From our founder, Kara:
Five years ago, I went on a trip that changed the trajectory of my life. For years, I’d wanted to travel to Africa on a mission trip, but I couldn’t make it work.
Someone told me to travel to Haiti. Everything seemed to fall into place, so I jumped on a week long trip to a school and an orphanage in the mountains of Haiti.
When I got home, I couldn’t shake it. I couldn’t stop thinking of my friends in Haiti.
I started selling bracelets to buy new mattresses for a group of children at an orphanage sleeping on concrete and rat-infested straw pads. We made the money in no time - to my surprise, the bracelets were a hit! Thinking I might be onto something, I then set up a makeshift table at a local artisan market and sold over $600 worth of bracelets in one day, which I used to buy a plane ticket back to Haiti. I couldn’t believe people wanted to buy something I had made!
I continued selling bracelets, each time funding a small missions need or trip.
And then I started thinking. The school I originally visited in Haiti has a story that captured my heart. In Haiti, you have to pay big bucks to go to school. It isn’t free like it is in America. When my friend Kellie opened up Grace So Amazing Academy, she expected about 50 kids to attend. To her surprise, over 200 children showed up for registration. And she couldn’t turn them down. These are children who have never in their lives had an opportunity to go to school. But funding presented a challenge - as new needs popped up every day. It’s hard to raise funds to pay teachers and workers to build buildings - especially while running a children’s home as well. Meanwhile, women in very desperate situations were showing up at her door left and right asking for employment to provide for their children.
What if we worked on two problems at the same time? What if we trained women, or more specifically - the mothers of the children attending GSA - how to make the bracelets and other jewelry? What if we put that money, their money, back into the school their children attend? What would happen if these hard working, tenacious mothers knew they were funding their own children’s education?
As most great stories do, this story had a few big twists and turns along the way.
I’ve traveled to 20 countries since that first trip to Haiti and visited countless ministries. I’ve become a student of the world, and like a sponge, have soaked up everything I possibly could about how missions run and operate, and how to run a business as a ministry. I had the awesome opportunity of helping to start the Storytelling Program at Adventures in Missions, and in the process learned how to start something from scratch. I took classes at Plywood People in Atlanta, and learned from other social entrepreneurs further down the line. I’ve had several people speaking into my business model - (shoutout to the guys of Audio Adrenaline - who started a really cool ministry in Haiti and business - check out Hands and Feet Project and Haiti Made) - and my amazing friend Asher who founded Sole Hope).
In Uganda earlier this year, my group randomly ended up at a local artisan festival - and there I met Yonnah. I was immediately drawn to his leather goods and asked him about making tote bags for my mom and sister. One thing led to another and the next thing I knew my friend Britnie, Waverly and I were off on boda bodas (motorcycle taxis) headed to the local tannery to pick out leather. Our short meeting turned into an all-day meeting as we explored downtown Jinja together as Yonnah began telling us his life’s story. He grew up in an orphanage after both his parents died. Someone taught him to make leather, and he ended up turning it into a career. Now he has a dream to employ others living in marginalized situations by teaching them how to leather craft - and giving them fair and dignified work. All while showing them the love of Christ.
Wow. I now knew my dream included not just the school in Haiti, but helping Yonnah achieve his own dream. I’d work on selling his leather goods here in the states, and he’d work on getting the workshop up and running in Uganda. That’s the goal. Right now, there’s a political crisis that has made it hard to travel to Haiti, so getting started in Uganda was perfect timing. We won’t forget Haiti.
In Uganda, I also met Joyce, who was already employing women by teaching them how to make paper beads and turn them into beautiful pieces of jewelry. I knew I wanted to sell Joyce’s jewelry, too.
So here we are. Kindred is a registered LLC that operates like a social enterprise to give fair and dignified employment to artisans around the globe. We pay sales taxes and we’re legal in the state of Georgia. We had our biggest festival to date over the weekend at Mule Camp Market. This thing is going to work. We just placed our third order with Yonnah and our second order with Joyce. We sold out of natural tote bags, but we have more coming. We’ll expand to Haiti once we get a little experience under our belt and once the political crisis calms down a bit there.
Thank you for supporting Kindred, kind friend. Your purchase really does make an impact.