Before my girl was born, I went to Africa.
I went partly for the adventure. And I went partly because I wanted to help. I wanted to make a difference. Do some good. I’d volunteered for dozens of local organizations and I was ready to take the next big step. I was ready to step outside of myself and my cozy little place and make a difference for people who lived in a vastly different world than I did.
I expected to get hooked. To fall in love with the desert and the jungle, despite the heat and the bugs. I expected to plan many return trips, deeper into the heart of Africa. I planned to return home, bring new life into this world and then swiftly bring my new little love back with me, initiate him or her early into the way of doing good and making a difference and stepping outside of our cozy little world.
But it didn’t happen like that.
I spent two weeks in Africa and I didn’t feel as though I helped much at all. I did some construction work, but not much. Save for a little painting and some nail hammering that the actual construction team had to supervise, I didn’t feel that I’d made a dent in the huge job that was building an HIV hospital in the small, poverty stricken town. I connected with a few kids over books and there is one little girl, Dora, who still sticks out in my memory. I have a photo of us together and it’s one of my favorites from the trip. But volunteers streamed into her village every other week or so and I’m sure that our afternoons spent under the shade of the trees near her school soon faded and melded with those of all of the other men and women who dipped into her life for a few days one summer.
In the weeks and months after my return from Ghana, as my belly swelled with new life, driving me into an adventure of a different sort, I began to question the idea of doing good.
I began to doubt that it is possible for someone like me to change a life, let alone the world. I suspended belief that it was possible for me, one woman, one mama, one person with a very big heart but what feels like achingly few resources, to even make a dent in the problems that plague us.
I still grapple with this, a good six years later. As we round out my daughter’s fifth year on this earth, I feel that I’ve barely shown her an inch of the path of good-doing. We haven’t volunteered much. We rarely donate. And when I engage in a little social good, I don’t talk about it with her. The world I dreamed of as my Accra-bound plane took off, of me and my little people in far away places with hands and hearts made for helping, it has vanished. And I’m still grappling with how to replace it.
How does doing good really work for people like us? What does it look like?
Slowly, I’m starting to pull together pieces of the puzzle.
I’m starting to realize that doing good starts with the way we choose to live here. It doesn’t have to be as big as a big ‘ol plane ticket and shocking my body into near meltdown on an 8-hour long flight. It can be as big as intentionally selecting the coffee that we brew, the fruit that we buy, the threads we choose to curl up in. It can be as big as reading and learning what fair trade really means. And exploring whether or not the products that float in and out of our cozy little world are sustainable. Whether the people whose fingers wove that fabric were treated and paid fairly for their art.
A few weeks ago, Emily of INDIGENOUS organic + fair trade fashion reached out to me and introduced me to Ethical Fashion. We live parallel lives, Emily and I, both of us raising a 4-year-old little girl and 1-year-old little boy and we instantly connected over our shared motherhood journey. But it wasn’t long before I dove into Emily’s other world – that of social media and design for INDIGENOUS.
INDIGENOUS elevates artisans in the poorest regions of South America to world renowned status in the handicraft textile market while paying a fair living wage. They work with over a dozen fair trade field organizing teams and quality control centers that coordinate over 300 artisan work groups.
And this is it, of course. Good with purpose. A piece of the puzzle. I went to Africa 6 years ago just aimlessly looking to do good. INDIGENOUS has set up camp in South America to do good with a purpose. To meaningfully change the lives of people with opportunity and fairness. To meaningfully do good in the world through sustainable and responsible practices. It’s starting to come together for me.
I’ve been sold on clothes for a cause, threads for good, for about as long as I’ve been blogging and I am delighted to add INDIGENOUS to the list of companies I turn to to make a difference with just my own choices, fulfilling my own basic needs.
Emily sent me the Aerial Poncho to review and can I just gush for a minute? Because I’m in love.
It is soft and beautiful and that shade of white that my children’s fingers will never be allowed to touch. The perfect date night, client meeting, conference going attire. If you have plans to see me between now and forever, don’t be surprised if I’m draped in white.
Even better, check them out yourself. They make the most beautiful pieces that I want to live in always. And each item comes with a QR code on the tag. Scan it and learn about how your clothes were made. My poncho was made in Callale, a small town high in the Andes, by a woman named Silvia. Silvia has lived in that small town all her life, in poverty. With INDIGENOUS, she learned hand-weaving skills and is paid fairly to work with beautiful organic cottons to make pieces like my poncho.
Each time that I meet a new person or organization who has figured this out, this doing-good path, this way to make a difference, I feel a little bit more hope that my dream of following such a path with my littles may not be so far fetched after all.
Learn more about INDIGENOUS and slide into some beautiful, organic, ethical fashion.
disclaimer: I received the Aerial poncho for free from INDIGENOUS. All opinions, thoughts, and ideas are my own. All dreams of doing good – those belong to us all.