Sisterhood in the DR

"The Collective Sisterhood has been built, made, woven together. It represents the melding of women from different cultures, different locations. The Collective is saying to each other “I See You”. Each piece of jewelry is a maker piece that has truth in it’s bones, the truth of a carefully crafted woven fabric of relationship that brings to bear a foundation, support and talisman for you to draw strength from, for you to feel beautiful in, for you to connect yourself to this energy of sisterhood. Put them on, dance in them, be sad in them, but know that you have chosen to enter in and are seen."

I felt this "sisterhood" connection with these women more than ever on my most recent trip!  What an amazing time of laughing, praying, learning from each other, hearing these women's stories, learning to persevere together, and encouraging each other. 

Jewelry: I am so amazed at how quickly these women catch on.  I was able to lay a new design in front of them and within minutes Elly was measuring, directing and showing the women what to do.  I was able to sit back and watch and of course I had a smile on my face because this is the GOAL.  To teach and then let these women take it on themselves.  Wow.  This was one of those "moments" that I will refer back to often. A "moment" of seeing how God comes to fruition and there is excitement in the air and a realization that this is what I am supposed to be doing with my life.  Encouraging, teaching, empowering women, and then letting go in order to let them step up with confidence, skills and leadership of their own. This TRULY happened on this trip. 

Conversations: My hope in this business/work has always been to really hear the women I work with.  To continue asking hard questions and always make sure that making jewelry is something they want to do.  I also want to know how it impacts their daily lives and why making an income matters.  The candid conversation we were able to have with a few women was life-changing for me.  And all the more motivating to continue on this uphill journey of starting a business.  We learned that most families need between $10-15 USD to feed their family of five per day. Most of these women are not receiving this much from their husbands to buy food, so they are supplementing the difference with their own income.  Where is this income coming from?  Jewelry, salon services, and sewing.  But most of the women do not have these skills to earn an extra income.  I want to change this!

Moving Forward: We will continue to make jewelry and I hope to develop higher quality items that will produce more income for these women!  I did research on producing jewelry with Larimar which is sourced in the DR.  I would also love to help with more on the ground business development with these women.  Starting their own businesses locally and helping them gain the skills to do so!

This sisterhood is like nothing I have experienced!  The women both stateside and in the DR who are involved in Project I See You, the organization I work with, are amazing and have changed me forever.  

Thank you for your support and prayers on this journey!

Kelly

Dreaming...

Getting Ready to go back to the DR in April.  Researching, Designing and dreaming are in the days ahead for the new line.  A little behind, but when you do all the pieces of your business you have to get it done when you can!

Spring Line coming soon!

 My Mood Board

My Mood Board

We Never Know...

I just returned from an amazing jewelry development trip with Project I See You in La Victoria, Dominican Republic.  I traveled with my friend Amanda, who was an amazing partner on this fun, hot, and truly rewarding journey.

First and foremost, we wanted to continue to develop the co-op model among the women by empowering them to lead, made decisions, and help each other learn these jewelry skills. We talked about quality control, handling money, paying for supplies and assembly line type production. 

Secondly, we taught the women to make the new designs that are a part of the Te Veo line.  I was amazed at how quickly they learned the skills and understood the designs.  We came home with a lot of inventory to sell for the summer! Whoohoo!  I also really enjoyed continuing to get to know these women and hear their stories.  They are hard-working, smart, beautiful women who want to learn and provide for their families.  I love it!

The title of this post is a direct quote form one of our friends in La Victoria.  The first night we were in the DR we were talking about some details and how to get them done.  Kiki's response was, "Here, We Never Know" along with a shoulder shrug. It struck me as so funny. Mostly the way that he said it, but also the truth that it holds. This quickly became our response to everything that was happening during our days.  It is so true!  When in the DR, you never know what is going to happen!  You can plan everything perfectly, but usually it doesn't go as planned.  That is part of the beauty of visiting and working in the DR.  It challenges me to let go of what I think should happen and how it should happen, and it allows me to let things unfold in new ways that I didn't even know were possible!  To hold things lightly and enjoy the process.  If I were to continue to live and work according to my American mindset (usually perfectionistic, busy-bodied, no time for lunch) I would miss the blessings of the slower, community and family focused, so hot you have to sit or rest for 2-3 hours in the middle of the day lifestyle my Dominican friends exemplify for me.  

On returning home, I am already missing Biemba's amazing cooking, sweating like crazy, laughing at my lack of Spanish but also learning new words every day, looking for new photo shoot spots, and getting creative when things don't work out.  I want to continue to learn from these amazing people how to live differently and in new ways here at home in the U.S. Hasta Luego mis amigos!

 The new Te Veo Line

The new Te Veo Line

 Elly making a triple chain coco bead necklace

Elly making a triple chain coco bead necklace

Older posts...

From Poverty to Extravagance...

3/24/2016

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I haven't had a chance to write about my last trip to La Canita, Dominican Republic in January to work with the women of Project I See You on jewelry development.  What an amazing, yet hard, 2 weeks in the beautiful countryside of the DR.   

I stepped into this country with an amazing group of people who care and love the mission of Project I See you. "Project I See You creates cross-cultural experiences that invest in women’s worth and value, ultimately leading to change in our lives and communities.  We empower women both at home and around the world by connecting lives, nurturing relationships with each other and God, and working on projects together for personal and economic growth.  There is something powerful that happens when reciprocal, long-term development and relationships unfold."
This was so obvious on my trip!  

worked alongside Miguel, a man who has been in the community and helping the women for a while.  He attends an art school in Santo Domingo and has access to higher levels of equipment and resources. I figured this is a great place to start when designing this line.  We are focusing on using cowhorn and coconut as our main materials and we  want everything to come from in country and be a resource that the artisans are already working with.  The goal is to eventually have the women working with both of these materials and assembling these pieces of jewelry.  

While I was working on researching these resources and creating samples to work with, Ann a member our team, was teaching the women to sew market bags (made from rice and flour bags) for our fundraising line.  They turned out great!

Overall, it was an amazing trip of connecting with the women and doing a lot of research on the ground in order to create a unique, one of a kind jewelry line with these women. There is still work to be done, but if I learned anything at all, it is that poverty and extravagance sit next to each other in a beautiful way.  These women don't have much as far as material goods or money, but they are rich in beauty and love and I got to experience this gift while I was there!

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My Road To Uganda!

10/22/2015

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As many of you know, I had been thinking about making a career transition for over a year and finally it is time!
 
Through lots of prayer, counseling, a life-coach and great friends, I finally have a clear direction of where my gifts and calling meet.  To be honest, I wasn’t sure I was ever going to find something like this or feel that God was calling me to something.  

How did I get here?
I recently returned from the Dominican Republic where I felt God confirmed for me that I should take a risk on my dreams.  He did that by showing me my strengths and giving me the opportunity to work with some women in a small viallage on some jewelry.  They were previously making jewelry, but what I was able to offer was a process that taught them how to improve what they were already making and create a higher quality product that has a better chance of selling in the US. I love this and truly believe that creating jobs in places like this is what truly makes ministry and relationships sustainable.  People first and foremost need to know Jesus, but secondly they need to be empowered to provide for themselves and have the opportunity to do so. I had worked in a different village in the Dominican a few years back on some recycled rice bag purses and the experience was something I wanted to have again!

Trish and I started brainstorming about 6 months ago on ways we can do this around the world. She had recently visited a missionary couple in Kenya who has an amazing ministry in Nairobi.  On the side, they have trained 80 people in the slums to sew and make products to sell.  These products are mainly bought as items to support the ministry, but Trish had a  thought, “What if we can improve these into amazing products that would sell because of the quality not the mission?  Then we could actually create a more sustainable business for these people.” She and I were on the same page and wanted to figure out how we can help missionaries and non-profits around the world do just this!  I come from a design (Kellybeth Designs) and sales background and she comes from a graphic design and marketing background. Our strengths together will be a great team to actually do this!

I can't wait to see what unfolds in Uganda and what this first trip has in store for us! I believe we will have a clearer picture when we return of what this could look like!  

 

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How It All Began

10/21/2015

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Welcome to our first official blog post! Trish here - just wanting to say hello on behalf of Kelly and myself. I know there are a lot of you that might hear about Freedom Collective through the grapevine and not really know the details of how it all began, so I thought I'd start by sharing my story and let Kelly share her side of things next!

For as long as I can remember it's been on my heart to go to Africa. Last year alone I signed up to be a part of 3 different missions teams heading to various parts of Africa, but one at a time, they each fell through. I had been in touch with friends of mine who are missionaries in Nairobi throughout the process as I was hoping it would work out to see them if I made any of the trips. In the end they said, "Trish, why don't you just come on your own?" I laugh a little thinking about it now, because although I had traveled quite a bit on my own, I had never done missions work without a team, so that idea had never occurred to me. So I booked a flight, packed my bags and just 30 days later I was on a plane to Nairobi to serve with my dear friends at Jacaranda Community.

I was there for 3 weeks - spending time helping in any way that they needed me, visiting the slums, meeting the precious people that are a part of their community, and all the while, staying in their guest house where many of their creations team works on various sewing projects. Through many conversations with the missionaries, I began to realize the challenge of creating and marketing products from a third world country to western culture. So I began dreaming and drawing and researching. We went on the hunt for new materials and hardware. I worked with their talented team to create something simple but different. I loved every minute of the process! I loved spending time with the people. I loved using the creative mind that God has given me in a way that was able to contribute to a need.

You see, I experienced just a tiny taste of the immense poverty of their country. And it was heartbreaking. When you ask a mother if her family has eaten and she responds "not this week" - and you realize it's Thursday. It's just unbelievable. I left the slums almost numb. Because allowing yourself to actually feel everything you just experienced seemed too hard to handle. Where do you even start? How can you even begin to help them? The poverty is so overwhelming that I didn't know what to do. But in the midst of making bags I realized something. It was the job that Jacaranda had provided for someone who had no way of making a living. It was a product that, if sold, pours back into a ministry that is helping the poor and the hungry in bigger ways than I could ever do alone.

So I flew home with a handful of beautiful bags to start sharing a story. But more importantly, I flew home with dreams and visions that hadn't existed just 3 weeks before. It was this divine moment where I realized that this was why God created me the way that he did. This was why he wired me to be relational and creative. This is why he gave me a mother that taught me how to sew. This is why I took weaving class in college. This is why I have a passion for travel and missions. This is why He asked me to simplify my life a year ago, sell almost everything that I own and put the dream on my heart to "work less and serve more."

So what does that look like? I don't even fully know yet, but I'm excited to find out! When I returned to the states I started to get together with any and every organization that would meet with me - to pick their brains on what they had learned in their journey - what had worked well, what hadn't, etc. And what I quickly found was that the struggle was common. Many 3rd world ministries are making products that just aren't selling well stateside. We would like to help change that.

So, in just 19 days we take off for Uganda to work with Musana! We could not be more excited (and a bit nervous, terrified, uncertain, etc. - just keepin' it real :)). I cannot wait to meet the men and women that are a part of this incredible community and spend time getting to know each of them as we work on new products! We would appreciate your prayers as we travel and throughout our time there. Pray for favor in finding the resources that we are looking for - that God would connect us with just the right people, and swiftly as our time there is limited. Pray for rich relationships - that in the short time we are there that we would really get to connect deeply with the people. Pray that we would leave the stresses of our lives behind and just enjoy every moment of the process. Pray that we would have open hearts to learn from the ministry, community and country as I know they have more to teach us than we could ever attempt to teach them. Pray that our time there would be purposeful and that we would be able to accomplish all that needs to happen. Thank you in advance for partnering with us! We look forward to updating you on all that God does throughout the journey!