What if the gifts you give this holiday season could change a life?
Imagine this: You live in a place where nearly 72% of the people are stuck in poverty. More than half can’t even afford food. And jobs that could provide money to buy necessities are few and far between. Honduras is that place. (Source: United Nations)
But gifts are changing that, thanks to Mi Esperanza, a non-profit that teaches women money-making skills and lifts them out of extreme poverty.
Take Nery Gonzalez, for instance. She lived in the mountains beyond Santa Ana, where there was no work. Presented with an opportunity to take a sewing class at Mi Esperanza, the teenager said yes, despite a demanding and dangerous commute. Nery walked an hour each way, four days a week for seven months. She graduated at the top of her class and was awarded a sewing machine to take back to her community to start her own business. Her life was forever changed.
Equipped with serious skills, the women of Mi Esperanza make gorgeous purses, jewelry, and household items. Designers from the U.S. have called on the skills of these women to create products in mass quantities and small. The profits pay fair living wages and go back into the program so more women can take classes, apply for micro-loans, and earn their way out of poverty. Some of the students have gone on to earn livings that finance a university education for their children, something that would have been unimaginable without Mi Esperanza.
My wonderful friend and visionary, Janet Hines, is one of the women who made this happen. She and another American, Lori Connell had spent time volunteering in Honduras and wanted to make a lasting difference. They decided to target opportunities for women because so many they knew had been deserted by their men, left to raise and feed children alone in dire conditions.
Janet and Lori started Mi Esperanza in 2002, making this the non-profit's fifteenth anniversary. The name, aptly, means “My Hope” and that’s exactly what they’ve given women in the communities they serve. They offer education in the form of sewing classes, beauty school, and computer classes. After the students complete their training, they are eligible for micro-loans so they can take their skills to their own communities.
In the past fifteen years, Mi Esperanza has revolutionized the lives of more than 1200 women in Honduras. Janet says her life has been changed, too, as she’s shared in the women’s weddings, births and family funerals. As she has become a part of their lives, they have become part of hers, too. Though Janet has never been paid for her work, she says the real payoff is watching the women of Mi Esperanza take flight out of poverty and into sustainable living.
For gorgeous, life-changing gift ideas, visit Mi Esperanza at www.thewomenofmyhope.org