Celebrating Inspirational Women: The Men That Inspire Me…

By: Cinthya Rubio, Marketing and Communications Director @ Our Hands For Hope

When we started this adventure of Celebrating #InspirationalWomen I immediately knew which women in my life have had a strong influence on the kind of woman I have become today. Being such an easy task to identify them does not remove the merit and acknowledgment they should receive, but easy has never been my profile. So how about honoring the men that stand beside, support, cheer on, challenge and inspire women? Yeah that sounds more like it.

To my demise when  I googled things like “men that stand beside women, men that support their strong woman, men that cheer on their woman, men that challenge and inspire women” everything had a “sentimental relationship” connotation!  Here are just a few of the many things that I found:

Yup, that’s just a small taste of what I found on the surface… then I saw this article on Forbes titled: “Suzanne Venker: Men Aren’t Mad At Women’s Success–They Just Don’t Want To Help”. I must say it still wasn’t what I was looking for and it touched the evidently inevitable sentimental relationship aspects between men and women but it did have a more professional setting sprinkled here and there throughout the article.  There was a quote on there that did get me thinking:

“One of the reasons men are less successful today is because women have been insisting for decades [that] they don’t need a man!” she says. “So men stopped reaching as high as they used to.” But as women continue to reach higher and higher towards success, will men reach lower and lower? Will they even be able to lift a finger? –Excerpt from Meghan Casserly’s  Forbes article.

WOW really?!? Maybe this general feeling is why the search for stories of women honoring the supportive men in their lives has been hard to find! Do I feel like this? Should I? HECK NO!

I might be one of the select few to have great men that are inspiring and have been influential in who I am today, or maybe “Strong, successful, inspiring” women just aren’t as willing to share the platform with men. Now I am definitely more eager to share!

No doubt that my father has played a big role… He’s not your typical “Mexican Macho Man” but does have cultural characteristics of a Mexican Gent. I’m certain that my Grandmother played a big role in him not doubting the strength of a woman…  He also found a woman that was not your typical housewife, the interaction between my mother and him has always portrayed a feeling of “we are in this together, we will both push forward”- so clearly I am looking for the future man in my life to have that mentality as well.

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Dad with baby girl #3 (me)

What surely made my father become a supportive man was the fact that he had three daughters.  He could have taken the easy route and let girls be girls, but he challenged us to help fix things at home- not just clean, to explain sports and invite us to watch games with him- not just shoo us away to play with our dolls so we wouldn’t interrupt, to learn basics of car maintenance should we ever get stranded- not just rely on AAA.  He went that extra mile to make sure that the girls he would send out to the world would not only be caring but independent should a man not be present, knowledgeable beyond caregiving and cooking, and strong should they have to face adversity in life.

Because of the things dad exposed me to, it has always been easy for me to have guy friends. These friends have always told me that my lack of an extremely “girly attitude” helps them be able to talk and share more openly what they think. The simplicity and ease of these friendships with men have taught me how to avoid talking behind the backs of others and simply say what roams in my mind without sentiment getting in the way- and that has helped me in the business environment. Curiously, when I have had doubts regarding big steps in life, it has been my guy friends telling me that I am more than capable, worthy and strong enough to do it, whereas most of my girl friends have instated doubt and at times fear to move forward, always with the idea of helping me avoid grief of possible failure and safeguard my feelings. Without a doubt I have studied, traveled, loved and even jumped out of planes because I am more than capable, worthy and strong enough to do it… but I know failure and have felt the sting of broken feelings, but I too am more than capable, worthy and strong enough to endure those.

The best friends a girl can ask for!

The best friends a girl can ask for!

Last but not least, the amazing men that have served as mentors while in college and during my career must be mentioned. I have been blessed to have professors that bluntly expressed that my worth as a professional would be undermined simply for being a woman; therefore mediocre efforts in their classroom would not be tolerated in order to prepare me for the real world. Their words of encouragement, not sugarcoating what to expect in the jungle, and even that one professor that flunked me and made me retake his class because he felt I did average instead of exceptional, have opened many doors in my professional life, giving me the opportunity to venture into many fields of work and “mostly” enjoy every moment of it… I have learned to gain respect of my coworkers, and have received advice from businessmen, that in my mind will forever be priceless.

So to all the  men out there, go beyond the feelings that Suzanne Venker mentions in that Forbes article, please don’t stop reaching as high as you used to… because girls, and women like me, need challenges! Let’s both continue to reach higher and higher towards success to inspire generations of both girls and boys to come.

The James Brown “It’s A Man’s World” became the soundtrack to the writing of this post.

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A Very Fair Holiday Season

 

by Alicia Fischer, Communications @ Our Hands For Hope

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Many of us feel that the holidays should be a time of giving. Sometimes, we can lose sight of that among the wrapping paper and doorbuster deals featured in every storefront window. For those that need some help taking a step back and refocusing on what matters during the holidays, here are some companies that make great gifts while supporting an even greater cause. They are all fair trade businesses (or feature fair trade products), so they are sure to continue giving throughout the year, even after the holiday lights are stowed for next year.

Take a look at some items to make for a very fair holiday season.

For the Indulgent

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TCHO New American Chocolates is a fair trade chocolate company based out of San Francisco, California. Their business is fueled by TCHOSource – their practice of working directly with cacao farmers in Ghana, Madagascar, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, and Peru to create the best, sustainable chocolate out there. While they specialize in the natural flavors of dark chocolate, they also sell milk chocolates and their newest addition, TCHOPairings.

For the Caffeinated

For those that like a little pep in their step, two tea makers – Numi Teas and David’s Tea – have some great options no matter what flavors you’re looking for.

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Numi Tea is based out of Oakland, California and features 100% organic, no GMO, and (of course) fairly traded teas. They have a wide range of flavors, from your typical holiday chai and green teas to some savory options like Broccoli Cilantro and Carrott Curry.

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David’s Tea is a company originating in Vancouver, but has grown to open up their unique tea shops in many major cities across the US and Canada. While not all of their teas are fair trade, they do distinguish which ones are and even sell a fair trade tea gift box including some of their most popular fair trade creations.

For the Relaxed

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There is a company based out of Southern California called Heritage Link Brands. What do they do? They’ve made it their mission to product sustainable, socially responsible wines from vintners throughout Africa and bring them to the rest of the world. So here you have the best of both worlds: the ability to support some of the most ethical and socially responsible vintners of Africa, and some amazing wine to boot.

For the Fresh & Clean

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One company wanted to do more to help the world and created a product that helps in more ways that one. Hand in Hand Sustainable Soap provides soap and one month of clean water for every bar of their sustainable soap purchased. Their soaps come in a wide range of scents and are 100% eco-friendly, biodegradable, and fairly traded. It is definitely one gift to give and feel good about.

For the Bold & Glamorous

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Similar to Our Hands for Hope, 31Bits is a fair trade fashion business helping women help themselves. Their efforts are focused in Uganda, and the women there are making some truly fantastic pieces of jewelry from the simple and classic to bold statement pieces. Perfect for the person on your list who stands out from the rest!

For the Urbanite

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For those who don’t want to forgot style but just don’t want to feel girly, make sure you introduce them to Oaklandish. A local Oakland, California retail shop, this company doesn’t only put out trendy t-shirts and hoodies but also gives back to their local community, donating 10% of proceeds to artists and other nonprofits who are doing pioneering work within the community. Check out a list of where the proceeds go here.

For the Fashionista

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You didn’t think we’d forget us, did you? For some incredibly soft, trendy, effortless pieces to wear year-round, check out some of the latest styles in knitwear from Our Hands for Hope.

Happy Holidays!

After the Harvest Comes the Chill

By Alicia Fischer, Communications Director

Harvest in the valley is a wonderful time of year. People come together to pick their crops, press the grapes, and reap the benefits of the year’s production. The air is filled with a hint of vinegar as the new grapes ferment, and workers, families, and friends come together to celebrate another successful season.

Depending on what you’re going for, harvest time can range from September until November. In Napa Valley, harvest time is usually warm, with the sun setting earlier and clinging to the last days of summer before things start to cool down. After the harvest comes the chill, and this year we are fully prepared for when the fog rolls in and blankets the vines in its soft, dewy mist.

Sounds like it’s time to bundle up and get cozy! Check out our knits that are perfect for snuggling into winter. Bring on the cold!

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Fairly Traded: TCHO New American Chocolate Contributes

By: Alicia Fischer, Communications @ Our Hands For Hope

We are always striving to be the fairest we can be. What does that mean exactly? In the world of Fair Trade, it means having a product, a business, and a lifestyle that contribute to the success, improvement, and equal treatment to the lives of others.

For us, being fair means justly compensating the women in Peru who create our knits. It means creating and teaching a sustainable business model for each woman to improve upon and contribute to while positively affecting their community. It also means promoting and sharing other Fair Trade companies who are doing the same thing: creating sustainable businesses that are ethically sound, setting an example for the world in helping to improve disadvantaged areas.

With that, we would like to present TCHO.

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TCHO is a luxury chocolate maker in San Francisco, California that obsesses over the pure, natural flavors in chocolate.. The factory and store are located at Pier 17 along the embarcadero, and while they call San Francisco their native home, their chocolate is from Ghana, Madagascar, Ecuador, Dominican Republic, and — of course — Peru.

We had the opportunity to speak with them about the company, what Fair Trade means to TCHO, and a little more in depth about their TCHOSource program.

It is very uncommon in the chocolate business for cacao farmers and workers to be treated fairly. TCHO says that most farmers have never even tasted their own products! Instead, they harvest the beans and ship them off to their buyers without any say in the process from bean to chocolate. TCHO saw this and wanted to do things differently.

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Intro TCHOSource: the way that TCHO does business with their suppliers to ensure the best possible product. This means working closely with the suppliers in each country to produce their flavor profiles as well as helping access other markets through improved product quality. TCHO didn’t just want to buy good beans; they wanted to help make the best ones.

“Fair Trade is definitely important in the cacao industry,” says Katie Gilmer, TCHOSource Manager who’s traveled to Peru and Ghana to meet with suppliers and make sure everyone’s happy. “There are so many terrible human rights abuses that’ve been documented in the industry. Fair trade is a good step moving forward against those abuses.”

Just like Our Hands for Hope, TCHO’s powerhouse suppliers are in Peru.

“Other than being a great cacao region, Peru’s economy is growing,” says Katie. “Part of it is that their government has been favorable to economic growth, they have the natural resources, and this entrepreneurial spirit in their people. Peruvians just have this drive on top of their already rich culture with food, colors, fabrics, etc.”

We agree with her there! Just like us with our knits, TCHO buys their beans directly from their country or origin, sourcing everything on their own and importing into the US. What is unique about them, however, is that they are establishing flavor labs where they source their beans. By doing this, TCHO works with the growers to do quality control throughout harvest.

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“Once harvest is done there are no more adjustments you can make in processing to give the buyer what they’re looking for,” says Katie. “The flavor labs allows us to be more nimble in our cocoa production to get our optimal flavor profile. Then, we can have specific flavor profiles to differentiate quality levels for different customers. A big part of that is training people how to taste, and having them taste what they’ve made.”

TCHO is currently working to encourage other chocolate producers to use their flavor labs so that they’re producing the best product for their buyers.

“It may be more competition for us, “says Katie, “but it helps everyone in the end.”

Here’s to TCHO. A New American Chocolate company with not only a great product but who’s also serving a great purpose. Check them out at Pier 17 in San Francisco, and sign up for a free factory tour to really see what they’re all about.

TCHeers to TCHO!

Gala, One of the Knitters at Our Hands For Hope.

By: Cinthya Rubio, Marketing Director @ Our Hands For Hope

Gala, age 50 from Trujillo, Peru was affected with polio as a child. This has left her with a life long, leg disability. She is a single mother with a 17 year old daughter, Michella. Despite her disability, Gala has always had a smile on her face and a very positive attitude, which she has gracefully passed on to her daughter.

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Meet Gala, she is one of the Our Hands For Hope knitters from Trujillo, Peru.

Over the years, Gala’s health problems have increased, one of her kneecaps has made it more difficult for her to move around. The only way for her to relieve some of the pain is to have knee surgery, but with a very limited income she has had to put this procedure off.

Today, with the help of Our Hands for Hope she is part of a network of women that have the sole objective of working together and helping each other. Violeta, our Peruvian coordinator, sent word about Gala’s need for surgery and asked if we would be willing to increase one of our orders by just five items… The women had come together offering to hand knit the extra pieces and donate their earnings to cover the cost of Gala’s surgery. Together, the women have created beautiful alpaca knits and have raised enough money to pay for her surgery!

Here is a video that Gala’s family sent to us:

Gala has received  the needed surgery and is recovering nicely. Gala’s story warms our heart, seeing how our knitting community came together to help her is priceless. But none of this would be possible without you. With your purchases, we are helping women help themselves.