The impact of HIV/AIDS on marginalized communities is just as real as poverty. When you think of NationWares – it’s easy to associate us with products, but the reality is… we’re so much more than that. At NationWares we are dedicated to go beyond our product line and aim for more than just fair trade. Our goal is to create systems, programs, and sustainability for people living in marginalized communities in developing nations (and right here in our own backyard).
For those of you micro-finance guru’s, you already know that a rising and trending problem in micro-finance and micro-enterprise is entrepreneurs and artisans who are impacted by HIV/AIDS. They are often prevented from having employment opportunities due to AIDS related stigma. On the other hand, some individuals that are given the micro loans may be HIV positive and later develop full blown AIDS and this causes unique tensions in development for many organizations (ie. people passing away before their loan is paid, leaving their families burdened). These issues and more are a daily reality in the field of development and many have just decided it’s easier to not include that group instead of deal with their challenges. Well, this doesn’t sit right with us…so here’s what we’ve done!
THE NATIONWARES SOLUTION
Since Health and HIV/AIDS issues are a huge reality around the world, we believe it is our responsibility for all NationWares beneficiaries to be well-taken care of. Through our amazing partners at CH Global, we are able to provide all of our artisans and entrepreneurs with healthcare, health advice, and mentoring. HIV/AIDS can still be a taboo topic around the world. We help start open and safe conversations where people feel free to share. Support networks are built, and healthcare can be accessed. Once people feel safe, and surrounded by trustworthy people, they are more likely to take the opportunity to access doctors, blood testing clinics, etc.
Individuals with HIV/AIDS are NEVER EXCLUDED in our work. One of our most successful entrepreneurial groups located in Ethiopia, is comprised of members who all possess some form of physical and developmental disability. On top of that – many of them are HIV positive or impacted by AIDS in some way. Normally, all these factors would make them “unemployable” to their communities and to local businesses. Instead, this group of fighters, challengers, and envelope pushers keep reaching for the stars to show the world what they are capable of.
When we met them for the first time back in 2007 their group had 4 members determined to change their life course through employment. They decided to create brooms for their local market. The day they met NationWares another partnership was formed and the concept of the coffee bean bracelet was born. Once the coffee bean bracelet launched in North America through NationWares, in just 6 months their local and international demand for brooms and bracelets expanded them to 50 members. 4 years later they are still producing both items and experiencing overwhelming success. Today they are 115+ members strong and still growing. All members can now pay rent on houses, provide for their children and families, receive education, and even train others in their community for employment.
During one of our follow-up visits to Ethiopia in 2010, one member shared, “my neighbours used to be ashamed of me…now, they stand beside me proud”.
All because we heard their dream 4 years ago, and said yes to making a difference. In that first meeting one of the founding members said to us, “just help to lift us up…then you will see that we can fly”.
One simple way to support this group is by purchasing their unique bracelets or brooms! Use the broom as decor in your home and wear the bracelets as symbol of hope, opportunity, and awareness surrounding HIV/AIDS and disability. Then a bracelet isn’t just a bracelet anymore, it’s a catalyst for change.