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Handmade jewelry helps women in Third World countries

By Jennifer Elyea
Explorers

Bracelets are more than just accessories to the women of Uganda, Haiti, and other nations around the world.

Fashion and Compassion, a Charlotte organization, has enabled these women to sell such products, helping many women get back on their feet.

Fashion and Compassion started last year to support women in Third World countries who have struggled due to poverty, sexual slavery, disabilities, being widowed, and other issues. The charity volunteers work directly with these people by training them to learn new skills.

In Uganda, beads are handmade from recycled paper and assembled by the women in need of support. The jewelry is then brought back to Charlotte where it is sold in marketplaces and at events held by Forest Hill Church.

“The profits go right back to the women who make the products,” said Loren Burris, who works at Forest Hill.

On one of her trips to Haiti, she visited a village and observed some of the jewelry-making.

“As I listened to our interpreter tell us about who we were visiting, I knew I had to bring these products to Charlotte,” she said.

One branch of Fashion and Compassion works with women in Rwanda who have lost family members to genocide. They are taught to make traditional baskets out of African grasses, a process that takes five days.

“The amazing thing is that these baskets are made by women from the tribes that fought against each other during the 1994 Rwandan genocide … now they work alongside one another,” said Michele Dudley, the founder of Fashion and Compassion.

Another more recent cause is the Freedom Project. Beads and and decorations made in Uganda and Ethiopia are designed into necklaces by women who have been exploited here in Charlotte. One hundred percent of the profits from the necklaces go back to the women from Charlotte, Uganda, and Ethiopia.

All of the projects that Fashion and Compassion take part in teach new skills to people all over the world. These skills can be useful for other forms of employment as well. Thanks to the money earned from sales, many women are able to provide for their families and send their children to school.

Each piece of jewelry made and sold for Fashion and Compassion comes with a tag attached. The tag provides background information on the charity and tells where the piece was made and what cause it is supporting. This way, customers in Charlotte are informed about the poverty situations around the world and are able to know exactly how they are helping to improve the lives of those people.

The profits from these projects are beginning to improve the lifestyles of everyone involved.

“It also gives us the opportunity to educate our customers and potential customers about the injustices occurring in Charlotte and around the world,” Dudley said.

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