By Letting Your Light Shine,
You Grant Permission for Others to Do the Same
Birth of BellaLine
In 2007, while attending graduate school, I had an opportunity to work with a nonprofit and travel to Ghana, Africa. Our team of students conducted community-based surveys and gathered information about the knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors regarding water sanitation practices and their effects on health.
Independent of team projects, I met with a group of women to document and analyze their economic conditions, constraints to development, and unmet needs. This particular community lived in extreme poverty, and lacked the basic fundamentals for survival: no access to clean water, electricity, adequate shelter, latrines, mosquito nets - people were barely surviving off the land they farmed. With no hospital, infrastructure, or public service to support the community, many children were malnourished, and indiscriminate of age, many members of the community suffered from malaria.
Deeply touched by the community, I explained the concept of fair trade and how it can help raise living standards by offering a fair wage and working conditions. After gaining an overwhelming consensus to participate, the group of women and I immediately started to discuss what kind of trade they should learn. After careful consideration, the women decided they wanted to learn how to make batik art. Batik is a painting handcrafted on a cloth-like material. Batik design is a symbol of Africa art, each unique piece representing a part of African culture.
My trip to Ghana provided invaluable knowledge as to how I can invoke positive change for those who are disenfranchised from society. Following my return to the United States, I felt a personal responsibility to take action. I devoted time, energy, and resources into mobilizing support and sponsorship for a fair trade, micro-entrepreneurship non-profit. I reached out to colleagues, former employers, and key stakeholders in the community and hosted fundraising events, raising awareness of fair trade as an effective means of economic empowerment and advancement for women around the world.
Due to several life changes, the non-profit unfortunately did not fully materialize. Nonetheless, I held onto the inspiration the Ghanaian women provided me and continued to support fair trade by volunteering or vending local markets. Eight years later, I finally reached a point in which, as a social entrepreneur, I am able to pursue my passion and offer fair trade as well as eco-friendly, chic organic apparel to consumers who choose a socially responsible lifestyle.
I believe everything has come full circle - as a female trying to make ends meet, starting my own small business, and doing meaningful, sustainable work. The only way out of poverty is through economic opportunity and business success, combined with education and not through handouts. Owning even a small business or securing a job that pays a living wage (see fair trade) allow women to provide for their family, and build self-esteem and dignity. It can even mean the difference between life and death. Through BellaLine, we can make a sustainable difference together in the lives of people both near and far.