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I’m giving up retail for a year-who's joining me?

Yesterday, as I sat in church surrounded by three generations of family, I realized something. My life has been dictated and directed by love. I was born to a couple that decided to love each other, their family and most anybody who came along. Their example gave me the nerve to plunge headlong into love at the tender age of 15, marry the guy at 18, and still be passionately in love with this same man 35 years later. My husband’s unconditional love has enabled me to believe in myself and have the courage to love others. In turn, we were enabled by love to bring three little persons into the world. They knew from their first breath they were loved and that they would continue to be loved no matter who they were or what they did. Each one has amazed me in their own way with how they love and care for their world. During yesterday’s service, I watched my son with his new fiance’ and considered the life of love they will one day bestow on their children. I was overwhelmed by the beautiful life love has given me and by the ripples of this love that continue to spread out into the world. How incredibly blessed I am! As soon as that thought passed through my head, however, a voice reminded me,

“To whom much is given, much is required”.

Family Christmas Dinner 2018

Family Christmas Dinner 2018

I know there are many hurting and wounded people around the globe that were not given the advantages of love, nurturing and material abundance I have known. Even now, there are women much like me attempting to save their children from life-threatening situations. They’re living in refugee camps or homeless shelters or maybe even giving their children up to an orphanage. Women much like me are forced to dig through garbage heaps to find things to sell. Some labor in unsafe and unhealthy working conditions for little pay, or even sell their own bodies, because this is the only way they know to feed themselves or their children

Syrian refugee children in a camp in Jordan.

Syrian refugee children in a camp in Jordan.

The world can be a scary and troubled place. It’s easy to get overwhelmed; to feel it’s impossible to bring any help or healing when the need is so great. Still, I know what causes so much of the anguish and what it is that can bring true healing. Wars, hunger, prejudice, violence; these are all the result of an absence of love. Our world needs an ever-increasing response of love from those willing to share it with courage and generosity. We don’t have to wait until we’re able to fix the whole world. We have the capacity to love those within our sphere of influence. Love your family and your immediate community. At the same time, recognize you can also love on a global scale by offering a helping hand to those in need.

I don’t delude myself into thinking I can save the day for these women. I’m not the answer to their troubles. I do, however, want to be part of empowering women so they can help themselves. If I was living in poverty without means to provide for my family, what would I want? I would want an opportunity to work in safety and earn a fair wage for my work so that I could provide for my family’s needs. I want to live by the golden rule of treating others the way I would want to be treated. With that in mind, I will continue to love my global sisters in the best way I have found. Through the efforts of Elevat, I will provide them opportunity to pursue honorable work and earn a fair wage. As of today, that means helping women in the slums of Nairobi, impoverished women in Guatemala, Syrian women fleeing for their lives, Thai women escaping sex trafficking….

Nairobi mother with her child making paper bead necklaces.

Nairobi mother with her child making paper bead necklaces.

Not only do I want to love others by providing safe jobs, I don’t want to be a part of helping enslave them. That’s what happens when we purchase cheap, mass produced clothing and items made by women in Bangladesh or elsewhere who aren’t paid a fair wage or provided safe working conditions. I’ve continued to research the effects our consumer society has on the rest of the world, and I don’t want to be a part of the problem. So, 2019 will be a year without retail for me. I did this several years ago, and it felt so good! I want to commit to it again. What’s more, I’m hoping there will be those who join me. Go ahead, commit yourself to only purchasing fair trade items or other socially responsible products that are handmade and/or manufactured in an ethical manner. There are SO, MANY WONDERFUL opportunities to spend our money with a clear conscience. Of course, we can also find the items we need at thrift stores, garage sales and other outlets that serve to recycle items.

My sister and I shopping at our favorite thrift store last week.

My sister and I shopping at our favorite thrift store last week.

May 2019 be a year of shopping ethically, relieving the burden of others, and giving and receiving much love that will then continue to ripple throughout our world!

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Keeping Dreams Alive

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Keeping Dreams Alive

We are continuing to move forward with our dreams by launching an Elevat Showroom! Please join us next Saturday the 8th and help make a difference by doing a portion of your Christmas shopping with Elevat this year.

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Finding Christmas Spirit


It’s (almost) that wonderful time of the year again…or the most stressful!  Whichever way you look at it, Christmas is just around the corner.  Research shows that more than half of Christmas shoppers in the U.S. start researching gifts as early as October. Those same consumers plan to spend more than $650 on gifts this Christmas season.  That’s a lot of money!  With all this in mind, I wanted to chat with you for a few moments before you finish your Christmas gift giving plans.

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If you’ve spent any time around me, you know how much I believe in fair trade.  The first principle of fair trade is to create opportunities for the economically disadvantaged.  Can you think of anything more in keeping with the Christmas spirit? Add in factors like economic transparency; no child or forced labor, good working conditions, fair wages/profits, and you have a lot of great reasons to shop fair trade.

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Christmas seems the perfect time to offer opportunities to those who don’t have as many financial advantages.  So, since you are going to be spending money on gifts anyway, why not give gifts that multiply a positive impact?  This year, I’m doing my best to give gifts with heart.  That includes fair trade but also handmade gifts.  I want to shop with small businesses, local makers and of course, buy gifts made according to fair trade practices.  Let Aunt Sarah shop at Macy’s and Target and other big chains, not me. I love gifts that have been made with care and that carry a story with them.  So, will you consider joining me in purchasing fair trade or handmade gifts this Christmas?

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There are many wonderful arts and crafts show around this season to help us do just that, and Elevāt will be at many of them!  Stop by and say, “Hi”, find some treasures and support local and global makers:

Nov. 3rd 9am-4pm-World Jubilee Fair Trade Market

Colonial Church of Edina, http://www.theworldjubilee.org/

 

Nov. 8th 4-8pm-Holiday Open House

A Beautiful Pause, Avalon shops, White Bear Lake

http://www.downtownwhitebearlake.com/events.htm

 

Nov. 10th 9am-3pm-Concordia Academy Holiday Craft Fair

Concordia Academy in Roseville, http://www.concordiaacademy.com/giving/craftfair.cfm

 

Nov. 17th 10am-4pm-Holiday Fair Trade Market

New Life Presbyterian Church in Roseville http://www.newlifechurchroseville.org/home

 

December 8th-10am-2pm-Elevat Showroom Holiday Open house

4900 Hodgson Connection

Shoreview, MN 55126

 

Come and visit the newly designed showroom featuring all of Elevāt fashion gifts in one place! Free coffee and holiday cookies and chat with Elevat’s buyer to hear the stories behind each item.

Gift openings will be much more exciting this year as you share about who and how each present was made! 

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4th Annual Autumn Arts & Crafts Fair

I’ve always admired creative types who could see beauty where there wasn’t any and then make it with their own hands-paintings, sewing, knitting, pottery, jewelry, etc. But the real admirable feat is to then put it on display for the public to see and judge. And that’s exactly what will take place this coming Saturday. We are filled with over 25+ vendors who are proudly displaying their items they’ve put their heart and soul into.

4th Annual Autumn Craft Fair

If you value creativity and artistry, come browse these paintings, fairy gardens, sweater mittens, baby blankets, vintage up-cycled items and so much more! Grab a free cup of coffee, get a bar or cupcake from the University of Northwestern Orchestra fundraising for their Ireland tour or grab lunch from the church’s youth group while you admire and chat with these entrepreneurs and artists.

If you are looking for unique one-of-a-kind gifts for your loved ones this year, here is your perfect chance. And please stop by and see me at the Elevat booth, representing women artisans from numerous developing countries.

Elevat fashion on display

Hope to see you there!

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We are Braver and Stronger than we Know

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We are Braver and Stronger than we Know

After first hearing Nid’s life story, I couldn’t seem to shake it.  How different would I be if I had been forced to leave home at the age of 12 to make my way in the world?  My daughter Cierra, who has lived in Thailand for 3 years now, introduced me to Nid’s daughter, Khem, on my first visit to Thailand. She was a bright, friendly High School student who spoke English well. 

Cierra and Khem become good friends

Cierra and Khem become good friends

Cierra first met Nid when taking a long truck ride with Khem’s family to visit her home village in the northeast part of Thailand.  The village was remote and rustic with no department or grocery stores at which to buy food, clothing or household goods.  Most everything eaten was grown or raised locally, and most clothing was handmade.  Cierra’s white skin was a novelty to those who gathered to meet this foreigner; several pinched and stroked her arm to see what skin that pale felt like. 

Cierra visiting Nid's village in Northeast Thailand

Cierra visiting Nid's village in Northeast Thailand

Khem’s mother, Nid, grew up in this village, the oldest daughter of poor farmers.  She went to school as a child, but at the tender and vulnerable age of 12, her family sent her to the city to earn money instead. She found work in a factory, earning just enough to send money home every month while still covering her own expenses.  She continues to faithfully support her parents to this day, even after getting married and starting a family of her own.  Nid eventually found work in a leather factory and became a skilled artisan.  As time went on, she was proud to see Khem excel in school and become the first in her family to attend college.  In 2016, however, Nid and her husband (who also worked in the leather factory) lost their jobs due to downsizing. Nid’s father became ill, and she was asked to return home to care for him.  Always an obedient daughter, Nid returned to her home village.

Nid making jewelry by hand

Nid making jewelry by hand

Once Nid returned to her home village, there was no way to continue earning a living sufficient to pay for Khem’s education.  Even so, she was determined to do so.  It was at this point Khem remembered that Cierra’s mother worked with women artisans from developing countries.  Khem asked Cierra if I might be interested in helping Nid sell her leather jewelry in the US.  When I heard about the opportunity, I was thrilled, of course.  This is exactly why Elevat exists; to help women bring their handmade products to the US marketplace.  This past January, I brought Nid’s gorgeous leather bracelets back with me from Thailand.  I hope you can recognize the beauty and strength in these bracelets, qualities imparted by their maker, Nid.  I also hope you find strength in this story like I did.  We are braver and stronger than we realize.   These bracelets symbolize how women can reach out from miles away and give strength and endurance to one another.   Please join me in celebrating this beautiful and strong woman who has risen to the challenges life has given her and seeks to impart better opportunities for her children than she was given.

Khem and myself during my visit to Thailand in January 2018

Khem and myself during my visit to Thailand in January 2018

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The Beauty of Color and Diversity

I had recently returned from an international trip to a developing country when the POTUS made his ridiculous statement about “sh**thole” countries and wondered why we didn't receive more immigrants from Norway. As an American, I’d like to apologize to all those who have immigrated to the U.S. from Haiti or Africa. I also extend an apology to those still living in the countries the President mentioned who were offended by his comments. You have every right to be offended. Please don’t think every one in the U.S. shares his narrow minded opinion.

photo from recent trip to Thailand

photo from recent trip to Thailand

 

Just a few months ago, I was in Sweden for the first time. All around me was white skin as far as the eye could see. As I traveled to various sites in and around Stockholm and walked its city center, I wondered what it would be like to live in a place where nearly everyone looked and behaved like everyone else. The Swedes seemed pretty content yet I was happy to return to the Twin Cities in Minnesota where immigrants thrive and where numerous ethic heritages are preserved. I have been privileged to travel not only to Sweden, but to a multitude of places in our world. I have seen and experienced many different people groups and cultures and still marvel at how people, regardless their country of origin, are so much the same and yet so different at the same time.

Stockholm city center

Stockholm city center

 

Impressionist paintings have always been my favorite artistic genre. I love how the many shades and colors swirl together to  to create beauty. Can you imagine if artists painted only in white? What if God had created only white flowers? What if all birds were only white? That’s how I’d feel about a world of only white people.

Van Gogh's Starry Night

Van Gogh's Starry Night

 

I appreciate my Scandinavian heritage; how solid and stoic the northern Europeans often are in their approach to life. Nevertheless, I don’t want the entire world to look or act like that. What’s more, I certainly don’t want all my food to be white! Please, give me some colorful curries, spicy salsa and a colorful mix of salad greens and veggies. Our world is filled with an abundance of differing skin color, culture, and people. In the same way, there are no end of ways to show respect to others and participate in life's celebrations. The world is a beautiful blend of color, smell, and taste and experience. I want to see and learn as much of this world and its people as I possibly can in the years ahead. That includes experiencing even those places our President would dismiss as sh**hole countries. Everyone, including Hatians, Somalis, Nepalese, Guatamalans and a host of others, has something to offer and a new perspective to teach those of us willing to live with our eyes and hearts wide open.

Thailand Food Court

Thailand Food Court

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What is Fair Trade?

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What is Fair Trade?

We often have customers that tell us how much they love our mission to help and serve women in developing countries, but they don't have a good understanding of what fair trade is.

fair trade

noun

  1. trade in which fair prices are paid to producers in developing countries.

Fair trade is simply the best way to ensure that workers in developing countries are adequately compensated for their work, and are therefore able to sustain themselves and their families. Often, fair trade involves a partnership between the producers and the consumers. For example, our partners include Mayan Hands, Tamar Center, Girls With Vision, Scarves of Hope and many more. The women we serve work for these organizations which then sell their products to organizations like Elevāt, and then we market and resell them. Because we are all volunteers, all of our profits can go back to the women we serve.

As we enter the season of giving, you may be wondering how you can help others and make a difference in the world. We at Elevāt encourage you to shop fair trade for Christmas gifts this year. Not only will you be giving a thoughtful, beautiful gift, but you will also be giving a gift that is:

  • Handmade
  • Unique- Many of our products are one-of-a-kind.
  • Ethical- The women creating our products are paid a fair, sustainable wage.
  • Eco-friendly- Most of our products are made with recycled materials. 

By shopping fair trade products, you can make a huge impact on the lives of so many women around the globe. Many of the women working with our partnership programs are getting out of sex trafficking, prostitution, or escaping poverty. We can help them make a better life and support themselves and their families.

We are called to care for our neighbor, both in our communities and around the world. Help care for your global neighbors  by shopping with Elevāt this holiday season!

 

by Megan Hogue

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Autumn Craft Fair 2017

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Third Annual Autumn Craft Fair is coming up!                       Written by Megan Hogue

Are you looking for something fun to do next weekend while also benefiting the community?  Be sure to stop by this year's Autumn Craft Fair hosted by  Elevāt! We will be hosting 16 local vendors at Hope Christian Church in Shoreview, MN from 9a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, October 14 (4911 Hodgson Rd). This is a great opportunity for these local artisans to showcase their amazing handmade products as well as a great opportunity for you to support local vendors and find one-of-a-kind items or gifts.

Some of these artists that will be appearing at the Autumn Craft Fair include:

  1. Elevāt- Fair trade fashion accessories. A wide variety of the products available on our website will be featured at the Autumn Craft Fair! Preview these amazing handmade items for sale at elevatingtheglobe.org
  2. Jill Hazel-journals&bath bombs. Find Jill's shop, A Beautiful Pause, online at Facebook.com/abeautifulpause
  3. Annette Wilson-silver jewelry. Find Annette's shop, Artful Romp Studios, online at http://anartfulromp.blogspot.com/p/items-for-sale_15.html or Facebook.com/artfulrompstudios
  4. Rebecca Olson- pottery, wreathes, & wood pallet décor
  5. Jessica Smith- fair trade gifts & art. Find Jessica's shop, Regla de Oro, online at Facebook.com/regladeoro 

The University of Northwestern's choir members will also be having a bake sale at the church during the craft fair to raise funds for their upcoming trip to the Baltics. This is another perfect way to support the community and help area college students share the gospel and love of Christ through music.  With your help, we are hoping for a great turnout at the Autumn Craft Fair! Be sure to mark your calendars and stop by on Saturday October 14! 

"You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God." -2 Corinthians 9:11

 

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Happy Fifth Anniversary, Elevāt!

I remember the exact moment Elevāt became reality. While riding in a car with my brother, Ben, I started sharing this crazy idea I had for helping ease poverty in some of the world’s poorest regions.  Even as I shared, I knew it sounded far- fetched and impossible, so I readied myself for a reaction of awkward laughter or some “common sense” meant to bring me back to reality.  Instead, Ben said, “That’s an awesome idea! I’d love to help you with that.”  That was the moment Elevāt went from being a dream to becoming a reality.  I’ll never be able to thank my brother enough for his initial response of encouragement and support.  It’s simple, but powerful, this idea that regular, ordinary people can make a real difference.

Left to Right:  Creative Director (son) Brennen Johnson, CEO and Co-Founder Julie Johnson, Support Staff (sister) Leah Ashford, CFO and Co-Founder (brother) Ben Peres

Left to Right:  Creative Director (son) Brennen Johnson, CEO and Co-Founder Julie Johnson, Support Staff (sister) Leah Ashford, CFO and Co-Founder (brother) Ben Peres

In recent years, a lot of people have told me Elevāt is a great idea.  They talk about how the concept of bringing handmade artisanal products from the developing world to the US marketplace is really cool. Still, the reality is, ideas don’t put food on the table of poor families or provide dignity to women wanting a better life than what’s offered on the streets.   Elevāt would have remained nothing more than a “really cool” idea if many special and gifted people hadn’t joined the cause by volunteering their skills and resources to help make it possible.  We are a 100% volunteer-run company, and I love each and every one who has given of themselves to make Elevāt a reality; photographers, designers, interns, models, and most importantly, customers! Whatever success Elevat enjoys is a testament to the power of good people doing good things for a good cause. 

Photographer Guytano Magno with models (left to right) Megan Whiting, Piper Mork & Jenna Luttio

Photographer Guytano Magno with models (left to right) Megan Whiting, Piper Mork & Jenna Luttio

Every person matters.  Every purchase matters.  Small steps in the right direction take us where we want to be.

 

I can’t wait to join with all of you and celebrate five years of taking small steps in the right direction and making a difference. You are invited to this free event on August 5th at 10am featuring:

-Brunch with jazz music

-A fashion show highlighting the latest global fashion accessories

-Recognition and thanks to all those who have volunteered on behalf of Elevāt

-A clearance section of products to make room for new inventory

-10% off any purchase to those wearing an Elevāt item to the brunch

Whether you have been a part of Elevāt’s story or are interested in it’s future, come celebrate five years of dreams made reality. 

August 5th, 10am-12pm

Address1081 21st Ave SE, Minneapolis, MN 55414

Must RSVP to Elevat's Facebook event

https://www.facebook.com/Elevat.Online/

 

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Difference-Making Begins with Ordinary Stories

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Difference-Making Begins with Ordinary Stories

 

The Story of Elevāt: Difference-Making Begins with Ordinary Stories

By Amy Weiss

When Mary fled Burundi, she had no idea that jewelry would save her life. With gunfire flying through the air, she left her job as a professor and gathered her three children. They left their home, trying to live on the run. Survival came when Mary joined a jewelry-making cooperative. She was able to reinvent her life and support her family, working hard to take a hopeless situation and create something beautiful.

Women in Burundi making beaded necklaces

People like Mary are why Elevāt exists. Her story–and many others like it–affected Julie Johnson’s life, leading her to found Elevāt, a fair-trade marketplace empowering women around the world to support themselves and their families. By selling their handmade goods, Elevāt enables them to thrive. Difference-making can begin with an ordinary story.

Johnson, the ensemble tour director at a small Christian university in St. Paul, Minnesota, was not expecting to start a fair-trade business when she arrived in Belize for a mission trip–her first trip to a developing country. Heartbroken after seeing extreme poverty and mothers who couldn’t provide for their children, she told God, “I don’t want to go back to my normal life and forget what I know and understand now.” She asked God to show her how to empower these people–some of more than 950 million living in poverty around the globe.

Julie and Dolores in Belize

And He did. In Belize, she met a woman named Dolores who made beautiful jewelry by hand. Selling her products for a low price, Dolores barely made enough profit to support her family. Knowing the jewelry could be sold for a fairer price in the United States, Johnson started Elevāt. Now, Dolores’ children are in school, Elevāt is almost five years old, and stories continue to drive Julie and involve people with Elevāt.

Connected with missionaries across the globe, Julie is often a middle person, linking the friends of missionaries to Elevāt and the marketplace in the United States. Because her husband is a pastor, Julie has been able to travel on missions trips and meet artisans in different countries. Traveling has shaped her passion to be part of these women’s stories. “Through travel, I’ve come to realize that even though we look different, sound different, and act different–we’re all the same,” she encouraged. “There’s more that connects us than divides us. Our heart values don’t change because you live in an Ethiopian desert.

Despite this inspiration, there have been moments Johnson has questioned: What am I doing? How am I doing this? Is it worth it? In these moments, God has reminded her that every sale makes a difference. An ordinary story is still a significant story, and Johnson believes even one empowered life is worth it.

In fact, something as small as a bracelet can connect the story of a mother in Minnesota with a mother in Haiti. Johnson explained that many Haitian women have to put their children in orphanages because they can’t afford to feed or provide for them. Motioning to the bracelet on her wrist, she elaborated: the income from these bracelets allows them to keep their children. Sold around Mother’s Day in the United States, a gift to your mom can empower another an ocean away.

Haitian Bracelets made by mothers from recycled cereal boxes

When customers connect their stories with artisan’s lives, Johnson believes change happens. “They’re given a sense of their own ability to change the world,” she mentioned. “They’re connected in ways they wouldn’t have been connected before.”

Connecting these stories in new ways is one of her dreams for Elevāt. Someday, she hopes her role directing choir tours and Elevāt will combine to create trips, allowing women to visit the artisans who made their products. They will see each other’s stories firsthand: Guatemalan women weaving scarves, ladies doing embroidery work in Jordan, and Syrian women creating earrings in refugee camps may someday meet people helping their stories thrive.

Syrians make scarves at a refugee camp in Jordan

In the meantime, Johnson is happy to do what she can. Traveling to Spain this month for her job, she’ll meet a missionary to pick up bags embroidered by a Moroccan woman. After all, our lives are connected. We can make a difference by living faithfully, weaving our stories with other’s lives along the way to create something beautiful.

“When Mary from Burundi told me, ‘I wouldn’t have been able to feed my family if you didn’t send the money...’ I know that actually made a difference,” she smiled. “And I’m just a little cog in it all. I’m just being faithful to the vision God had given me.”

Simply being obedient to God’s call has led Johnson to new places, and she encourages everyone to do the same. Sometimes our society emphasizes big, dramatic difference-making, but the best place to start is with what’s around us–with our simple stories. Look at the people in front of you: reach out and make a difference in the ways you can, right now.

Julie and Deb selling Elevat products at a fair trade sale

Her best piece of advice? Just do it. Step out and make a small difference. Even a simple step in the direction God may be calling you to use your story is better than doing nothing because you waited for something big. The stories of Julie and Elevāt impart wisdom for our own lives: common, small things matter, too.

 

 

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Know Your Maker - Fashion Revolution Week

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Know Your Maker - Fashion Revolution Week

We probably make hundreds of purchases every year. And, if you’re like me, a lot of those purchases are clothes. Often, I find myself drawn into a new collection, an upcoming promotion, or even just a cute scarf in the “perfect” color.

Even with so many options, I still find myself carefully deciding which of all the colors to choose. What fabric will work best for spring? Is it on sale? Can I buy both? Do I have an outfit this will go with? I ask myself all these questions so that I can make the very best decision with my money. But isn’t it strange that not one of my typical questions is “where did this scarf come from?”

Oddly enough, the answer to that question may be harder to find than we think. Many clothing brands do not have a traceable origin, so we actually may never know where our cute scarf comes from. Many clothing brands have moved their production phase oversees, but in doing so, they have not kept a firm track on where the products are actually being made.

Another question we should be asking about our clothes is who is making them. Unfortunately, the clothing industry is one of the largest industries using child or slave labor. After learning this, my cute scarf suddenly became much less cute. Yep, as much as we want to think that our name brand clothes are made honestly, this is not always the case.

While we can’t always be sure that our brand-named clothing companies are making the best production decisions, we can be certain of our decision when we choose to buy fairly traded, ethically made clothing. Plus, buying fairly traded clothes is easier today than I imagined. Here are just a few emerging and established clothing brands that are dedicated to provided ethically and sustainably made products.

For even more great ethical and sustainable brands, check out the full list here!

Just like many of these great brands, Elevāt is helping empower women all across the globe by fairly trading their handmade products. Elevāt is dedicated to cutting out the middleman and working directly with artisans to sell their work. We value relationships with our partners, which is why it is extra special when we can provide a picture and short story about the women who make the products we sell.

Elevāt’s Ecuadorian Tagua necklaces and Kenyan bracelets both come with a name and photo of the woman who made the piece. And with our Haitian Paper Bead bracelets, we get to learn more personally how our purchase impacts the women who make them – each bracelet comes with a story and photo.

This week is Fashion Revolution week – a week to remember the 2013 tragedy in Bangladesh when the Rana Plaza collapsed and killed over 1,000 factory workers. This tragedy sparked the discussion about knowing where exactly our clothes come from. Many people began to question the ethics of massive clothing factories in their treatment and compensation of workers. Fashion Revolution week is an opportunity for clothing brands and businesses to promote their supply-chain transparency and their commitment to make their clothes ethically and responsibly.

When we purchase ethically made, sustainable, and fairly traded clothing we can be confident that our money is not going to a multimillion-dollar brand that underpays its production-line workers. Instead we can know that the individual who made our new scarf is treated fairly and receives fair wages. We may even receive information about them with our purchase. This is what is so neat about buying fairly traded products! With each purchase we make, we deepen connections and trust throughout the world while proudly supporting talented and deserving artisans. I urge us all to, at the very least, think twice before we make our next clothing purchase and to consider where our money is going. We all make hundreds of decisions every year. Let’s be committed to make our next worthwhile.

 

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What Exactly is Fair Trade?

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What Exactly is Fair Trade?

For many of us, we have heard the phrase “fair trade” tossed around here and there at various craft shows, local ministries, non-profits, and even in nation-wide corporations. We all feel much better when we know what we are buying is fair trade. We feel a sense of social responsibility to buy all products marked “fair trade.”

But wait. Do we even know what “fair trade” means? Do we really know why we should feel good after purchasing a fair trade product?

By definition, fair trade is when a fair price is paid for a product and the money paid is given directly back to the product’s producer in a developing country. Not only that, but most fair trade partnerships also help promote clean and sustainable environment practices as well as produce higher quality products than most factory-produced items.

Too often, buying and selling is based simply on pushing products and driving profits. Typically, when I stand in the grocery isle or shop for clothing online, I’m not always thinking about the long chain of individuals my cereal or pair of pants went through to make it available for purchase. If I did, I would realize that many workers at the beginning of the chain are not getting their fair share of profits. The individuals who make the products often receive unfair compensation for their work.

This is why fair trade is so important to helping stabilize and support developing countries.

The World Fair Trade Organization lists 10 Principles of Fair Trade that help us better understand how it is positively impacting the world. Just a few of these important principles:

  1. Opportunities for disadvantaged workers
  2. Transparency and accountability
  3. No discrimination, gender equity, and freedom of association
  4. Good working conditions
  5. No child labor or forced labor

You can check out the full list of fair trade principles and learn more about what you can do to help here: http://wfto.com/fair-trade/10-principles-fair-trade

When we buy fair trade products, we are not only helping small-scale workers around the globe, but we are also empowering them to use their talents and skills to make a livelihood. While charity and donations are helpful to third-world workers, it is even better if we can help support them in their occupation, which in turn promotes long-term relief.

All of Elevāt’s products are fairly traded. We can rest assured that when we purchase a product, our money goes directly back to the woman who made it - helping to support her family and livelihood.

Fair trade partnerships make it possible to truly make a positive difference in the world and enjoy quality, beautiful products while doing so!

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Reinventing Yourself after Political Unrest

Imagine you are fleeing for your life because you dared to feed peaceful protestors who were standing up for what they believed in.  Death threats and gunshots force you to leave your home and your stable job as a university professor and go into hiding.  Here in America, it’s hard to understand such injustice. We complain and get angry if the person we wanted in the President’s office doesn’t win but we were given the choice to vote or not or who to vote for.  Not all are afforded such luxury. 

I was introduced to “Mary” (her name has been changed for her safety) through a good friend. Mary was trying to reinvent her life now in hiding and desperately needing to provide somehow for her three children.  My friend remembered I worked with women making fashion accessories in developing countries and thought I might be willing to sell the beaded jewelry Mary and two of her friends were making until they could return to their normal lives and normal jobs. 

My heart breaks for Mary and other women like her.  Through no fault of her own, her world is turned upside down and she is given few opportunities to feed herself and her children.  Those living around her in Burundi are struggling financially also so seeking a US marketplace for her handmade jewelry makes sense.  These gorgeous hand beaded necklaces are truly statement necklaces.  They are unique works of art that speak for women that can’t always speak for themselves politically or socially.

I started Elevāt 4 years ago for women like Mary-hard working women who aren’t looking for a hand out.  They don’t want charity but instead opportunity.  They need the benefit of the US marketplace for their handicrafts.  Friends, I hope you will join me and help support Mary and others like her by purchasing this beautiful jewelry. This Christmas shopping season, please consider such works of the heart.    

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One day away!

Ever wonder where all the products come from in massive department stores? Or, maybe more importantly, where all the money goes when a product is sold? Wouldn’t it be nice to know exactly where our money goes and to know that it goes to a good cause?

We have hundreds of big businesses and megastores to choose from that we often miss opportunities to buy from someone where our dollar will really make a lasting difference in the world. The holiday season is fast approaching and soon we will be buying gifts for family and friends and this is the craft fair where you can do just that! Plus, you will not only be checking things off your shopping list, but you will also be supporting local, small businesses.

Tomorrow, October 8th from 9am-2pm, the Autumn Craft Fair (see address below) will be hosting various vendors—all selling handmade products. This craft fair is a great opportunity to buy unique products to help support small businesses.

Here are some of the vendors to look forward to:

  • Elevat – fair trade fashion accessories
  • Wesley Andrews - craft coffee
  • UNW Symphonic Band – baked goods
  • Artful Romp Studios – silver and stone jewelry
  • A Beautiful Pause – journals, prayer boxes, etc.
  • A Monkeys Wedding – books, jewelry, and knits
  • Janet Poire – handmade greeting cards
  • Art is where my heart is – paintings
  • Meraki – watercolors
  • Bundles of Love Charity – knitted baby items
  • Black Horse Candles – handmade soy candles
  • Living Essentially Sp’Oiled – Young Living essential oils
  • Becky Maguire – recycled pincushions, plates, etc.
  • Janet Brown – photography and notecards

Mark your calendars and plan to stop by and enjoy a cup of coffee (or tea!) while you help small businesses make a lasting change in our world!

Saturday, October 8th // 9am-2pm // 4911 Hodgson Road, Shoreview MN

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Living your own story

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Living your own story

 Most of the day I fill every spare moment on a screen with information pouring in, wolfing down food, events and experiences in mindless abandon

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My Summer as an Elevat Intern

I began working with Julie Johnson, Elevat’s founder, in University of Northwestern’s music department two years ago.  Here I have been a spectator to a parade of beautiful bracelets, purses, and necklaces that have adorned the corner of her office. The bright colors and intricate designs draw the eye of passersby to the office window, and when my friends stop by to say hello, they always ‘ohh’ and ‘ahh’ over whatever products are on display. I have always encouraged their awe and curiosity, but also wished that I knew more about the jewelry, the women, and where all these beautiful handmade products came from.

My desire for this grew when the Syrian Refugee scarves arrived in October of this past year in a big cardboard box that sat in front of the office windows. When I arrived for work that day, Julie was bursting with excitement about their arrival, and it was easy to see why. Inside, the sheer volume of scarves astounded me, and the variety and detail of each one allowed me to dwell on them for minutes at a time. When Julie asked me to help model them for the website, I immediately agreed.  Getting to try on so many--admiring each bead pattern, pairing it with an outfit, feeling the weight and softness of each on my neck--strengthened my connection to Elevat and the refugee crisis.  The images of hundreds of families having to walk away from their homes and communities felt so far away. To me, the scarves were a tangible representation of the resilience of the Syrian people. The physical presence of the scarves reminded me to think of and pray for the women who made them and their communities. Just being involved with modeling the scarves transported me from overwhelmed to involved, from paralyzed to participating.

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Now, as an intern, I’ve gotten to know several products more intimately through organizing inventory, uploading their information to the website and promoting them on social media. Each time I get to learn about or interact with a new product, I find more fondness and admiration for this company and the women and communities it supports. The more I learn, the more excited I become about the work that Elevat and these women are doing. Through showcasing new products and stories of the artists on Instagram and Facebook, I hope to inspire Elevat’s customers and supporters to learn more about Elevat, be amazed by the work of the artists, and become apart of it. It’s a story of hard work and hope—one in which I feel so privileged to play a role. 

Love, Kirsten (Summer Intern 2016) 

 

 

 

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Spring Transformation

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Spring Transformation

I have a knack for killing plants.  As the Fall season grows colder, I can’t bear to throw away thriving plants so I bring them inside, only to watch them slowly fade, drop leaves and eventually die.  Take these beautiful plants out of their optimum environment, and they no longer thrive. 

I have a jasmine plant, however, I’ve managed to keep alive for several years.  Every summer, it gets a burst of green leaves and fragrant blooms.  Every fall, I bring it inside, it drops its leaves and barely survives ‘til spring.  I hang onto this jasmine because I know, if I can keep it alive, there is a wonderful plant there inside ready to again flood my deck garden with intoxicating fragrance.  The jasmine’s beauty is lying dormant waiting for the right environment. 

My wilting hibiscus tree

My wilting hibiscus tree

 

One day it dawned on me that people are like that.  We need the right environment of safety, nourishment and opportunity to thrive and become who we were created to be.  None of us had a choice where we were born.  We didn’t get to choose our skin color or how much money our family had.  If you or I had been born in a developing country without access to educational resources or the financial means to secure food or shelter, who knows how different our lives would be?  We might have been like my poor jasmine plant during the winter months:  All potential, but little actual beauty. 

My thriving Hibiscus Tree

My thriving Hibiscus Tree

 

“What do you want to be when you grow up?”  I asked this of a shy little 10 year old girl who I met during a visit to Belize where I worked at a camp teaching English to Spanish-speaking kids.  The girl attracted my attention as I observed how patiently she helped her developmentally challenged sister.  I also noticed how quickly she grasped the language skills that were being taught, and I couldn’t ignore her sweet smile. 

She answered, “Maybe a store clerk, I hope so.”  Those words haunted me when I returned to the U.S.  So much potential lay dormant in this lovely little girl, but because she was born in a country where education wasn’t free and her family couldn’t afford her schooling, that potential was likely to go unfulfilled.  Not long after, having discovered a sponsorship program providing for the education of Belizean children, I quickly committed resources on her behalf.

Elevat Co-founder Julie Johnson with sponsored child and her sister

Elevat Co-founder Julie Johnson with sponsored child and her sister

 

For years we wrote letters to one another, but I can’t begin to tell you the joy I experienced this past summer when I was able to meet her once again face to face!  She had blossomed into a lovely young lady who was now in High School.  After inquiring about her life and her family, I asked the question anxiously at work in my heart and mind: “What are you hoping to be when you graduate?” 

Her response?  “I’m thinking about becoming a pharmacist, or perhaps even a doctor.”  YES!!  This was music to my ears.  With access to an education and other significant resources, her potential was being allowed to show itself in all its beauty, and in that beauty, her hopes and dreams had also become so much more colorful!

Wonderful reunion in Summer 2015

Wonderful reunion in Summer 2015

 

I think of all the women in developing countries who partner with Elevet; beautiful souls with so much to offer if only they are provided the environment necessary to thrive and make use of their gifts and abilities.  I love that Elevat gives these women an opportunity to reveal the true beauty they possess and earn a better living through their skills and creativity.  What treasures lie hidden inside each one of us, simply waiting for the warmth and light of the sun to bring them to life!

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Belize Trip Summer 2015

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Belize Trip Summer 2015

We trek back into the village where cars can’t go.  The roads are muddy from the last burst of rain but the sun is out and steam rises up as we come upon shacks that are homes to a small group of neighbors.  Most aren’t as big or as sturdy as my back yard shed where I keep my gardening supplies.   

Dolores comes out of her home and greets me warmly and welcomes me inside.  Three of her six kids are inside as well, one with special needs.  Dolores has been a widow for a long time, raising and providing for her family on her own.  They have each joined her in her handicraft business that has put food on their table. She immediately presents me with a wooden cross her son has carved and she has stained and written on.  She expresses her gratitude over and over for the business Elevāt has given her over the past 3 years.  I am incredibly humbled by her graciousness. 

It is a joy to see the new items she is now making and purchase as many items as I have money for (actually borrowing money from my son to purchase more).  When I show an interest in a necklace set that there is only one of, she and her daughter immediately start making more for me.  As they work to create more cute little frog necklaces, I look around the neat and tidy room and realize it serves as kitchen, dining room, living room, an artists’ studio and also someone’s bedroom.  Oh Lord I pray, help me get more money back here, help me sell more. 

I can’t help but flash back to my last trip to Belize 6 years ago where I met women like Dolores and wanted so desperately to do something to help their poverty, feeling hopeless.  But this trip, I walked out of her home overwhelmed with a sense of satisfaction and fulfillment knowing I was doing exactly what I was called to do.  And hope I can keep on doing it for a long time to come. 

Elevat Founder, Julie Johnson and Dolores in her home

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Traveling to Thailand: Intense

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Traveling to Thailand: Intense

Intense. If I had to describe Thailand in one word, it would be intense; intense heat, intense flavors, intense crowds. During a recent visit to the country, a simple walk to the bus stop or train had me taking in tons of stimuli. There were more faces than I could comprehend as I passed through vast crowds of people. There were innumerable stores and stands lining the streets with sights and smells foreign to my experience. The smells alone consisted of everything from enticing aromas of food cooking to the stench of garbage rotting in the streets to the perfume of exotic flowers blooming everywhere. I tried to take it all in so as to process it later. If you didn’t already guess, this was my first visit to Southeast Asia.

I love to travel. It makes me feel more fully alive; more fully awake than at any other time or place. It can be physically demanding and emotionally draining (the older I get the more this is so). Still, I love every minute of it and treasure the places I’ve been able to see and experience. Taking myself away from the comfort of the familiar helps me see the world from a new perspective. While the trip is unfolding, I often work to process what’s around me and what I’m experiencing. This can take longer the more removed I am from the norms of my daily life. I feel like I’m a slow processer, but I don’t want to form opinions without first giving thoughtful consideration to the people, places, lifestyles and cultural norms that now surround me. As you might imagine, I do a lot of journaling while I’m traveling.

It’s important for me to understand Thailand because my 23 year old daughter has chosen it as her new home. Frankly, she’s fallen head over heels in love with the country. As such, I want to see Thailand through her eyes. I want to better understand what has caused her to move away from relationships with family and friends. I want to know why she’s left the only home she’s ever known to move halfway around the world. Toward this end, we visited her apartment, her job and her church. Along the way, we met many of the beautiful people that are now part of her life. I started to understand Thailand a little better and the calling my daughter feels to be there.

Thailand is a land of contrasts. Modern apartment complexes filled with white collar professionals stand next to rows of one room shacks where people live in stark poverty. Any visit to a beautiful palace or temple includes passing by numerous beggars. Some are mothers with small children or crippled men with gaping wounds or disfigured limbs. The hardest to see are the small children sitting alone, frail and weak. All of them tore at my heart strings. Are there shelters for these people? Does Thailand have a welfare or foster-care system? My daughter instructed me not to give as these beggars are controlled by various criminal rings, but my heart had a hard time accepting that. Thailand’s contrasts were further experienced as our walks past modern, well-stocked downtown shops included passing prostitutes openly soliciting business at mid-day. I’m afraid I stared at a sight I’m not used to seeing. Does that young woman have other options? Why is one young woman selling me silk scarves while 100 feet away another young woman tries to sell her body?

We left the hustle and bustle of Bangkok one day to visit the coastal town of Pattaya. Here, prostitution is a booming business fueled by over two million foreign visitors every year. Many girls come to Thai cities from the country’s rural areas in hopes of making money for their families. These hopes are often dashed and these girls end up selling themselves out of necessity. It’s hard to imagine the desperation that drives a girl to sell herself or the oppressive shame that would then becomes a part of her life. With all this in mind, I approached the Tamar Center, a beacon of hope in this otherwise bleak situation. In the heat and humidity of Thailand, the modern building of the Center’s restaurant and bakery, advertising free air conditioning and free wi-fi to customers, was a welcome site.

Since 1999, the Project L.I.F.E. Foundation, which runs the Tamar Center, has been helping the bar and street girls of Pattaya escape the abuse of the sex trade. Offering a three month training course, they teach English language skills, the basics of restaurant operation, and hair dressing, sewing and card making skills. They also provide on-site child care.

What a joy it was to visit with women enrolled in this program and hear their stories of transformation.

One young lady shared with me, “I used to be a bad girl. Before, I didn’t know how to work at a restaurant, make cards or do hair. Now my heart is happy.” I was able to watch first hand as the women made the cards, sewed the scarves and strung jewelry-items Elevat has been selling for the past two years. After touring the facility, chatting with several residents and purchasing many new items for Elevat, I left with a full heart. I could hardly contain my joy at the privilege of partnering with such a wonderful work in offering hope to these hurting women.

There’s so much need in the world, and so often I feel overwhelmed, especially when traveling to developing countries. Purchasing items from wonderful partners like the Tamar Center, however, helps me know I can make a positive difference against the injustices of this life. Thank you for your part in helping do the same!

It was hard to get on the plane and leave my daughter behind. Even so, after experiencing Thailand myself and seeing her joy and satisfaction in living there, it was not as hard as I thought it would be. She doesn’t mind she only has cold water with which to shower, that she can’t put toilet paper in the bowl, or that she rides standing in the back of a pickup truck in order to get to work every day. She is exactly where she’s supposed to be and doing exactly what she’s supposed to be doing. As I process the experience of my brief time in Thailand, I can rest assured this is so.

 

 

 

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