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!
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!
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!