I believe that jobs=empowerment for women around the world... I'm putting my money where my mouth is and asking you to join me!

Hello! I wanted to catch you all up to speed on a new initiative that Andrew and I (and some other wonderful members of the Ethical Blogger Network including Danielle, HollyJacqui, Ashlee, Cassandra, and Christy) are working on! It's our very first EBN-sponsored development project and It's been so wonderful to come together as a team to help get a fledgling social enterprise on it's feet. 

I wanted to take the time today to share a little bit of backstory on how this project came into being, and a bit of personal backstory. In the coming weeks, we'll be sharing sneak peeks of the design process for our inaugural line of ethically made tees, totes, pillows, and banners and other fun updates! 

  Me with friends+ some of the Safe Refuge Staff. Please ignore the denim culottes, it was 2009! 

Me with friends+ some of the Safe Refuge Staff. Please ignore the denim culottes, it was 2009! 

While I was living and working in the Philippines in 2009, I met two amazing women. Naomi was an American midwife who had transplanted herself into the heart of chaotic, vibrant, Manila (she's now been there over a decade!). Red was a Filipina nurse who had given up working abroad and devoted herself to the seemingly endless stream of vulnerable women desperate to survive another day on the streets of her home country. Together, they founded Safe Refuge- a non-profit organization which provides maternal care and childbirth services, educational opportunities and scholarships, emergency shelter, and supportive housing and aftercare for women who have been trafficked and sexually abused. They've cared for pregnant girls as young as 10 years old. 

I struck up a friendship with Naomi and Red, and over the course of 6 months I spent time hanging out with the women at Safe Refuge. I became increasingly impressed with the integrity of the organization, and with the beautiful hearts of the staff. I was drawn in by the pure love radiating between mamas and babies, staff and clients, and between Safe Refuge and the surrounding community. 

  Red, Naomi and I in Spring 2015

Red, Naomi and I in Spring 2015

Then, I moved back to the states. Fast forward to mid- 2015. After keeping in touch online for years, I had the chance to be reunited with Red and Naomi at my home in St Paul when they flew in for a conference. They told me of Safe Refuge's growth (they are currently caring for 50 women and Children, and 13 women are full-time students, their tuition paid in full by Safe Refuge), and of some new struggles as well.... 

While education continues to remain a top priority at Safe Refuge, there is a need to provide vocational training and job opportunities to Safe Refuge women who are unable to enroll in school along with their peers due to physical and mental disabilities. There are 6 women at Safe Refuge right now who need employment to be able to move forward. 

Last year, there was a brief period where some of the women enrolled in a nearby workshop for trafficking survivors run by a well-known anti-trafficking organization. They did well in the program and loved every minute of it.... until the organization was infiltrated by a female trafficker who lured many of the girls (none from Safe Refuge!) in the program back to a group of pimps in a Manila trafficking ring. The program was shut down amidst scandal, and the Safe Refuge women were back where they started. 

SO. Safe Refuge is starting their very own business. Naomi and Red have asked me to help, knowing my background in launching social enterprises, and Andrew and I will be moving over to the Philippines for a month and a half to get things rolling. In April 2016, we'll be opening a screen printing shop called A Beautiful Refuge. A Beautiful Refuge will produce lovingly handcrafted screen printed items with a mission to embody fair trade and environmentally responsible principles throughout the production process.

We'll be printing on ethically made and environmentally friendly textiles from Freeset in India and custom-sewn pieces by Fairsew in Cambodia. Using these wonderful companies ensures that our entire supply chain will be transparent and that each worker whose hands touch our products will be paid fairly, not just the women at Safe Refuge.

You can read more about the project, view our financials and business plan (transparency is so important, you guys. we want you to know where every dollar is going), and donate through the A Beautiful Refuge website

I know that there are about a million different causes/projects/people clamoring for your time, attention, and money on a regular basis and I can't thank you enough for considering A Beautiful Refuge. I'm completely committed to making certain that your dollars make an IMMEDIATE and MEASURABLE impact in the lives of the women at Safe Refuge. 

If you believe, as we do, that creating opportunity for marginalized women is the best way to work toward free, just, and prosperous futures for our global sisters, join us! If you believe that the best products are good for everyone involved – from the factory to the checkout line- we need you on our team. Here's how you can help: 

Click the widget in the sidebar, or visit the fundraising page on our website to give. $15 buys us a frame for screen making, $3000 buys us a drying oven! No matter what amount you're able to give, it will have a huge impact! 

Our first round of designs will be completed soon and we'd love your feedback! Sign up below to be a part of our product review team and we'll send out some sneak peeks along with a little survey to help us gather customer insight!