Dozens gathered for a benefit Thursday at Black Dog Salvage to support Hands Producing Hope, a non-profit organization founded in Southwest Virginia that helps women in Rwanda and Costa Rica earn income and so much more.
Visitors were able to purchase handmade baskets and jewelry. But these items weren’t just made by ordinary artisans.
“We work with women in developing countries that live remote parts of the world to help them provide for their families,” said Rebecca Gardner, who started Hands Producing Hope three years ago as she was finishing up classes at Virginia Tech.
Gardner said her organization pays dozens of women in Rwanda and Costa Rica at a rate that is considered above fair wage in their countries to make the baskets and jewelry.
The group also offer them literacy classes, educational scholarships and mentorship.
“I had been introduced to the indigenous people group that we worked with in college and learned just about the difficulties that the women in that particular community face,” Gardner said.
“When I first met them about a year ago, their only source of income was to carry things from the lake up a mountain to where they lived,” said Kayla Wirt, Rwandan development director for Hands Producing Hope.
Wirt moved to Rwanda to run a group of 40 women who weave baskets. Providing a steady source of income and education has transformed lives, she said.
“One woman – her name is Josephine – she is learning how to write her name,” Wirt said. “And she’s really excited about it. So last time I was there – she ran up to me and said, ‘Do you have a pen? I want to show you how I can write my name.'”
Hands Producing Hope sells the jewelry and baskets the women produce at events like the benefit at Black Dog Salvage.
“It always feels good to help a cause in any new way you can,” said Grayson Goldsmith of Black Dog Salvage. “I don’t see myself going to Rwanda or Costa Rica anytime soon, unfortunately, to help out that way but, you know, we all help out in the ways that we can.”
The benefit raised $2,500, according to organizers. The money raised will continue to help the non-profit fund its current programs, hire more women and provide more scholarships.
You can also purchase the handmade jewelry and baskets on the organization’s website.