Trades of Hope: Empowering Women Out Of Poverty

Trades of Hope Necklace and Earrings
Source: Melissa Roderick

Written and Media by Maggie Schoepke.

So many women live in poverty, not because they lack abilities, but because they lack opportunity.”

This powerful statement can be attributed to the world mission organization Trades of Hope. Trades of Hope is a hand-crafted business that aims to empower women “out of sex trade, sweatshops, slums, and extreme poverty.” The company provides impoverished women with opportunities to establish themselves as artisans and participate in a fair trade system. Not only does this create profitable occupations abroad, but it also allows the average American woman to invest in something greater.

Kalei Swogger. Source: Melissa Danielle Photography
Kalei Swogger. Source: Melissa Danielle Photography.

As stated on their site, Trades of Hope was established in 2010 when co-founder Gretchen Huijskens witnessed the drastic effects poverty and natural disaster firsthand. She had been actively pursuing God’s calling in Haiti when the earthquake struck and she “felt God press a new approach to poverty on [her] heart.” Now, eight years later, Trades of Hope works with a handful of artisans from fifteen different locations, some of which include, but are not limited to Nepal, Cambodia, Bangladesh, and the U.S.A. Beyond the company’s relationship with global artisans, Trades of Hope also partners with Compassionate Entrepreneurs—locally placed individuals who advocate for TOH through the party plan model.

Though currently not officially affiliated with Trades of Hope, GSGA‘s Kalei Swogger has both attended and assisted a number of these parties. She says,

I first heard about Trades of Hope in 2016 when my friend, Melissa Roderick, became a Compassionate Entrepreneur. I helped her host a few parties and interacted with other people involved with the organization. I hosted another party last October with Rachel Knudsen because I wanted to share the message and mission of Trades of Hope with other students on campus.”

Trades of Hope Merchandise. Source: Melissa Roderick.
Trades of Hope Pineapple Pendant. Product no longer available. Source: Melissa Roderick.

While Swogger’s involvement has certainly made a difference in the lives of others, she maintains that her experience with the organization has been just as beneficial to her personal life. “Trades of Hope was the first organization to truly awaken me to the reality of poverty and modern-day slavery,” voices Swogger. “Since being introduced to TOH, I have become a more conscious consumer and been more intentional about who makes the products I purchase, and who is benefiting from the sale.”

Swogger also mentions how her participation in Trades of Hope has peaked her curiosity for other movements involving women’s empowerment. She comments that her initial interest in TOH led her to participate in Dressember this past semester. According to Swogger, Dressember is an international campaign that takes place in the month of December and aims to bring about awareness of human trafficking. She states,

Although I didn’t know it at the time, my first introduction to Trades of Hope would spark a life-long passion to join the fight against modern-day slavery.”

Trades of Hope is recruiting young individuals around the U.S. who are passionate about promoting both freedom and sustainability. If this sounds like something you might be interested in, feel free to contact Kalei Swogger, and she will get you in touch with someone who works directly with the company. She also recommends checking out her friend, Melissa Roderick’s, Facebook page for more information.

“Hosting parties is a fun and easy way to get involved, spread the message, and hang out with your friends,” Swogger says. “You can also purchase gifts or personal items straight off [the] website. Every purchase goes directly to the artisan and family who made it!”



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