Bags. They make BEAUTIFUL custom bags – diaper bags, laptop bags, clutches and purses – as well as ready-to-ship items, that are all just gorgeous and functional.
Rebecca is passionate about employing women in her own backyard who wouldn’t otherwise be able to get a job. Women who are first generation immigrants from other countries have not only jobs provided for them, but a fellowship of friends and encouragement.
Because there are needs right here, right now, that we can meet. And sometimes, all it takes, is a gal in a tight spot with an idea and a vision to make a change.
How did you get involved/started with making these bags? What drew and motivated you to work with the women in Detroit (and around the world)?
I made my first diaper bag in 2009 for myself when I was pregnant with my first child. After posting pictures on Facebook, people encouraged me to open my own ETSY shop and start selling them. That year I had also gotten a Kiva gift card from my brother for Christmas and decided that if I was going to be bringing in some extra income to our family then I wanted to give some of it away to people in developing countries through Kiva.
Six months after opening our ETSY shop we moved to Detroit, MI. Orders were steady, but I was still able to do them all by myself. About two years later, though – I couldn’t keep up. I remembered a woman I had met the first week I moved to Michigan.
She was from Yemen and knew how to sew.
(photo from The Detroit Hub – read full article here)
I randomly called her up and she was willing to help me! Every week, I would deliver fabric to her house and pick up completed bags. A few months into doing this, she showed me a bunk bed set she had bought for her girls. They are previously been sleeping on mattresses on the floor. Then, a few weeks later she showed me their first table and chair set for their house.
She was able to contribute to her family in a huge way by making bags for me.
I decided then that I wanted to use this business as a way to employ women from our community who also needed the ability to work inside their homes and become primary or secondary providers for their family. We now have 12 women working for Better Life Bags!
What is the greatest impact / blessing you have seen in your life? How have you seen women changed / impacted / blessed?
Having a job that I go to every day with a purpose and goal that is bigger than making money changes everything for me. We have 4 different cultures represented in our group of women and I also think it’s pretty cool that the business is a platform for peace between the different cultures and races.
One day, one of our seamstresses was helping us in the workshop and she ran her finger along the tag on our bags which reads, “Better Life Bags”. And she said, “That’s so true. It has made my life so much better. And given me purpose.” They are always praying and asking God for more orders and more customers so they can keep busy.
And I’m blessed to call each of them friends.
What would you say to others to encourage and tell them that they can make a difference in the lives of others by changing the way they shop?
Your money has power. The way you spend it makes a difference. You are voting for what kind of world you want to live in when you shop.
Be aware. Know where companies are sourcing their products and demand to know the ethical requirements they place on their factories. And even though it’s more expensive to buy from American made companies – especially those who have a cause and mission like we do – you are directly helping the people who live right next door to you. Giving them dignity, honor, and respect.
Did you catch that up there? Your money has power. You can tell it what to do, and subsequently change the minds of companies, regulations, governments and the course of history. It’s already happening, we are already seeing some companies respond to the outcry and demand for better working situations and fair wages. The sheer number of fair trade organizations and businesses that exist is a testament to the fact that our voices are being heard, and they.are.listening.
Will you start using your money, your resources, your voice, to continue making purchases that make a difference?
A homeschooled student turned homeschooling mom of 5. Passionate about teaching my children the truth of God's word through his creation and his-tory, spending time as a family and outdoors, learning how to be more creative, and giving glory to God. Seeking to serve Christ and set a godly example for my children, to grow in love and encouragement, failing forward, learning to lean on God's grace and trust in his strength.