Personal Hero - Kari Hughes

February 23, 2017

Personal Hero - Kari Hughes

Back in 2010 Kari was working as a Grief Therapist at a women's service organization. During this time she happened upon the book, "Half The Sky", written by Nicholas Kristoff and Sheryl WuDunn which changed her life and course of her career. This book opened Kari's eyes to what it means to be born a female and poor in this world. Although billions of dollars have been spent to eliminate poverty around the world, sadly much of the money is not funneled down to the grassroots level. Kari was inspired to make a difference and after a year of planning she launched Buy The Change. Kari shares her journey...

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Buy The Change does many things. On a basic level we purchase handmade products from women artisans in the developing world, sell them in the US and use the profits to purchase more products. This creates a cycle of business building opportunities for talented women who previously struggled to find a market for the beautiful items they create. On deeper levels we do much more than that. We give our customers the opportunity to have a direct impact on the lives of women around the world. We educate our customers and potential customers about the issues of being female in the developing world, fair trade, slow fashion and the importance of using our shopping dollars to empower rather than contribute to exploitation around the world. We offer our partner artisans the dignity and self respect of earned income and the truth that people on the other side of the world would want to buy and use the products they make. We give women the opportunity to earn income using the traditional skills taught to them by their mothers and grandmothers. 

Through our non-profit foundation (10% of every website sale is donated to the foundation) we give grants to our partner artisans in order to eliminate barriers to business success. The grants have included funds for sewing machines, doors, roofs, cabinets, irons, metal working equipment, water filters, tables, school tuition for girls, gardening supplies and much more.

We are attempting to address any and all issues related to being extremely poor and female in the developing world. The specific issues are different in the different areas of the world where we partner with women.

The main issue for all of our artisan partners is poverty, extreme poverty. Other issues are the direct result of extreme poverty; poor nutrition, unsafe living conditions, lack of access to education, lack of access to medical care, human trafficking, maternal/infant mortality, and many more.

The women we partner with do not work for Buy The Change, they overwhelmingly work for themselves. Some are members of cooperatives, others work under the guidance of local NGOs where they receive coaching and information about business and healthy living choices. We don't attempt to influence or control what they buy our how they choose to spend the money they earn. We give them the respect of believing they know what is best for themselves and their families.

Buy The Change has purchased more than $200K worth of products from our artisan partners around the world. This is money that has gone directly into the hands of women living in extreme poverty.

The most rewarding part of my work is traveling to meet the women we partner with. Sitting down with them, often in their homes, and seeing the difference partnering with Buy The Change has made in their lives. We have met with women in the slums and red light district in Kolkata, India, villages in West Bengal, India, refugee camps in northern Thailand, the highlands of Guatemala, in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, and in Montrouis, Haiti. In all of these places one of the best things I hear is that the daughters of our partner artisans are going to school because their mothers are earning the money to pay the tuition. These women all live in countries where there is no government system to fall back on. Each family must figure out how to survive or it will not happen. Being a part of this process and helping to create generational change is the best part of my job.

I am so inspired by these women, what they have survived, the resilience they have, the talent they have. It humbles me every day and keeps me focused on everything I have to be grateful for. 

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Through Buy The Change, Kari is making a significant difference in the lives of many women. Kari is giving women in impoverished conditions hope, respect, and most of all she is believing in them. She gives them the means to provide for their own families and break out of the cycle of poverty. Thank you Kari for transforming the lives of these beautiful women and telling them they are worthy and deserving!

To find out more about Buy The Change, you can follow them on Instagram or visit their website to purchase beautiful handcrafted items that help bring women out of extreme poverty.

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