charity

Meet our Partner: Eyes That See

It's the final day of Partner Week and today, we're talking with Nikki of Eyes that See. 

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Eyes That See currently works in Ethiopia with women who desire to leave the sex industry. The women live at their center, The Keziah House, where they receive rehabilitation, counseling, access to health care, clean water, daily life necessities and education through an accredited school. Upon graduating the program, women are gradually  transitioned into the surrounding community and offered continual support as they enter the workforce and begin to live increasingly independent lives.

 ANGELA: How do women end up at Keziah House? How do you serve them?

NIKKI: When we first got started, our staff (all Ethiopian) used to walk the streets of the brothel handing out our information. The flyer said a bit about our program, and if they were interested in changing their lives, to come check us out. Well, it didn't take long from us searching for women who needed help to end up with a waiting list of more than 200 women who had come to sign up to be in our program. It was heartbreaking to see. We no longer go out and look for the women who are needing help. They come to us. They go through an intense interview process to see if this program is right for them. Once accepted to our Keziah home, their basic necessities are provided, they are given an education at an accredited school, offered intense rehabilitation and counseling, emotional support, and job training and placement assistance. More importantly, these women are offered love and community and a chance to find redemption and regain their sense of self worth.

 

ANGELA: What have been some of the biggest challenges ETS has faced?

NIKKI: Unfortunately, finances have been our biggest challenge. Over the past years, there have been times we've had to postpone another class entering for a couple months due to lack of funding. That's why movements like Forget The Frock are so crucial to organizations like ours. Our funding is private, so we are grateful for this opportunity to partner again with you all. 

 

ANGELA: How has your work with ETS impacted you personally?

NIKKI: Wow, so hard to put that into words. I'd like to think I'm a more compassionate, kind, and loving person because of my work with ETS, but then I go and see my Keziah ladies and they shatter the very definition I have of those words. They are amazing women who are so strong and brave. I look at them with envy and wish to be like them! I strive to have their confidence when they walk out of the doors of the Keziah house on graduation day. Its an amazing thing to see. The joy in their eyes comes straight from a place that only one can know when overcoming adversity and redeeming ones life. 
 
 

 

ANGELA: When you think of the work that has been accomplished through ETS, is there a particular woman that has stayed with you? 

NIKKI: That would be Eyersalem. (A smile comes on my face just saying her name.) I love her so much!! She came to us for the 4th Keziah class. She had a story similar to many others. After being admitted to our program, she went to the routine medical check that all women go to when entering the Keziah house. That is when she learned that she was 3 months pregnant. This was the first time this had come up for us at Eyes That See. Hearing the news, Eyersalem was so worried that she wouldn't be able to be a part of Eyes That See. She was certain that we would kick her out, so she was going to secretly have an abortion. Thankfully, she talked to one of our staff, who talked to our director, who talked to me and asked what our plan was. It was a new issue that was super easy to answer: of course she could stay and of course she could be pregnant and we would help her with the next steps of her journey. It was a lot to take in for me, personally. The fact that Eyersalem saw such value in Eyes that See that she was willing to do anything to stay a part of it, was just so very humbling. I remember meeting her for the first time and putting my hands on her growing belly. Seeing the joy in her eyes about becoming a new mom soon, but also finding redemption and hope without shame, is something I wish everyone could experience. I know I've said it before, but I look up to these ladies. I want to be like them someday!  

 

ANGELA: How do you define success at ETS? How do you evaluate the work that is being done there?

NIKKI: Defining success at ETS is easy, it's in the face of each one of the 103 women who have graduated from Keziah! It's in the faces of all 30 of the children that are now Keziah children because their moms are forever a part of our lives (3 more Keziah babies coming soon!) Seeing how one of these ladies enters our program - broken down, abused, lonely, and defeated - then walking along side her as she breaks away from her past and finds freedom and healing in Christ is very real proof that this is needed in Ethiopia. 

 

ANGELA: ETS has partnered with Forget the Frock for several years now. What were you able to accomplish as a result of the campaigns?

NIKKI: We LOVE partnering with FTF! Seriously, I get so excited when it is time to reveal the new shirts and then again when it's time to box and ship them off to the wonderful people who purchased them! We use the results of this campaign for practical things such as paying tuition: $250 pays for 6 moths tuition for just one of our Keziah ladies. And because of FTF, our last year's graduating class was able to have a fancy graduation party, where we rented out a restaurant, hung decorations, had music, and even caps and gowns for the graduates. It was a fitting way to celebrate all they had accomplished.  

 

ANGELA: What are your dreams or goals for the coming year? What are some concrete things you’d like to see ETS accomplish? How will the funds from this year’s FTF campaign enable you to accomplish this?

NIKKI: We are in the interview process right now for filling our 7th Keziah class. The funds from this year's FTF campaign will go towards the start up cost of having those new women move in. Each time we start up a new class, it is always the most expensive time. We like to purchase a new mattress for each woman (each graduating woman gets to take her mattress with her when she moves out) some clothes, supplies, medical care, and basic needs. For every 170 FTF shirts that ETS sells, it will cover the expense of one woman for an entire year at Keziah! 

 

ANGELA: Speaking directly to people considering buying a shirt to support ETS, what would you say to them?

NIKKI: Thank you! It's easy to scroll past something like this and not give it any attention. So thank you for taking the time to consider buying a shirt from ETS or any of these great organizations. It is extremely humbling to know that a shirt you chose to buy to put on your body will help another woman gain ownership back over hers.
 

Another year of Forget the Frock begins

Yesterday we launched our 2017 Forget the Frock campaign. We unleashed an army of Ambassadors and together with you guys, we linked arm-in-arm and began to share the message of this movement. It is so very simple. Wrapped up for us right there in James 1:27.

“To care for the Orphan and the Widow.”

Please hear me when I say six years ago we didn’t start out to create some grand movement among people, we just did something incredibly simple. Something we honestly felt God was just calling our family to do. We chose to buy a t-shirt that supported a friend's daughter's budding charity rather than an Easter dress. That’s it. 

When I try to think about the story God has written (and is still writing) with Forget the Frock… I see so many things, see the beginnings of so many stories. But, when I pull back… take a back seat view and dream… here’s what I see.

 
Emily and her younger sister in their Easter frocks. 

Emily and her younger sister in their Easter frocks. 

 

That’s me. Me, in all my "frocked" glory. There in the dress my grandma made me, with curls and a basket and a hat--because THERE WAS ALWAYS A HAT. 

While this picture is precious and floral (really, really floral) the only story that it could possibly tell is how Kentucky humidity is no match for a good set of sponge rollers in my hair. My view, my dreams are so limited.

The story I see God writing with Forget the Frock looks so much different than that picture.

The story I see God writing is the story of a generation of hearts changed and traditions altered. A story where we stand up and say there is too much pain, too much hurt, too much injustice in the world and we will NOT allow it to continue unanswered. WE WILL DO SOMETHING. And that "something" can be as simple as choosing a t-shirt over our normal Easter outfit. 

Because of this beautiful movement God is weaving together, the stories I get to share with my children will be ones of how their Easter shirts care for the orphan, keep families together, rescue the trafficked victim and defend the oppressed.  Life-changing stories and life-changing impact. 

To those of you who are joining us, thank you! I hope your heart has been softened to the hurt in the world and I hope you can see how your simple shirt can tell a beautiful story. 

 
 

Christmas Gives Back Idea Book: Cuddle + Kind

Every child should have one of these beautiful Cuddle+Kind dolls. Hand-knit by artisans in Peru, these wonderfully-detailed, fair trade dolls are the perfect blend of cuddly softness, safety and durability.  And for each doll purchased, Cuddle+Kind will donate 10 meals through partnerships with a variety of well-respected child hunger organizations. From September 15, 2015 to September 15, 2016 alone, Cuddle+Kind has donated nearly 630,000 meals through organizations working in the US and 64 countries around the world. They also employ more than 100 artisans at sustainable, fair trade wages in Peru, providing opportunity and empowerment to women. And the dolls they create are beloved by children all over the world. Just look at these darling stuffed friends:

 

Christmas Gives Back Idea Book: Krochet Kids

Wintertime means a wardrobe of warm hats, gloves, scarves and sweaters, so why don't you share the warmth by giving a hand knit or crocheted item from Krochet Kids International? This non-profit organization hires women from Northern Uganda and Peru, teaching them to crochet and weave, employing them to make the items that they sell in their stores, and using the profits from these sales to educate, mentor, and empower a generation of women. 

Krochet Kids was founded by three guys who loved winter sports and learned to crochet so they could have an endless supply of unique hats on the mountain. Their unique hobby attracted attention from their peers, and soon they were taking custom orders and selling their wares to help pay for prom. 

Fast forward a few years, and these young entrepreneurs are spread to three different colleges, but each having experiences that broadened their global awareness and understanding of the cycle of poverty. As they traveled abroad and learned the heartbreaking stories of the poor and realized how fortunate they'd been growing up, they felt compelled to do something. With the encouragement of family and a little ingenuity, they found themselves together in northern Uganda with a bag of yarn, crochet needles and a group of local women and they began teaching them how to crochet and sell their goods as a pathway to independence. Krochet Kids was born and has since expanded its reach into Peru, helping to empower women on two continents through the opportunity for dignified work, teaching skills for advancement, and mentoring women on their path to independence.  Here's a video that explains more the vision and mission of Krochet Kids: 

When you purchase crochet and knit items from Krochet Kids International, you are directly investing in these artisans, supporting their work and their futures. Your beautifully hand-made item will come with a tag inside, signed by the woman that created it. What a thoughtful and impactful gift to give this season!

Here are a few of our favorite things, but there are so many beautiful items to choose from! Click over and visit their shop today!

Christmas Gives Back Idea Book: Man Cans

Ever wondered what to get some of the guys in your life? How about a candle that smells like bacon or a new leather baseball glove or freshly cut grass? 

Man Cans are candles scented for men. Forget florals and sweet smells, these candles are infused with a heartier scent. Each candle is poured in a soup can with a manly brown paper wrapper, and the simplicity of the design is part of the genius of this social enterprise. 

Man Cans was founded in 2010 by a kid, then-13-year-old Hart Main, who (during his sister's candle fundraiser for school) wondered why companies didn't make candles with scents that appealed to men. So, he set about to make his own candle, deciding that a soup can would be the perfect vessel. Along the way, he decided he wanted his company to do something for his local community, so he began purchasing soup, donating it to local soup kitchens, reclaiming the opened cans and then pouring his candles inside. Thus, Man Cans was born. 

In the beginning, mom did all of the actual pouring (Hart wasn't allowed to mess with the hot wax). In later years, Hart began taking a more active production role, but then the company's success made a small kitchen enterprise impossible, so Hart decided to hire out the pouring. He chose Beaver Creek Candle Co., which exclusively hires mentally and developmentally disabled employees to work in their facilities. 

When you purchase a Man Can, not only are you providing a job for the mentally and developmentally disabled, you are providing meals for the disadvantaged at shelters across the country through Man Can's "One Candle, One Meal" pledge. So this Christmas, spice up the ambience of your home with a 'Santa's Beard' scented candle. Grab a Gunpowder scent for your favorite hunter. And the Memphis BBQ scent would be perfect for the guy that likes to fiddle with the smoker out back. Whatever scent you choose, your candle will feed the hungry and provide employment for the disabled--that's an awesome gift to give!

(PS--They also sell 'She Cans' in more traditionally-feminine scents and wax melts for warmers in both Man and She scents. Just in case that's more your style)

Christmas GiveS Back Idea Book: Jewelry from Hands Producing Hope

Simple. Elegant. Sustainable. Those words describe the jewelry of Hands Producing Hope and their mission. 

Founder Rebecca Gardner encountered the Guaymi people of Coast Rica and felt drawn to their story. Marginalized, discriminated against and ostracized, the Guaymi people frequently live on reservations with little hope for the future. Rebecca and an in-country family of missionaries started Hands Producing Hope with the idea that "all people (regardless of gender, ethnicity, or geographical location) be afforded opportunities to have dignified and respectable work, and to provide for their families and flourish in their communities."

Now, Hands Producing Hope is operating in two countries: Costa Rica and Rwanda. They hire and pay artisans above-living-wages to create the jewelry products, frequently using indigenous seeds or natural elements in the jewelry. The artisans and their families are welcomed into the HPH community, which teaches them life skills, provides educational and training opportunities for future advancement, and are taught about the incredible love that Jesus has for them. Hands Producing Hope involves the larger community to be a part of their mission, and as relationships are formed between the Guaymi people and the surrounding communities, small steps are being made toward racial reconciliation. 

Here's a great video depicting their work and how it began:

 

This Christmas, give the gift of beautiful, sustainably-made jewelry that will empower a woman and help her find dignified work. There are so many elegant options to choose from, here are a few of our favorites: 

So many lovely options, sure to delight your gift recipients! Top left:   Orlando Bracelet $15  . Top right:   Kaia Necklace $24  .  Bottom left:   Maria Elena Necklace $52     Bottom middle:  Irma Bracelet $10 . Bottom right:  Shalom Necklace $32

So many lovely options, sure to delight your gift recipients! Top left: Orlando Bracelet $15. Top right: Kaia Necklace $24.
 Bottom left: 
Maria Elena Necklace $52 Bottom middle: Irma Bracelet $10. Bottom right: Shalom Necklace $32

Christmas Gives Back Idea Book: Leather Goods from Mission Lazarus

One of my favorite smells is the scent of leather--isn't it just divine? (Although, our vegan friends may not share that opinion.) And I love how quality leather develops more character over time--it gets even more lovely after years of use. But hand-stitched leather goods have come under intense scrutiny in the pat few years, as laborers in developing nations are often paid a pittance to stitch the goods in deplorable working conditions. 

However, you don't have to give up your love of leather goods entirely! Meet Mission Lazarus, a social enterprise that works in rural communities in Honduras and Haiti to provide opportunity. The impoverished are invited to attend Mission Lazarus free vocational schools where they learn sewing, how to create leather goods or are trained to work on one of their organic agriculture farms producing coffee. All students and employees are paid a living wage that is 25% higher than the established, local Fair Trade wages and all employees are eligible for healthcare. 

Mission Lazarus' approach in working with communities is comprehensive and multilateral, impacting the areas of agriculture, education, medicine, church planting, orphan care, and social enterprise in every community they serve. Since it's inception in 2002, Mission Lazarus has grown to directly employ more than 150 people and has planted 27 churches in Honduras and Haiti. By purchasing one of their products, you'll be supporting their important work. And I can't imagine anyone NOT being pleased to receive these gorgeous goods under the tree this Christmas! (But, just in case you have a vegan on your list, remember that there's always coffee!)

Christmas Give Back Idea Book: Knit Gear from Mitscoots Outfitters

I know what you're thinking: socks for Christmas? Seriously? But when they're this fun, fashionable and functional, how can you resist? Cool funky patterns, bright colors and hi-tech basics for athletic performance, these socks aren't your ordinary box-store footwear. 

Mitscoots gear is manufactured in the USA in plants located in Texas, North Carolina, New Jersey, New York and California, then packaged in a facility in Austin, Texas that employs transitioning homeless, giving valuable jobs to those that need them most. And every time you make a purchase, a similar, high-quality item will be given to the homeless, to help them stay warm and healthy on the streets. 

Mitscoots was founded in 2012 by Tim Scott and his wife, Agata. In their volunteer work with the homeless community, one of the most frequent requests was for socks and other gear, like hats and gloves. As Tim developed his business plan, he knew that providing quality gear to the homeless community would be a cornerstone of his business model. But Tim wasn't content to just give handouts of free gear--he knew that this was just a temporary fix, as even the most high-quality gear would eventually wear out. "Top-down charities are all about people receiving. There's no 'Let's do this together.' Restoring dignity is missing."

One day, he had an epiphany, though: the socks would require packaging, sizing stickers and branding, and that's when Tim decided to hire the homeless to do the work.  Mitscoots provides part-time employment that instills a sense of pride and dignity in those that are looking to work, but are frequently unable to secure employment because of their living situation. It helps to bridge the gap between shelter and street living to full-time employment. Mitscoots also partners with a variety of local nonprofits to make a holistic impact in the Austin homeless community. This approach allows them to meet the immediate needs of the homeless, provide a pathway to independence in the future, and engage the American workforce in creating a quality product for the consumer--it's a win-win-win-win. 

Whether your recipients' taste in socks is purely functional or runs more to the fanciful, you're sure to find a product to delight them. What a great stocking stuffer to give this holiday!

For you Kentucky Wildcats fans, here's a new pair of lucky socks. (Other colors, too)  Flatwater argyle sock $14  &  Solid crew $10

For you Kentucky Wildcats fans, here's a new pair of lucky socks. (Other colors, too)
Flatwater argyle sock $14Solid crew $10

Have an athlete in your life? Get them the hi-tech comfort they deserve!  Low-rise athletic sock, 3-pack $28  

Have an athlete in your life? Get them the hi-tech comfort they deserve!
Low-rise athletic sock, 3-pack $28 

Feeling patriotic? Show your American pride with some classy stars and bars.   The Independence sock $14

Feeling patriotic? Show your American pride with some classy stars and bars. 
The Independence sock $14

Fall weather means permission to drag out the boots, and a pair of comfy, padded boot socks are a must.   Natalia Boot sock $22

Fall weather means permission to drag out the boots, and a pair of comfy, padded boot socks are a must. 
Natalia Boot sock $22

These houndstooth socks with the yellow trim are sure to brighten up the dreariest January day!  The Mac sock $14

These houndstooth socks with the yellow trim are sure to brighten up the dreariest January day!
The Mac sock $14

2016 Christmas Idea Book

Christmas is a time of celebration and sharing gifts with loved ones, but wouldn't it be great if those gifts could also make an impact in the world? We've scoured some of our favorite non-profits and for-profit social enterprises to create this list of beautiful gifts. Not only will these treasures make your recipient light up with joy, they will also help to right a social injustice, create opportunity for the less fortunate, and bring hope to communities in need. Click through the Idea Book, and if you see something you like, click the image or the item name/price and you'll be taken directly to the item's purchasing page. Want more info on the organization itself? Click the logo and you can read about how your purchase will be used to make an impact. 

PS--On a mobile device? Rotate your device sideways for a better view!