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Meaningful Greetings for the Holiday Season

by Janine Boylan on December 9, 2013

Rwandan orphans overcoming obstacles through their fair-paying jobs at Cards from Africa. (Image © Cards from Africa)

Youth in Rwanda display their hand-crafted cards.
Image courtesy of Cards from Africa, a division of Good Paper

Crafting Cards and Overcoming Obstacles

When we choose our family’s annual holiday greeting cards, we try to find something that shows a bit of our personality and what is important to us as a family. After all, this is often the only letter some friends receive from me all year long!

But what if our cards could help others at the same time?

I discovered three card lines that do that. These handmade greetings are transforming the lives of people in Haiti, the Philippines, and Rwanda.

Hope for Haiti

The 2010 earthquake in Haiti turned many lives upside down. People lost their homes and livelihoods in a matter of moments.

Six months after the quake, a group of woman met in the government camp where they were living. They decided to do something to work their way out of the crowded, unprotected tents they were living in.

Ranging in age from 18 to 82, the women chose to make and sell greeting cards. They named their group OFEDA—Organisation des Femmes Dévouées en Action (Organization of Dedicated Women in Action).

OFEDA women in Haiti overcoming obstacles through work on their handmade cards. (Image © Paula Allen)

OFEDA women at work in their camp
Image by Paula Allen

handmade card from OFEDA, illustrating women from Haiti overcoming obstacles. (Image © OFEDA)

A hand-stitched holiday card from OFEDA
Image courtesy of OFEDA

Eventually other women joined their group.

They drew pictures, cut and glued paper, and stitched designs to create the cards. They worked on rickety tables, through blistering heat or pouring rain.

Then, in 2012, tropical storm Isaac ripped through their camp.

Somehow they managed to keep their card-making supplies safe. Just days after the storm, they overcame this latest obstacle and were back at work.

Now, four years later, the fairy tale ending hasn’t happened yet. The woman are still in the tent camp.

But some things have changed. The group has expanded to 200 members. A group of U.S. soap makers has taught the OFEDA women how to make handmade soap to sell.

The women also added hand-sewn bags and knit hats to their product line. And the card makers continue with their cards.

With the profits from their work, the women have been able to buy needed personal supplies. Currently their supplies are provided by donation, but as the sales increase, the women will be able to fully run their own business.

See their work at OFEDA.com.

Hope for the Philippines

Women in the Philippines overcoming obstacles through work on handmade cards. (Image © Sanctuary Spring/Good Paper)

Image courtesy of Sanctuary Spring,
a division of Good Paper

The women of Sanctuary Spring make sweet, humorous cards. But their pasts were not sweet or humorous.

Due to poverty, trickery, or desperation, these women turned to prostitution for income.

They faced humiliation daily. But one by one, they found their way from this frightening life on the street to a safe and secure job with an income that allows them to provide food and education for their families.

The women’s lives have changed dramatically. Some have learned to be more patient as they cut and piece together the cheerful cards; others have learned the art of sewing for the first time. They feel safe in a community of friends who understand and support them. Some women are making plans to create their own businesses.

One card maker, Jasmine, explains, “Above all, I am learning hope and transformation from the darkness of my past. I have seen the value of women and my thinking has changed about how a woman should speak, think, and live.”

View the cards on the Good Paper site.

Through Sanctuary Spring, women in the Philippines are overcoming obstacles with jobs making handmade cards like this. (Image © Sanctuary Spring/Good Paper)

Image courtesy of Sanctuary Spring, a division of Good Paper

Hope for Rwanda

The horrific genocide in Rwanda during the 1990s made international headlines. While the country has made tremendous progress since that time, its young people are still recovering.

Many youth lost their parents to either the killing or to disease. That meant that these school-aged kids instantly had to act as responsible adults and care for their multiple siblings.

Through Cards from Africa, youth in Rwanda are overcoming obstacles with jobs making cards like this. (Image © Cards from Africa/Good Paper)

Image courtesy of Cards from Africa,
a division of Good Paper

Cards from Africa has given these young people, aged 18–25, an opportunity to work in a safe and clean environment and earn more than five times what they might earn elsewhere.

These wages support the families, and, perhaps just as importantly, allow the younger siblings to stay in school.

In addition, the cards are made from office waste. With no official recycling in Rwanda, waste paper is normally burned instead of reused. So, these cards lengthen the life cycle of the paper and keep the air a little cleaner.

Visit the Good Paper site to see the cards.

Youth overcoming obstacles and making cards in Rwanda. (Image © Cards from Africa/Good Paper)

Making each card with joy.
Image courtesy Cards from Africa, a division of Good Paper

Oh, I see so many great choices for meaningful seasonal greetings!

Now how do I choose?

Sanctuary Spring and Cards from Africa are two product lines from Good Paper. Check out their site to see other hand-crafted fair trade items.

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