Thursday, October 11, 2012

Providing Meaningful Work: What We Need to Get Started

I have been working hard to put all the details together to get the Blessed Zelie Martin Initiative I outlined here up and running in all its aspects. Or at least to know what I need to do to get to accomplish that.

I am ready to begin on the first aspect of the initiative by teaching English classes for women here in town. This I can start right away because materials and funds for the initial investment are not necessary and I can arrange to use a free facility. The U.S. Embassy provides free materials for teaching from the Peace Corps on their web site and since I am going to aim mostly for conversational English, I do not need a lot of materials to begin with.

The initial project for the second aspect of the initiative, micro-business loans, will be to help a young woman furnish the beauty salon she is building in front of her home. A women's group in Indiana is hoping to adopt this project and raise the funds to purchase her salon chair for the shop. Additional funds will be necessary for other needs to finish this project. If your women's group, bible study, or other group might like to help, please let me know by hosting a fundraiser, please let me know.

Missionary Rosary Design

The third and fourth aspects of the initiative are where we will need help getting going. The base projects for the women's craft cooperative will missionary rosaries and bracelets. In the mission rosary, each decade is a different color and represents a different continent for which you pray.  I cannot find any other vendor selling stone or gem versions of the rosary, only plastic. I think this will make a nice cornerstone product for the group, and learning the skill of stringing and beading rosaries can be transferred to jewelry making and other opportunities for the women. I would like to also create a bracelet version of the product with the various colored beads representing the continents and a cross dangle for Christians of other denominations who might want to join in prayers for the mission but do not necessarily pray the rosary. I am figuring start up supplies to create the first fifty rosaries and bracelets to estimate about $1000. Once these items are produced and we are able to begin sales, the cooperative should become self-funding, however, further donations of sales and materials will increase the amount of income for the cooperative members.

T-shirt Product Idea: Bracelet from U Create

Other products from the cooperative would focus on items that are both marketable here locally and internationally that we can produce from recycled t-shirts . I have gathered a numbered of project ideas on Pinterest and many of them do not require sewing. Eventually, however, we will need to have the ability to sew items in order to create a variety of products. The nice things about using t-shirts is that bulk of the materials for this product line can be obtained for free. I will, though, be creating a wish list of items we would like donated second hand or purchased, so as sewing machines, needles, thread, scissors, pins etc... I know there are lots of people with unused materials laying around  so if we ask enough, I am confident we can supply this part of the group's needs without much initial investment.

I would like to make Bible Study and lunch together a part of the days when the cooperative meets, so another aspect of fundraising will be to purchase Spanish Bibles, journals and pens for the women in the group and have a small fund to drawer from to purchase food for lunch each at each meeting.

After that will come the marketing and shipping of items. For that we will need a well-designed web site (I am hoping we can find a talented individual willing to donate his/her time for this) and the funds to cover the cost of an e-box from Mail Boxes Etc. to make it more feasible to get supplies and products in and out.

In the last aspect of the initiative, the craft cooperative for indigenous women, I would like to focus on a skill many of the women already have, which is beading with small pony beads. I would like to offer them the opportunity to take home and bead the cotton pouches in which we will package our rosaries and other products and then return with them and receive payment.  Because I am still working part time as a technical writer, I will tithe part of my income to cover this aspect of the cooperative. Eventually, I think we could probably make the bags ourselves, but I will purchase the initial materials for packaging the first 50 rosaries and bracelets so that we can launch all aspects of the cooperative at the same time.

That leaves the last aspect, partnering with the work of Salvando Corazones. This aspect, to me, is one of the most important of the initiative as it gives the women here who are receiving the opportunity to share and pass on the hope. So we will share part of what we raise in donations as well as tithe part of what we make in sales with the women in Costa Rica's first trafficking safe house so that they are equal beneficiaries of what we receive.

So, there you have it. Overwhelmed by the details? Yes, I am. But reading the book Half the Sky (Have you read it? Tomorrow, I'll be inviting you to come back at the end of the month and discuss the book and/or the PBS documentary at the end of the month.) I am inspired and convicted that this is an important effort and one I cannot back away from because it is overwhelming. God has given me a pocket of space in my days to devote to this ministry and the Spirit has continued to inspire and motivate me, so I will keep moving toward making it work. And we shall what He does with my meager efforts.

So, what can you do? What I am looking for now are women who might already be gathering with other women in Bible Study, mother's groups, book clubs, homeschooling groups, and even running clubs or recipe clubs etc. or who might be willing to gather a group of women or even a school class or high school club and work with them to help the me and women here get this initiative off the ground by hosting a fundraiser for the initiative. The idea is simple, choose an event, spread the word, share the stories and get us moving. I will be back to share event ideas in another post as this the details of this post have probably already put anyone reading on overload.

But start thinking of a group you might be able to work with to host an event and let me know via comment or e-mail if you are might be willing to host an event.


  1. Hi Colleen, Just wanted to introduce myself. My name is Ryane and I am a Catholic, homeschooling mom and the co-founder of Connected in Hope Foundation. We are a non-profit, social enterprise working in Ethiopia. We work with women who were once fuel wood carriers who now weave scarves and baskets, which we market here in the US. Similar to what you are talking about. You can read more at and

    Love what you are doing!


  2. Thank you so much for writing Ryane. I am going to add the Connected in Hope store in my Shop Responsibly post. I would love to "talk" with you more about the early days of your program and how it eventually developed into what it is now.