If you haven’t noticed, the world is in a bit of chaos at the moment. It feels like things that people once knew for certain have become unknown and EVERYONE is talking about it. I heard someone the other day dub Facebook “Anxietybook,” which I won’t lie, feels like an accurate portrayal these days. Even my husband told me this morning that he was shocked to turn on the local sports radio (in Canada) only to hear them talking about the new American president and his policies…not sports.
One thing I want to say, right off the bat…please don’t mistake my silence as tolerance or indifference. I have a lot of thoughts about what is going on, but that doesn’t mean that I think it’s necessary for me to share them here in this space. This blog was never a place to talk about political issues and I’ve already shared before that while I hold fast to a certain belief system, I’ve always wanted to tread really carefully with sharing those views as I don’t want to ostracize people who might not believe the same as me. Doesn’t mean I don’t care, doesn’t mean I’m ashamed of what I believe…just means I’d rather have a space on the internet that inspires people to find beauty in their everyday lives…through time spent together, through creativity and ultimately, through love.
Before Mr. Trump was named the 45th President of the United States, I shared with you a new focus I wanted to take for this blog for 2017 which is to highlight various non-profit and social enterprises that I love and support. By the end of last year, I started feeling a need to want to use this platform to be able to share more than just my favorite recipes, room makeovers and products that I love…I also wanted to be able to use it as a space to share amazing things that people are doing here and around the world to help those in need. More so, I want to be able to share organizations and individuals that we can all get behind and support. While not all of us can go to the front lines and help in person, many of us can open our wallets and help make a difference.
Now, more than ever before, I feel it’s so important that we all pause for a minute and realize that there are people suffering all around the world. I firmly believe that it is our job, as global citizens, to do whatever we can to help those in need and ultimately help make this world a better place.
So to start this whole series, I am SO EXCITED to share with you JustOne.
JustOne is an organization that I recently learned about at a local Women’s Conference that I attended back in the Fall. You may have seen pictures of me wearing the first necklace I purchased from JustOne back in the Fall and didn’t even realize it was from them!
I was immediately struck by the beautiful jewellery that I saw and knew there had to be a story behind it. Sure enough, there was…and I’m really excited to have Krista Jefferson, founder of JustOne, here to share with us all about this social enterprise: how it started, what it’s all about and how you can get involved in making a difference!
1. When and why did you start JustOne?
In November 2011, I had been a photographer for about a decade at this point. I loved it – but I found I was getting restless for something “more”. Some way of giving back using what I could offer. Which was my camera. I prayed a really simple prayer “God, use my camera”… and did He ever!
I met a young girl who was two at the time and going through aggressive cancer treatments. I asked her mom if I could document her for the entire year in 2012. Once a month I would go visit her; doctor’s visits, chemo treatments, life at home, everything; and simply tell her story. It was an amazing experience. When a friend told me about a photography contest where the winning prize was a trip to Uganda, I entered one of the photos from this young girl’s story. Surprisingly, I won and a month later found myself in Africa for the first time in my life.
While there I met so many incredible people but the women in particular moved me. These women who were former child soldiers, who were HIV positive… who were working hard to support their families, they were so inspiring! I came home with a necklace I purchased from some of the women as a souvenir for myself. It was so unique and beautiful and when I returned home, people everywhere I went people asked me about it. I was able to share the story of how the necklace was made and about the artisans. I heard someone was going back to Uganda and asked him if there was any interest if he’d bring some necklaces back for me. I put it on my photography blog and gave people two weeks to respond. At the end of two weeks we had sold over 200! Suddenly it clicked! There was a way to partner with artisans in Africa long term to allow them to earn income to support their families.
A year from the time I prayed that prayer, “God, use my camera” – JustOne was launched!
2. What is JustOne and how is it making an impact?
JustOne partners with two groups of artisans; one in Kenya and one in Uganda. These are small groups that already existed and were making incredible jewelry but had no one to sell to locally. We were able to offer them a market for their creations.
In Kenya, we work with a group living in Kibera slums. Kibera is Africa’s largest slum and people here live in extreme poverty. They want to break the poverty cycle and create a better future for their children.
In Uganda, we work with a group of former child soldiers from Kony’s army. Many of these individuals were abducted as young children and spent up to 15 years in the war before managing to escape.
We believe that it is important to offer a hand up rather than a hand out. Therefore, we partner with these individuals to create employment so they can provide for their own families and send their children to school. Every single one of the artisans when asked what their top priority is always answers education!
Employment is our main focus but we have also been able to do different projects over the years as well. We always ask the artisans directly about what their needs are trying not to assume we know best and listen. We have purchased birth certificates for all the Kenyan artisans (and helped them navigate that system) which protects them from human trafficking and gives them an identity. We provided tutoring for the Ugandan artisans; many of them did not know how to read and write, being abducted at such a young age. And have met different medical needs and done micro finance loans to name a few ways we have aimed to make a lasting impact in their communities and lives.
3. What is the heartbeat behind JustOne?
Having gotten to know these incredible artisans over the last few years – sharing meals, tears and laughs – it is hard now to ignore their needs. We know their children need to go to school. We also know that they need water, electricity and proper sanitation. And we cannot ignore or forget this now that we know poverty’s face and name.
This pushes me to work hard on their behalf on this side of the ocean for them.
Our hope is that each artisan will be able to have regular employment to meet their family’s needs. And beyond that, we want them to know they are valued and have incredible worth. We view them as equals and are so honoured to partner with them.
4. How can we get involved?
Whenever we ask our artisan partners if they have anything they would like us to share with people here, they always ask us to encourage people to shop. You see, they want to work. They want the pride of having earned income on their own. So, the more we are able to sell, the more we can buy from them! Share the story when someone comments on your gorgeous necklace and let them know where it came from and the difference it is making! As the saying goes: “sharing is caring” – and we love when people share the story of JustOne so we can reach even more people!
We also sell wholesale to retailers – so if you know a store that loves fashion and great causes – please introduce us!
5. Can you explain why a social enterprise versus a non-profit and why you guys chose to go with that?
Absolutely. It can be a little confusing as we hear these terms “non-profit”, “social enterprise” and so on and wonder what they mean!
A social enterprise uses commercial strategies to make a difference in human and/or environmental well-being rather than maximizing profits for the shareholders.
A non-profit raises money for a specific social issue and distributes it’s surplus revenue to further it’s mission, rather than it’s staff’s income.
So basically – they are very similar. Both non-profits and social enterprises work towards a mission to make a difference. But how they reach their goals financially is different: a non-profit raises funds through fundraising for example, while a social enterprise raises funds for it’s mission through commercial practices like selling items (like we do).
Both are great ways to make a difference!
I want to thank Krista for taking the time to share her heart for this organization that she has launched. I fell in love with the product first: the necklace. And then once I heard the story behind it, I knew I HAD to share this with my readers. JustOne is truly the organization that made me want to launch this entire series as a practical way that anyone, around the world, can help those in need.
For more information and to view all the amazing products, head over to JustOne now!
Note: Although I do lots of sponsored posts to help maintain the blog, I want to be clear that this Humanitarian Spotlight series will NOT be sponsored. I feel so strongly about sharing these organizations with you in an effort to help bring awareness to what people around the world are doing to help fight for those in need. This is a way to tell their stories and show us all how we can get involved!