By Sarah Ray
“We need jobs, and we need a way to put our children in school.” This statement, spoken by internally displaced Ugandans, resonated with Yobel co-Founder, Sarah Ray.
If these strong, resilient, hardworking, motivated individuals had access to dignified work, they would be able to provide many things for themselves that charity would seek to do for them. Things like school fees, clean water, nutritious foods, secure housing, clothing, and transportation. Jobs sounded like a good way forward.
Sarah returned to Colorado and met up with soon-to-be co-Founder Donavan Kennedy after a mutual friend mentioned that both were spouting similar dreams to help communities in developing nations through job creation.
The two met for 1 fateful coffee and agreed to put in their weekend tip money to provide a micro-grant to 40 women and men living at Canaan Farm to receive training, tools, and start-up materials to begin making bamboo jewelry. One of these individuals was Geofrey Olara, along with his mother Elvarina. Donavan and Sarah sold their jewelry at farmer’s markets and pop-ups around Colorado Springs and that was the beginning of Yobel Market.
Fast forward 11 years and Geofrey Olara is standing in Yobel at the Ivywild School this past November, meeting new owner Emily Ross. He is now married to Anna Olara, another young woman from Colorado who travelled with Sarah and Donavan to visit Canaan Farm and they have 3 beautiful children (and another on the way). The family was on their first visit to the United States and Geofrey wanted to visit his friends at Yobel and also show them his latest bamboo earring designs in person. Sarah got to handle the introductions and was the first to purchase a stunning pair of Geofrey’s sustainable earrings, cut in a sleek triangular design.
One of the greatest pleasures in operating Yobel over the years has been the cultivation of friendships that span oceans and stand the test of life’s many challenging seasons. Geofrey and Anna are two of these friends. We treasure their story, their family, and the way they continually seek to invest in the people of Uganda. As time goes on, we hope that we will find ways to continue bolstering their efforts to see freedom and opportunity come to the poor.
Yobel is proud to be the sole purveyor of Ethnotek products in the United States! Co-Owners, Clay & Emily Ross were initially drawn to this incredible company’s techno-hip bags because of their high utility features (like this camera bag designed by photographers) and strong ethic toward both people and planet. As a conscious consumer, you can feel good that Ethnotek’s slow-production materials are sourced in person from the villages where they are created. Each artisan piece is purchased directly from the person who made it, for a fair price.
As consumers, we have power and we must use it wisely. United States citizens will purportedly spend $1 trillion this year on Christmas gifts. That is $1 trillion votes cast for the kind of world we want to live in. Let’s vote together for a world that prioritizes People and Planet so we ALL Profit!