Latest Blog Posts
No Shady Business February 13 2015
The scope of global poverty can easily become an overwhelming thought. Moreover, the thought of having an impact on poverty or trafficking can feel as impossible as counting grains of salt. What if it didn’t have to be so daunting?...
Work of Worth believes that the cure for desperate poverty and human trafficking is opportunity. Furthermore, Work of Worth believes it can provide that opportunity. However, not just any opportunity will do. Work of Worth is not interested in “shady business,” because people deserve better than “just getting by.” Work of Worth believes that the well-being of each employee - and their family, is just as important as the well-being of their employer. For a job opportunity to truly improve a person’s quality of life, certain standards must be met… Here are just a few:
We don’t want our partners’ employees to feel:
- Exploited – Work of Worth ensures its partners are committed to paying their artisans a fair wage and requiring an appropriate amount of work hours.
- Unskilled – Work of Worth’s partners are committed to turning the traditional business model on its head. Instead of hiring the most qualified and highly experienced workers, they employ those who need dignified work, and are dedicated to meeting them where they are.
- Hopeless – Work of Worth hopes that every artisan believes they can provide a better life for their children than they dared to dream. We believe it is possible.
We want our partners’ employees to feel:
- Safe – It is of upmost importance to Work of Worth that the men and women our partners employ feel emotionally and physically safe. Some of these men and women have been enslaved previously, or are at high risk of being trafficked. Where poverty is rampant, often the choices made are extreme, sometimes even unthinkable.
- Respected - When you instill in someone your belief that they have something (a valuable skill) to offer the world, they will begin to believe it too. Work of Worth believes that commerce, properly implemented, can bring sustainable, lasting, change to communities around the world.
- Empowered - Jobs that bring dignity transforms the landscape of generations. It paves the way for education and a life filled with hope and security instead of struggle and fear.
It IS possible to provide people with jobs that bring dignity! So let's put our money where our mouth is and purchase with purpose.
Join the movement! #noshadybusiness
Meet Arshad January 08 2015
Arshad has an inventive spirit and the hands of a master craftsman. With a beaming smile and mind of strategy, he stands by ready. But Arshad has not always had such confidence. Arshad was an orphan, raised in a relative’s home, where his value was neither acknowledged nor affirmed. He grew up with a sense of inferiority, hiding the spark of creativity and intelligence residing within him. Outside of the confines of his troubled home, he allowed enough of his talents shine forth that his friends became aware of his cleverness.
After two of his childhood friends, who lived across the gully, grew-up and began to work in the fair trade factory that produces handicraft products, he was invited to join them. For the first year, Arshad remained in a fearful shell, unsure if this new “home” would be like his childhood home, full of harsh demands and unappreciated work. But this new “home” was quite different.
After a year of affirmation in an empowering work atmosphere, he began to allow his problem-solving skills and imaginative abilities to be released into the work of the factory.
Since that time, Arshad has gained the admiration and respect of all his peers. Meanwhile, he tackles every new challenge with resourceful inventiveness and has managed to blossom as a skilled and esteemed artisan. Arshad’s sense of self-worth and ingenuity are also being invested in his own children, who are growing up in a very different home than the one in which he was raised. Arshad stands as an example of what is possible when the neglected and forgotten are empowered to develop into their full potential of individuality and fruitfulness.
Meet Anika December 08 2014
The Light of Hope Learning Center is a beacon of light in a world of vulnerability and limited opportunities. In this world (Bangladesh), many girls are married off at a young age, but the girls at LOH instead have the luxury of attending school. They are taught a marketable skill, kept clean, and fed well. Many of these girls carry the burden of supporting their families, some even being the sole wage earner.
Anika*, one of the younger girls at LOH, has a father who spends his time begging around mosques and other public places. She says he is “not right in the head.” Her mother works odd jobs. Anika is determined to pursue a different path for her own life. She is hard working and puts in long hours with her embroidery. She also takes home katha (a style of sewing) for her mother to work on.
The true value of Anika's time at Light of Hope is measured by all the things she isn’t doing. Anika isn’t begging like her father, in a brothel, or married in her young age. Through her learning environment, Anika is encouraged to claim her inherent worth and dignity every day. Truly LOH has impacted the trajectory of Anika’s family for generations to come.
*name changed for safety purposes
Meet Purna November 13 2014
In 1992, Purna's family had to flee to Nepal to escape violence and economic persecution. They resettled in a refugee camp, where they were not welcomed by the local population and were barred from work.
While living in the refugee camp, Purna's sister, Basanti, fell very ill. She was unable to speak or sleep, as she lay on the floor moaning. Basanti's illness only got worse after her family took her to the hospital. Miraculously, Basanti recovered immediately after their family had a radical spiritual experience, and since then, their lives have never been the same.
In 2001, Purna married a man named Santi, and the two had their first two children, Sahil and Susan, in the refugee camp. In 2008, Purna and Santi were selected to relocate to the United States. Purna is still adjusting to the challenges of life in Clarkston, Georgia. Purna enjoys the financial help, spiritual community, and emotional support that Refugee Beads offers. She looks forward to a time when she can move her family into a house, learn to read and write English, and drive a car.
(Story courtesy of refugeebeads.com)
Meet Mustafa October 15 2014
With a strong mind and precise hands, Mustafa once provided for the family he was born into, and now provides for the family he has created. The passing of Mustafa’s father forced him to leave school and begin work by Grade 5. As the eldest in the family he took on the responsibility of providing for his mother and siblings. It is easy to see that Mustafa is a man who turns hardship into opportunities.
He has an evident entrepreneurial spirit, having tried his hand as a vegetable seller and a steel box maker before joining Village Artisan. As the steel boxes he made are now being used less and less among his people, his work began to die out. With a growing family, it was crucial for him to find dependable work.
Today, Mustafa works in dignity at Village Exports to provide for his wife, Rafia, and their 3 small children. Although he is without formal education, he has an uncanny grasp of numbers and geometry. He started by hand making books and now has been fully trained in the operation of the cutting machines. Mustafa skillfully cuts each piece of paper that adorns our lovely handmade paper products. He is a key man in VA's paper product creation, as the outcome of each piece depends upon the precision of each piece of paper cut. Now Mustafa has found a permanent place for work as well as the challenge that his sharp mind had longed for. As they should be, Village Artisan is very proud to have Mustafa as a part of their team. He, as well as his paper products, are works of great worth.
Meet Najia October 02 2014
To provide lasting help – the kind that will help cure hunger and prevent the cycle of poverty from proliferating – was the goal of the two American women who founded the Light of Hope Learning Center in Bangladesh…
Inside the Light of Hope Learning Center, young women are a world away from the suffering of a life on the streets – the kind of life many of their family members have experienced. Instead of spending each day as a beggar or a prostitute like some of their parents, they have access to a healthy breakfast, showers, clean clothes, and an education in Bangla, English, math, spelling, and science.
Najia is one of these young women, and she knows how the Light of Hope Learning Center has enriched her life and she is grateful.
Najia and her younger sister carry great responsibility in their family. Najia’s father comes and goes, taking money from the family but never contributing any. Their mother doesn’t work and their older sister is ill. Najia and Amila are expected to bring home money, however they can get it. This seems like a hopeless situation, but the Light of Hope believes a different story is possible for Najia. Light of Hope not only provides them with skills, but with an opportunity to work in a safe environment, instead of working in a sewing factory. “Before there were a lot of problems in my family. There was no money for food,” Najia said. “Now I have a job, and I am able to help my family. I am the main breadwinner in my family.”
Najia works as a Bangla tutor and hopes to become a translator. Her sister Amila has studied under a housekeeper, has learned to make jewelry, and currently attends a sewing class. Najia’s best friend, Lili, works as a nanny in an American family’s home. “For my family, they have given me a job, and my family is able to be helped by giving [them] food or medicine,” Lili said. Lili’s relationship with that family made an eternal difference in the path of her life.
From these testimonies, we would say that the efforts of Light of Hope are indeed a work of great worth.
What It Means to Be an Advocate September 26 2014
Anyone with success has advocates. Think of your favorite pop-star – they are an advocate magnet. They have the quiet “behind the scenes” type, who help them recognize opportunities, and see those opportunities become realities. They also have the bolder “door-holder” kind of advocates, those who share with others about the greatness they recognize.
Those without success lack advocates. Everyone has skills and abilities to bring to the table, but the revelation of those gifts comes from opportunities and advocates that help us tap into what it is we have to offer. We have come to recognize that those that need the most advocacy are those that don’t know they’re worth fighting for.
Anyone with success has an audience. Success brings with it a platform from which you have the freedom to share your experience and expertise. With the achievement of success comes the responsibility to advocate for the success of others.
You are your own advocate. To truly capture your success you must also recognize your own worth. You have to own it. You must believe you have something to offer. Owning your own worth is not an overnight process, but is instead a journey, during which you need advocates to walk alongside you. Unlike patriarchy, the goal of advocacy is to instill dignity until he or she can advocate for their own success.
Recipients of advocacy can’t resist paying it forward, which is why advocacy has the longevity to impact generations. The responsibility to advocate has nothing to do with the size of your platform. Those facts are mutually exclusive. Consider the voice of advocacy in terms of the family: a parent’s voice of truth is of the same value to one precious child as it would be to 10 children. This is true for both the number she advocates for and the number she advocates to. Advocacy is about sharing truth with those you have been given influence over, whether that audience is 1 or 1000.
Work of Worth is about bridging the gap for those who need an advocate.
Consider this your formal invitation to the movement of advocating for dignity!
Meet Neda September 24 2014
When Neda’s father left their family six years ago, her mother was left with the financial burden of paying the dowrys for her 5 daughters’ marriages. On top of that, there were school fees to pay and mouths to feed. Recognizing their need, Village Artisan trained them in beading, and helped them start their own jewelry company. They have done a superb job over the past four years since this transpired, and now Nena and her mother provide Village Artisans with jewelry products that they are proud of. Neda’s mother shared this testament of hope with Village Artisan: “The greatest blessing for me is that, now, my whole family can work with me at home, and I haven’t had to send any one of my girls out to work!” Their diligent work has paid off, and now their jewelry business supports their entire family. They have much to be proud of!
Meet Zara September 17 2014
Meet Zara… radiant, humble, gracious. Her sparkling eyes help tell the story of how the training and employment she and her husband received from Village Artisan in India have enriched their lives. Her thankful spirit shows no sign of the bitterness that you might expect from someone with such heartache. Zara was married at 16, and would say that she began to view her husband as a companion only through hardship. After the death of her in-laws, they sold the little they had and struggled to find dignified work for many years. Their lives were forever changed when she and her husband were employed by Village Artisan. Now their three children can go to school, there is enough food to go around and the quarreling with her extended family has ceased now that they can pay their share of the bills. As a result of the training and employment in producing handicrafts they have received from Village Exports, Zara and her family have a bright future.
She wears a smile because someone fought for her. Fight for someone today by joining us in the movement of opportunity.
Insights from Interning (with Olivia) September 01 2014
What interested you about WoW?
I began to pursue an education in Social Entreneurship after spending Summer 2012 in India, where I saw a glaring need for opportunity in dignified business. It was in business school at Samford University that I first heard of Work of Worth and learned about a pilot project in India. It sounded like a perfect opportunity to bring hope in both tangible and intangible ways to the lives of the Indian people I cherish. I knew I had to be a part of the endeavor and I couldn’t email my professor fast enough!
What was the most rewarding part of the internship with WoW?
The most rewarding part of my internship was to see founder Barry Morehead’s brainchild of an idea grow into a strategic plan that is brimming with momentum. Along the way I have been freshly inspired by Barry’s passion for justice and dignity. He isn’t satisfied with dreaming of solutions, he is willing to take the necessary risk and “do the doing.”
What would be the top 1-2 things you learned about business from the internship with WoW?
Through working with Work of Worth, I learned more about International Business than I ever could in the classroom. I now understand the importance of knowing your markets better than they know themselves. In order to benefit our entrepreneurial partners, it’s our job as Work of Worth to import products that will appeal to Americans.
Secondly, Barry has taught me that the “sweet spot” for making the most effective and lasting change is to marry your skills and passions together.
What do you see yourself doing in the future?
I hope to continue with Work of Worth, traveling to places around the world, seeing business provide dignified opportunity. I've had days when I'm so excited about what's to come for Wow, I think I may need to run around the building! I hope to one day see “Exporting Dignity” show up in America’s GDP!
Someone once told me that the way to avoid living a monotonous life is to live for others. That is why I want to give my life’s work for the sake of people who don’t know they are worth helping, and to see love win.
Olivia is now full-time staff on the Work of Worth team, as WoW's Chief Marketing Assistant.
Have you interned recently? Tell us about your experience and what you learned!
You Are Invited to the Fall 2014 Product Launch Event August 26 2014
Join us as we feature the Work of Worth Fall 2014 Product Line! Enjoy light hors d'oeuvres and music while you shop. Event location: CSM 3600 3rd Avenue South (35222)
Email Brendt if you know you are coming!
Insights from Interning (with Ben) July 28 2014
We recently caught up with Ben Goolsby, who interned at Work of Worth in the Spring of 2014, helped win 4th place in a business plan competition, has now graduated and currently works at Enterprise, and is part owner of WoW. Join us as he gives insight and inspiration about internships and his experience with WoW earlier this year.
Q: What interested you about Work of Worth?
A: Work of Worth interested me at first because it seemed like such a phenomenal way to help people. We constantly struggle to find sustainable ways to help and WoW is exactly that. Our calling as believers is to go out and help the orphans and widows. WoW helps people GIVE THEMSELVES the tools to survive and provide for their families. My passion in life is to serve people. Work of Worth's very foundation is serving people.
Q: What was the most rewarding part of the internship?
Stay Tuned: Big News Coming to Work of Worth July 02 2014
You've asked and we are answering! We heard clearly that you wanted to make a difference in the world as a consumer. Fair trade and quality are critical to you, all while offering dignity to others.
You met the amazing students that worked tirelessly this spring assisting WoW and now we have some big news coming down the pike. Stay tuned!
In the meantime, let us know in the comments how you want to make a global or local difference. What are you up to? What are you passionate about? How do you see yourself changing generations for good?
We are stronger together. Join in with a community of others like you, who want to be socially responsible, ethical consumers, and change agents. Join us in the story of freedom and dignity for generations to come.
Rethread May 10 2014
Harrison is a socially-conscious and justice-driven entrepreneur, who has lived and worked in India for a number of years and is dedicated to building a business that can really make a transformative impact on impoverished communities. For this, Harrison has been developing a plan to manufacture and export sari yarn through Work of Worth to markets in the U.S.
“For years my wife and I have been taking steps toward starting a business, living, and working in one of the most populated and poor states of North India,” says Harrison.
“One of the steps in this process was spending two years in Bangalore, working with a children's home and being part of a community of people who were doing business in India also. During our time in Bangalore I took part in a cohort at the BDC (Business Development Center), and began [brainstorming] and vision casting about various business possibilities. I decided to settle on the idea of sari yarn and take that project through the course.
“Over the course of the next several months, things kept falling into place, and I had several encounters with people about my project that opened doors and eventually showed that this was business was definitely a realistic and worthwhile venture.”
The idea originally came up in a meeting with Work of Worth Executive Director Barry Morehead, who at the time was working with BDC as a visiting executive. As he was leaving the U.S. for Bangalore, a knitting enthusiast relative of Barry’s asked him to look for sari yarn. Catching the latest trends in reused or upcycled materials, in this process saris are shredded and made into yarn, which can then be used to make unique and colorful items. As Barry and Harrison researched the process, they realized that they were onto something – a potentially untapped market in the West for sari yarn, and the potential to build a socially conscious, value and development driven business in an impoverished part of India.
“The name of the yarn is Rethread,” says Harrison. “Our goal is to have a legitimate profitable business that exports to the United States. We would provide jobs, training and education in an area with an extremely large amount of poverty and unemployment. Our business would provide jobs, health care, a healthy meal, financial and health education, as well as open doors to relationships with the community.
“Over the last couple months I have met and talked with different retailers, distributors, product designers who are all interested in our product. We have just recently moved to North India, and we are working on learning Hindi, finding a house and building relationships. We are very near the "do it" phase... its no longer just an idea or a far off dream.
Harrison and his wife hope to have Rethread launched by the beginning of 2015.
In early April, Work of Worth interns Drew Fahrion, Madison Kerns, Olivia Dunn, Daniel Denning, and Ben Goolsby, from Samford University’s School of Business, competed in an international social entrepreneurship competition, developing and presenting a viable business plan, and ultimately taking home 4th place and a $2500 prize.
The WoW team’s achievement was featured this week in Samford’s latest Newsletter.
Congratulations to the WoW interns on a job well done!
BDC Bangalore Video April 18 2014
While Work of Worth has no formal ties with the Business Development Center: Bangalore, the two organizations are working towards the same purpose and have a good, collaborative relationship that makes for some valuable networking as BDC graduates look to find importers to the West for their products.
One of the BDC’s Entrepreneur Program graduates is working to start a company that will produce yarn made out of used sari material, which WoW will then export to the U.S. for sale and distribution. The hope is that the production of that yarn will provide good, fair wage jobs to a fairly impoverished area of India, and that stateside consumers will have the opportunity to get some great quality, unique material that’s not readily available at present.
One BDC graduate had this to say (see the video for this as well):
“At the BDC the facilitators here and the entire training program really encourages entrepreneurs to have a business that is able to transform culture, a business that is practical and scalable, and a business that is able to influence and impact communities through social initiatives, by supporting social causes, and so one. What the BDC does is it encourages entrepreneurs to have a social background to their business. And I think that’s one of the reasons why people should start businesses, is that people can start businesses where they’re giving back to people.”
- Jonathan Michael
BDC Bangalore Alumni
Owner, J Michael Clothing Line
That dedication to both quality training for entrepreneurs and to pursuing a transformative, social impact through business, each without sacrificing the other, is one of the reasons Work of Worth stands behind the BDC.
Check out BDC Bangalore’s Video below:
When Work of Worth founder Barry Morehead travelled to India in 2012, he found himself confronted by the poverty and lack of positive economic opportunity in the rural areas. But, through the Business Development Center (BDC) in Bangalore, he also had the chance to meet some truly amazing entrepreneurs who are transforming their communities all across India through business. This is the story of one of those world-changers. Meet Asha:
“My husband and I used to work for a charity called Neerekshe, a family-run trust started by my husband’s parents in their home village of Muranpur in Karnataka,” says Indian entrepreneur and Business Development Center (BDC) Bangalore graduate Asha Sangster. “I [was] the principle of a school that provided quality English medium education for six to eight villages in and around Muranpur, and my husband was a church planter and social worker.
Tucked away in the state of Karnataka in southwest India, Muranpur’s approximately two thousand residents live in abject poverty, surviving entirely on livestock and seasonal agriculture, dependent on rainfall in a drought-prone area. Rampant malnutrition, lack of economic opportunity, and absence of medical facilities make it a poverty trap in need of the empowerment and training that Asha, her husband Sangster, and the Neerekshe Trust sought to provide.
“One of the struggles I encountered as a teacher was the regular attendance of students, especially girls,” says Asha. “Most of the children [in Muranpur] work for their parents looking after cattle or herds of sheep and goats, or working in the fields… Education was a luxury, especially for girls. I always had a dream to provide regular jobs for parents and part-time jobs for students. This way we thought they would have the opportunity to attend school and continue their education.”
“We had ten acres of land, [so] we wanted to [utilize that resource for] an income generation project. I started keeping few goats and sheep in the farm. We asked a young lad who had dropped out of the school to help graze the goats. When the time came we would sell our goats and earn some extra income for the charity.”
Asha and Sangster wanted to expand the business, but had neither the capital nor the knowledge of how to start and run a successful farm. But the dream remained.
Then pieces started falling into place. From 2008-2011 Asha and Sangster had the opportunity to work with friends in the UK who ran a dairy farm, and they learned a bit about farm management from the experience. Then in 2012 the director of BDC Bangalore asked Asha if she would like to join their 3-month Entrepreneurship program.
“I was thrilled,” says Asha. “Because this was a short, part-time course, even as a homemaker and mother I was able to attend the evening class. BDC equipped me to plan and prepare a detailed financial cash flow for the first two-years [of the business]. This helped me to start putting each piece in the puzzle for our dream to start a business.”
“BDC was a stepping stone for me. It gave me an opportunity to meet other business owners and business teachers [skilled] in marketing and planning, which helped me [further] develop a passion for business. It also helped me to understand the value of entrepreneurship and the great need [in] India for honest business and providing employment where every customer and employee is valued.”
“When we worked in the rural Karnataka, I noticed the way the rich farmers exploited the laborers,” says Asha. “[Workers] were treated like slaves: minimum wage and no days off. They never felt they were created in the image of God like their masters… [But] I also noticed that the laborers did not work hard and [had no commitment]. They were unskilled and dishonest, and there was a lot of wasted time and energy. The work place was very inefficient… We wanted to have a business where the employee is respected and he or she can earn a good income, and also be invested in the farm where they work.”
“Only God could change people,” she adds. “We want [our employees] to know that God created them and He loves them. We are hoping and praying that the way we treat our workers… will be a great witness.
At the end of the 3-month training, Asha’s business plan for the goat farm ultimately won the BDC’s business contest, and she was awarded a monetary prize for start-up capital. Equipped with newfound knowledge, confidence, start-up capital and 10 acres, Asha and Sangster were ready to begin. Taking the final plunge, Asha used her wedding jewelry to get a loan from the agricultural bank, and in June 2013, she and her husband started STARS Farm in Raichur.
Since then they have met with tremendous success and attention. That initial investment enabled them to fence an acre of land and build a shed for 60 goats. Asha and Sangster networked with the local agricultural college and have begun an ongoing, collaborative research project on the farm, which itself enabled them to build a bio gas unit and compost system, and develop a fodder cultivation scheme. As they grow, profits are continually poured back into the farm, allowing further growth. Further growth creates more jobs for individuals in the community, more economic development, more positive, personal relationships, and, back to the starting point, more girls afforded the opportunity to stay in school.
“Our vision for the Farm is to have a team of men and women from India, seeking to empower and transform our lives and community through Christian discipleship, training and income generation through modern scientific farming,” says Asha. “We are developing the farm as a model farm for the local villages so we can train local farmers too.”
There seems to be no end in sight, and Asha dreams big: plans are in the works to expand to 150 goats. They will need an electricity line, lights, a borewell for constant water supply, surveillance cameras, fencing for the whole property, and more trained workers. For the more distant future, Asha aims to develop a brand for future meat processing capabilities, goat milk cheese, and goat milk handmade soap…. She even hopes to create a craft unit and a children’s storybook based on farm life.
“As a Christian I had grown up thinking that business is for those people who love money and not for those who want to serve the Lord,” Asha adds. “Seeing the corruption in business and politics in India, I did not believe that economy and wealth belonged to God. BDC helped me to think that economy of this world belongs to our God our maker and [that business too can be] an opportunity to be in the world, not of the world.”
On March 4, 2014, Forbes.com Op/Ed section published an address delivered by author, philosopher, and theologian Michael Novak at the Catholic University of America on January 14, on the first anniversary of the university’s School of Business and Economics.
Now there’s some controversial words in there, but whatever you think of Novak’s arguments of building businesses as a necessary bulwark against the leviathan of the state, there’s some incredibly important thoughts here, and its an important contribution to the ongoing and growing conversation about the role of Christians developing and utilizing small businesses and entrepreneurship in the fight against global poverty.
For example, Novak writes:
“There is a whole world of economic activity to be built. It is the role of entrepreneurs to bring to these vast possibilities down-to-earth imagination and practical experience in producing success. There are fortunes to be made in the poor regions of the world, whose worth can be used for ever more investment, donations to cultural institutions, and help for many different branches of civil society, including local groups.
Think what a great vocation it would be to place oneself in solidarity with the poor of the world by setting up networks of assistance to small business formations in this or that poor country or region, in order to help lift its peoples from unemployment and its resulting poverty. Such poor persons need small amounts of start-up money, technical and practical support, instruction in many bookkeeping or other business skills, and links to the wider world. What a great work a new generation of young Americans could produce, speeding up the move of the last billion human beings to break free from poverty.”
President of the Institute on Religion & Democracy Mark Tooley weighed in on the blog Juicy Ecumenism saying that:
“Creating new businesses is a Christian moral imperative…. Only business can meaningfully alleviate poverty, fund charity, and sustain liberty. Why aren’t more Christians speaking of business and economic expansion as central to true social justice?”
And Christians are pursuing Christ-driven justice in this manner worldwide (and should more!) – starting bakeries and factories in the slums of India to employ women trapped in the sex trade, exporting goods and training disenfranchised women with solid business skills in East Africa. These are sustainable and holistically transformative solutions.
That said, human brokenness in business must be acknowledged just as much as brokenness of states. As much as, as Tooley and Novak argue, “business must stand as a bulwark against the leviathan of the state,” so a bulwark must also be erected against the leviathan of business and the yet fiercer leviathan of greed within the human heart. Free enterprise, rightly construed and executed in the manner spoken of by the authors, has enormous potential to break chains and lift individuals and community out of poverty, but the pursuit of wealth also has the potential to trample the weak and to be abused. Given the burden of history (particularly when we’re talking about Western economic interests in the developing world), perhaps Christians ought to be talking not only about increasing businesses and entrepreneurship, but also pursuing justice through checks and balances on freedom in supply chains, opting for fair trade (or beyond fair trade) and fair wage options, and redeeming businesses new and old.
Work as Worship March 21 2014
For those of you who like it short and sweet, here’s the breakdown: Work Matters.
In his book Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church N.T. Wright writes:
“The point of the resurrection… is that the present bodily life is not valueless just because it will die… What you do with your body in the present matters because God has a great future in store for it… What you do in the present—by painting, preaching, singing, sewing, praying, teaching, building hospitals, digging wells, campaigning for justice, writing poems, caring for the needy, loving your neighbor as yourself—will last into God's future. These activities are not simply ways of making the present life a little less beastly, a little more bearable, until the day when we leave it behind altogether (as the hymn so mistakenly puts it…). They are part of what we may call building for God's kingdom.”
Back during my days at Covenant College this was drilled into our heads over and over again. “Calling” was the term that was thrown around - this divided into our “Big C” calling (believing and following our Creator) and our “little c” callings (our relationships, activities, passions and, yes, our work).
The divide between the sacred and the secular breaks down when we view our vocation thru the lens of the kingdom. (I wrote more about the holistic redemption narrative a few months ago in a blogpost here: https://worththefightingfor.wordpress.com/2013/08/09/holistic-redemption/)
Check out this video by RightNow Ministries:
To pursue work that falls within our passions and is directed in a manner meant to build the kingdom and glorify our Maker is a solid, meaningful thing. That’s why it’s so cool to me when I see those who work towards providing others, particularly the oppressed or those who lack opportunity, with opportunities for meaningful work. Work can give dignity, power for the powerless, opportunity, joy, and the pride that comes with doing a job well. This can be truly transformative. If Christ-directed work can be a conduit for worship, then providing work for the impoverished or oppressed can be a work of worship in and of itself, perhaps even exponentially so.
Organizations like Freeset and Sari Bari that provide jobs for women coming out of sex trafficking, or the efforts of my own little team in India, working to start a café and bakery for the same purpose, have the potential to transform people and places both in physical circumstances and in hearts. When organizations like Work of Worth are able to import and sell products made by entrepreneurs across the globe – the capital of those profits can be used to grow those little companies, providing more jobs with fair wages and opportunities around the world. Work, worship, and justice, are quite often intertwined.
Q&A with the Founder March 07 2014
The author of this article recently had the opportunity to sit down and talk with Barry Morehead, the founder and visionary behind Work of Worth. As always, Barry was passionate and enthusiastic as he answered my questions, giving some valuable clarification to Work of Worth’s efforts and plans. See below:
What do you mean when you talk about “Freeing the Oppressed?” Who are the oppressed?
“Almost half the world’s population, 2.5 billion people, live on less than $2 a day. And poverty, extreme poverty especially, is the root of many issues in our culture including human trafficking, [lack of proper] education, and the inability to eradicate preventable disease.
What we’re doing thru the businesses that we’re trying to start thru the Business Development Center is paying people a fair wage and treating them with dignity. With the jobs that we’re creating thru the Business Development Center, the entrepreneurs first of all have to agree to a set of principles. [Some] of those [are] that they will treat their employees with dignity and will not discriminate on the basis of sex or religion or caste or socioeconomic status, that they will treat people equally, and that they will pay them what their work is actually worth – hence Work of Worth.
Work of Worth, the organization that we’ve created here in America, originally was designed as an import and distribution company to support businesses, particularly manufacturing businesses, that are being developed in the Business Development Center in India, in Africa, and other parts of the world - Businesses that are creating these jobs and treating their employees fairly. We created Work of Worth to support them with western commerce by importing useful items that would be in demand in the states and distributing those to individuals either thru retail venues or retail outlets like the web or distributing them wholesale via companies that would then sell them for us. All of this takes commerce [and] commercial dollars, and puts it in some of the worst places in the world where poverty is rampant and extreme, where we can pay laborers a fair wage and give them enough money to take care of their children.
I’ve visited villages in India, which is where the whole concept got started, where single moms are trying to raise their families on less than $2 a day, and they don’t have enough money to clothe their children, much less educate them or provide medicine for them. Food is difficult for them as well. And oftentimes these moms are faced with extremely tough choices that we can’t imagine in our culture, like having to sell a child for survival. [Some of these mothers] will sell their daughter into sex slavery at a very young age just to get money to be able to feed their other children. And that is the root of Work of Worth is reversing and changing a lot… in areas of extreme poverty where people wouldn’t normally believe that they have hope.
Does that actually work?
We’re providing that hope [in that] we’re providing jobs, and it’s working. I’ve been back to the same children 12 months after my first visit, and I saw the same moms and [now] they’ve got a sparkle in their eye and a smile on their face because they got a job, because someone chose to treat them with dignity. Sometimes they’ve got the kids with them at work if the employers allow that. And the kids are wearing uniforms, which means that they’re going to schools and getting an education. It works. We’ve seen it.
What’s the relationship between Work of Worth and the Business Development Center?
“The concept [for WoW] started with myself and other businessmen who had been to the Business Development Center and had met with [and trained] these aspiring entrepreneurs. [We] wanted to do something on an ongoing meaningful basis to support them thru western commerce and commercial dollars. So there is no legal connection between the business development center and Work of Worth… but we’re all fighting the same battle, so we’re all working together…
We will support the training that’s happening with BDC and I will continue to be involved as a visiting executive…. I hope to [keep connecting to business owners thru the BDC), not just the BDC in India but also the BDCs opening in other parts of the world like the one opening in Uganda.
Work of Worth’s primary aim is not to train the business owners, that’s the Business Development Center’s job. Work of Worth’s primary responsibility is to import and distribute items that come from these businesses that come out of, either the Business Development Center or other similar worldview organizations.
What else does WoW have coming up in the pipeline right now?
Something else that we’ve started and are moving toward… Work of Worth is more than fair wage, it’s more than fair trade and more than fair labor… Our goal is social change, social enterprise, philanthropy and worldview… We’re interested in a lot more than fair wage. We’re training employees how to treat their employees fairly. We’re providing them with benefits like retirement, which is unheard of in these nations.
We are actually now in the beginning stages… of looking at a certification so we can certify a product as a “Work of Worth.” We suspect that there’s eventually going to be two tracks, where some products are approved as a “work of worth” and some are certified as a “work of worth,” certification requiring much higher criteria…. We may also offer this to other organizations who are interested – Kanzi Crafts for example, or Freeset, if they’re interested in using our logo on their items as a certified “Work of Worth,” especially for those organizations that have helped us get started, we would gladly do that for them. Eventually we’re hoping that there would be some value in that certification and that organizations would seek us out to get [it].
I love this idea. For a long time I’ve thought: “there needs to be something more than just Fair Trade.” Fair Trade only goes so far, and we want to do more…. I can just see the stamp right now: “this item is a certified work of worth.”
Featured in NetWork Magazine February 18 2014
Check out this excellent article, originally published in the Fall 2012 issue of Network Magazine.
The author does a good job outlining the benefits and opportunity derived from using business as an opportunity for sustainable development, encouraging fair trade and business practices, and for developing relationships. Particularly interesting is the dialogue about the intersection of business as mission.
Pursuing business is not, as one might think, necessarily antithetical to working out one’s faith in action in the pursuit of justice and the alleviation of poverty. Commerce, as with all good things, has the potential to be used for evil: greed, corruption, exploitation. But a redeemed and intentional use of commerce, guided by a Christ-centered framework, has enormous potential for good, transformative change.
A Work of Great Worth April 26 2013
The date was August 15, Independence Day, in India.
This was the first time my friend, John, or I had been to this exotic land on the other side of the world from our Alabama home. We woke up early to meet our Indian friend, Marin, who had volunteered to be our tour guide for the day. Since businesses were closed for the holiday, we had no work to do at the Business Development Center on this sunny Wednesday. A trip to the countryside was a perfect way to see more of this beautiful land. Marin was taking us to a rural girl’s school for an Independence Day celebration.
After more than an hour’s drive in Marin’s comfortable, late-model SUV, we arrived at the base of a dusty road that led up a sunny hillside to the small yellow concrete school building. Two beautiful, middle-aged Indian ladies wearing colorful, flowing saris came shuffling down the hill to greet us. They were escorting three young middle-school girls in tired looking red school uniforms. Two of the precious girls were carrying shiny metal serving trays which contained small cups filled to the brim with scalding hot chai. The chai was sloshing over as they trotted down the trail toward us. On their trays, they also carried fresh cut roses from the school’s flower beds – one flower for each of us – and small bowls of brown and red powder. I would soon learn that the powder, part sandalwood and part flower pollen, was there to dot onto our foreheads as a sign of warmth and welcome. We, the honored guests, were eagerly led up the dirt trail to the school.
All over the dusty school grounds, were signs of the hard work these girls had put in for the occasion. Not a weed could be found in the flower beds. Even the dirt road and sidewalks had been swept and brightly decorated with chalk drawings and flower petals. For the next few hours, we were to be treated to an elaborately planned Indian festival of food and performance that the girls in the school had obviously spent weeks or months preparing for. They performed with poise and precision eager to please us in honor of our presence. We were honored to be there. They were honored to have us.
About mid-way through the morning, it occurred to me that we were the only audience for this grand performance. Other than a local reporter and a government leader, we appeared to be the only adults there that did not work for the school. I leaned over to Marin who was seated next to me and asked where the girl’s parents were. Anytime my own children had been involved in a school performance, hundreds of moms and dads showed up to support the hard work of our cherished little ones. I couldn’t imagine the Indian parents would want to miss what we were witnessing. Marin didn’t seem to share my surprise that parents were missing – it was as if he expected the parents to be absent.
Marin then explained that this was a girl’s school. These girls are actually fortunate, he said, to even have an opportunity to receive an education. You see, their fathers are often absent or disinterested in their lives – in some cases, even abusive. “After all, these are just girls.” Their mothers are mostly “day laborers” making the equivalent of about $2.USD per day. They wouldn’t miss a day’s wage for something like this. It takes every penny they can earn to afford even basic food and clothing. My heart hurt as my eyes brimmed with the fullness of what Marin was telling me. All I could think of was my own precious daughter whose life couldn’t be more different than this. That very week, my daughter was at her sorority house in Charleston, SC – a veritable paradise – preparing for a week-long party to recruit new members.
Commerce Can Change Cultures.
I knew then that the work we were doing at the Business Development Center was going to transform cultures. We were there working with aspiring entrepreneurs who were starting small to mid-sized companies. These philanthropic entrepreneurs were leaning on our business knowledge and experience to learn how to raise capital and build businesses. They were then going back to the villages and towns, just like this one, where they had been raised. They would start businesses to hire young men and women in order to pay them a fair wage and teach them a useful trade. We were not just giving them a fish. We were teaching these people how to fish. This is a work of great worth that will make a difference for generations.
As we were preparing to leave the girl’s school, I commented to John that I wanted to take these beautiful girls home with me. I wanted to share the blessings of my life with them. One of the teachers understood my English and translated what I’d said to the girls. Several of the girls raised their hands excitedly and said, “Pick me! Pick me!” in their native language. I couldn’t understand a word they said but words weren’t necessary. I’ll never lose that image.
That night, once we were safely back at our hotel, I sat down and wrote an e-mail to my daughter. I wanted her to know how much I cherish her. She sent a response that was waiting for me when I woke up the next morning. In her response, she said, “I love you so much and I am glad that those girls could feel wanted, even if it was just for a moment in time. I wish that they could have had a Daddy as amazing as you and that they could have had the opportunities you have given me. It breaks my heart that you couldn’t take them home!”
I couldn’t take them home but I can play a part in transforming their culture and their lives. Commerce is powerful. Entrepreneurial philanthropy, the work that we are doing through the Business Development Centers, is bold enough to bring fair wages to villages like this one in India. Someday, it is my goal that these girls will proudly watch as their daughters perform for Independence Day at their school.