Providing Dignity: A Full-Time Job


By Kristen Welch, Founder

If you had asked me a decade ago what people in poverty need, I would have said money.

Doesn’t charity seems like an obvious answer –giving aid to someone who has a need? But over the past few years, I’ve discovered I was wrong.

I’ve sat in more third world homes than I can count–half a dozen this past week–homes with dirt floors that become mud pits when it rains, homes that are completely dark without windows or electricity, homes without a bathroom, kitchen or bed. Homes with love but little opportunity. And I’ve asked every woman this question in her home: What do you dream of for your life? The answer has never been money.

It’s been, “I want to send my children to school”, “I want to pay rent and feed my children,” and “I want a job.”

“You can’t get rid of poverty by giving people money.” — P.J. O’Rourke

Women in poverty don’t want us to provide for their families. They want to do it themselves. It’s called dignity.

And providing it has become my full-time job.

“Overcoming poverty is not a gesture of charity. It is the protection of a fundamental human right, the right to dignity and a decent life.” Nelson Mandela

Jobs. Jobs. Jobs. It’s my heartbeat. The pounding rhythm of my life is to see women given the opportunity to work. I am obsessed with creating jobs for women in poverty.

Girls –like the two pregnant teens pictured above who were rescued last week from oppressive and scary situations and now live in one of our maternity homes. Once they complete the two year program, it is dignified work that will provide for their children. And so I think about job creation every single day.  Not because I’m good at it or because I know what I’m doing, but because it’s something I can do or die trying.  And it’s something you can do, too.

When we buy a handmade rug like the one I’m folding above that takes one woman 5 days to make or wear a pair of fair trade leather earrings that empower a girl like Esther, one of the teen mom graduates from our maternity homes in Kenya, we aren’t being charitable. We are changing a woman’s world.

“The world is a dangerous place, not because of those who do evil, but because of those who look on and do nothing.”
  — Albert Einstein

It’s unthinkable to do nothing. And it’s simply unbelievable that doing something so simple can really make a difference but maybe that’s my job too–telling you that it does. It makes all the difference in the world.

And I’m absolutely desperate for you to believe it and so are desperate women around the world–not with their hand out waiting for us to fill it with money or things, but with hope. We don’t buy fair trade out of pity or guilt, we buy it because we believe in dignity.

Providing it is a full time job.