Does Economic Empowerment Work?

Hand up vs. Hand out.

It’s a common debate on whether aid should be given or whether we should come alongside those who are aiming to become self-sufficient.

HP Supply Co’s mission is to support artisans and creators from all around the world in order to empower them. This empowerment has a positive impact in every aspect of a person’s life. It increases feelings of happiness, fulfillment, and contentment. It provides the person with a sense of purpose in the world. Most importantly, it creates a chain reaction where other people are inspired and begin to create alongside them.

There’s no better organization to feature in this blog than Wend (which stands for Women Empowerment Network Design), a nonprofit providing jobs to mothers who were affected by the war in Northern Uganda. Through Wend, these women are able to create quality handmade leather goods that provide them with a salary, education, and hope.

Wend Africa

Monica, one of the artisans with Wend, displaying the bags she made.

HP Supply Co first partnered with Wend back in May of 2017 when we went on a mission trip to Uganda with them. We were able to meet and work with the women of Wend while there. It was during that mission trip that we fell in love with the organization, the women, and the purpose behind it.

I was blessed to be able to interview Sara Tober, the US Creative Director for Wend, and learn a little bit more about the organization and how they’re helping war-torn mothers in Uganda find hope through economic empowerment.

 

How do you feel HP Supply Co’s involvement with Wend has impacted your work?

HP Supply Co has made a huge impact with Wend! While on the mission trip back in May of 2017, I became sick so I wasn’t able to lead the team alongside the women. It was during that time that Hannah and Chelsea Shay really stepped up to help lead in my place. They spent a lot of time with the women in the workshop helping design and make bags while becoming friends with the women.

HP Supply Co was 110% committed to finding a way to help Wend after that. Chelsea Shay, who is good with logistics, wanted to figure out how to continue to support Wend after leaving Uganda. She decided to place a huge order of bags that HPSC could sell at their store back in the U.S. This was such a huge blessing to Wend because I didn’t have to worry about paying the women--HPSC paid for their order up front.

Currently we have many partners throughout the world, but HP Supply Co is Wend’s only seller in the U.S. and has always been in Wend’s corner. I consider Chelsea Shay and Hannah to be my sisters in business!

Chelsea Shay and Hannah with Jolly

Chelsea Shay and Hannah with Jolly, founder of Wend Africa.

 

How would you say the artisans’ lives have been impacted over time through Wend?

Wend has truly been a source of hope and community for women who thought they lost everything during the war. It was hard for these women to pick up the pieces after all they’ve been through. Their wounds of the past were deep and so so painful.

Anyone who meets the ladies of Wend can see the joy and community that permeates through their workplace. Through their work, they’re able to send their kids to school and support their families. It’s the coolest thing to see. Their work through Wend gives them livelihood but also joy. I’ve seen them go from just surviving to thriving.

Wend Africa

Monica, one of the artisans with Wend, making one of the totes.


Is there a story of one of the artisans that you feel is special?

Monica’s story is a great one that exemplifies what we’re about! Monica was displaced from her home by the LRA. One of the things she valued was education, but she wasn’t able to further her studies because of the war that was going on. By the time the war ended, education was no longer her priority, as taking care of her family came first. After being given a job with Wend, two of her kids are now sponsored in school and the monthly food basket has really changed her life as well as given her peace of mind. She dreams of sending her children through to University because she never got the chance to go. In addition to all of this, she wants to buy land so that her children can get settled. She has been given resources that have certainly impacted her life in such a positive way!

Monica

Monica


From your firsthand observation, would you say economic empowerment works?

It definitely works, but it’s definitely not easy. It’s one of the hardest things I’ve been a part of, and I wouldn’t even say I’m on the sidelines of it. For Jolly and any other women, the dedication it takes to provide economic empowerment is a lot. It takes the most special kind of people because you have to sacrifice so much of yourself.

Economic empowerment is definitely not a quick fix. The key to making economic empowerment work is with long term commitment. Anyone who wants to partner with economically empowering organizations should be in it for the long haul! It also takes more than just business. These women in Uganda also need support, empowerment, and prayer.

Wend has been such a rewarding experience, though. I’ve seen the impact, I’ve seen the lives changed, and I believe we’re only getting started.

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