Finding my story in Bolivia:
The summer of 2010, I was selected for the Study Tour to Bolivia. From the very beginning, we were challenged to find “our story” – a person or a moment that really stuck with us. The entire trip, I searched for one thing that tugged at my heart and rocked my world, but was having trouble finding it. Little did I know, the story I was about to discover would change everything. It would lead to the creation of a new adventure.
The last village we visited in Bolivia was called Viloma. Inside the town square was a church, small store, playground, and other miscellaneous buildings. The little store sold hand-made pouches, purses, etc. We visited the store to see how World Vision was equipping individuals with job training and microloans. A lady sat behind a sewing machine, creating these beautiful bags. Like any other tourists, we bought one to show our friends and family at home.
I walked outside to find a young, local boy playing. Something inside of me felt called to introduce myself and try to make as much conversation as I could considering our language barrier. I did learned that his name was Christian but as it often happens, playing was a better form of communication. We started a game of tag and chased each other around a car until he had worn me out. Then it hit me—Christian had helped me find my moment.
Bridging the gap:
After learning that his mom was the woman making the bags in the store, I began to think about their financial situation. Was there a dad in Christian’s life? Did she feed her son on this income? It was unlikely that she received much business from this impoverished community. There were however, millions of people in the world who can afford her products, and would buy them not only because they are great products, but because of the meaning behind them. After coming to this reality, I asked myself, why can’t I bridge the gap between small businesses in developing countries and consumers who can afford their products?
I reached out to my friends who shared a passion for this type of work and soon enough, I had a dedicated group of five, (three of whom were also on Team Bolivia-Chris, Lauren, & Brittany). I couldn’t have asked for a better or more devoted group of friends to help change the world with. We began talking to our contacts in South America and Africa about getting involved. Everyone thought our idea was great, but most conversations ended at that. Until we met Rachel Schawe, from Peru, who knew of a few ladies hoping to sell their products to a larger market. Third World Exchange had begun.
Once a dream, now a reality:
We soon received our first products including jewelry, hats, bags, and scarves from a small business in Lima, Peru . Earlier this month we launched our web site, which serves as a place for customers to learn about the businesses they support through their purchases.
I haven’t forgotten about Christian and his mother and how they were the inspiration behind it all. With every product sold through Third World Exchange, it gives those businesses an unimaginable boost towards success and prosperity while giving people like you access to incredible products. Our goal is to change the world one business at a time, and we will not stop until that goal is achieved.
Dylan, Chris, Lauren, and Brittany were all a part of the Study Tour to Bolivia in 2010, Their eagerness to serve the poor in creative and smart ways continues to inspire all of us! Check out their site and don’t forget to share your story with us of how you are creatively serving the poor!