Some places in this world need a little more of our love. That’s why we’re proud to share the mission of today’s Spotlight on Women Makers organization, Handspun Hope. This impactful organization’s mission is to provide “… holistic support to Africa's poorest through job creation, community building, and spiritual counsel.” With over 40% of the world’s poor living in Sub-Saharan Africa, an estimated
490 million people live under $1.90 USD a day. That’s to support an entire family. But, it’s simply not enough. Through the education and empowerment of Rwanda’s women, Handspun Hope aims to help families and communities to overcome poverty and help spark change across the continent and the world. Today, we’re sharing their story.

The Beginning of Handspun Hope

Executive Director and Founder of Handspun Hope, Diana Wiley, first traveled to the magnificent yet impoverished area of Sub-Saharan Africa in 2002 after hearing a presentation at her church. She wanted to make a difference, so she started volunteering with an aid organization in Mozambique. But while she was there, she learned more about the 1994 Rwandan genocide

This horrific part of Rwandan history destroyed much of the country’s infrastructure. It also left a devastating number of widows and victims of sexual assault, who are now living with HIV/AIDS as a direct result of the genocide’s violence. The people of Rwanda have made strides towards a brighter future, but Wiley knew she could do more to help. 

She knew that by empowering these women who have suffered great injustice, they’d reinvest that knowledge and capital into their communities. They’d transform into empowered leaders of change for this grief and violence-stricken nation. 

And so, Handspun Hope was born.

A Social Business Model Cultivating Leaders of Change in Rwanda

The Handspun Hope social business model is unique, as it doesn’t just provide opportunity through trade. Instead, they focus on healing the whole person. 

After experiencing the horrors of the genocide, many women the organization works with are traumatized and suffer from PTSD. Some live with HIV/AIDS or other serious injuries or diseases, while others were widowed and are supporting a family with no means for sustainable income. So, how do they reignite the fire in these women and turn them into confident, powerful, and intentional leaders of change for their communities? Through a few avenues: 

Individual and Group Counseling with a Clinical Psychologist
You can’t move forward until you’ve healed your trauma. So the Handspun Hope team has clinical psychologists on staff that lead individual and group trauma counseling to take the first steps towards healing, confidence, and ultimately, the empowerment that leads to lasting transformation.

They also provide trauma counseling certification programs to local community leaders, so this type of support will be more widespread in the Musanze District. To date, they’ve trained over 200 lay counselors who now practice in the area! 

Microfinance Initiatives 
Not only are the women employed by Handspun Hope provided an above fair-trade wage, but they’re also eligible for individual loans. They can use these loans to start their own local businesses once they’ve grown and decided it’s time to go out on their own.

Healthcare, Nutrition, and Housing
The women selected are the most in need of Handspun Hope’s programs. They are all provided with housing, healthcare, and nutritious food, so they don’t need to worry about anything but investing in their future.

So, once the women are accepted, not only do they start working in the production of their 100% merino wool products, they also gain access to these transformational programs for mind, body, and soul.

A Commitment to Sustainability Inspires Their Production 
But Handspun Hope isn’t just doing good for the women they take in. They’re also operating with sustainable practices to care for our world. Their products range from beautiful handmade animal sculptures inspired by their African roots to knit sweaters and their very own wool.

The production process starts with their flock of grazing Merino sheep! They have their very own herd, cared for by a team of local shepherds around the clock. The sheep are encouraged to graze in different areas to reduce erosion and increase forage production. Once the wool grows to 3.5 inches, it’s sheered for use in their beautiful handmade products. 

They dye the wool with 100% organic, primarily plant-based dyes to ensure everything is non-toxic and safe for wear and collection. The women collect plant matter like avocado pits, onion skins, and eucalyptus bark that are boiled and used to create the dye. Once the wool is dyed, it’s made into thread and given to the knitters who craft the products you see in the shop! Their goal is to be a good steward for the Earth, and their production exudes that spirit.

Shop Handspun Hope at Simply Inspired to Support This Powerful Mission

Through intentional spending, our purchases can make a real impact on women across the globe. With digital transformation, the world is getting smaller every day, which means it’s getting easier to support those who need it most from anywhere in the world. Meet the women your purchase from Handspun Hope is impacting here. It’s truly inspirational to see the goals these women have set for themselves after undergoing transformational work with Handspun Hope.

Take a peek at a few of our favorite products from Handspun Hope and uncover their talent that will brighten your world as you change theirs with your purchase:
Handcrafted with 100% merino wool, this soft buddy will infuse the spirit of the wild into your home décor scheme.

Like her buddy Hope Hippo, this unique sculpture is crafted by blind women in Rwanda paid above fair-trade wages. The wool for this orangey beauty is naturally hand-dyed using onion skins!

This happy giant stands tall at over one foot! It will look lovely atop a mantel or overseeing the cooking in the kitchen. 

Want to uncover more artisan-made wares making a difference? 

Sign up for our emails to discover more of our women makers this month and beyond. Plus, you’ll receive a discount on your first order and have a chance to win a quarterly giveaway. 

Together, we can spark change with intentional spending, supporting organizations like Handspun Hope! 

March 16, 2022 — Darlene Hancox