by Rachel Johnson
Q: Sarah, what is your role within the organization, and how do you stay inspired?
Sarah: I am focused right now on marketing our products and connecting with people who want to support our work. I’ve met such wonderful and sincere people who have approached Hand & Cloth, offering time, talents, gifts and prayer to support our work. Some offer to do a photo shoot of the products. Others offer to make a film, or help with the website, or give money to support Bengali Literacy classes.
One of things that keeps me inspired and motivated is knowing each of the women – knowing their name, a bit of their story (whatever they want to tell us), and their prayer requests. We asked each of the women to write out their prayer requests, and I keep these tucked in my planner. Rupali “wants to develop and advance in her career and she prays that her daughter, Shohali, will understand the difference between good and bad.” Saida’s prayer request is that “Sakib [her son] grows up to be an engineer!” Pival prays “for Lucky [her daughter], who has some learning problems, to understand and improve in school.”
Q: Robin, how did you learn about Hand & Cloth, and what is included in your list of day-to-day responsibilities?
Robin: I knew about Hand & Cloth through Sarah as we had met in Bangladesh some years before. We began the process of registering Hand & Cloth as a limited company in Bangladesh in March 2011. As anyone who has started a business probably knows, you do a bit of everything when you work for a non-profit organization – accounting, sales, marketing, production, sewing, design, cleaning, blogging, tweeting, supervising, hugging, scolding, celebrating, correcting, laughing, crying. We’re always trying to strike a balance between being compassionate and providing social support while empowering the women to be an integral part of a viable business.
Q: Have you been to Bangladesh? If so, how has that experience shaped you?
Robin: I’ve lived in Bangladesh for almost 5 and a half years. I’ve loved living in a place where people respond to an opportunity and bravely move towards a better future. Bangladesh is a deeply spiritual place and I’m awed to be part of what God is doing here.
Q: One of my favorite books is Half the Sky, a piece written by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn about how empowering women will resolve so many of the world’s crises. The work you two do with Hand & Cloth plays into that proclamation perfectly. How do you two think women can mobilize and utilize their strengths to effect great change throughout the world?
Robin: So many women are exploited in Bangladesh when they lose male protection through death or abandonment. We hope they learn to band together to stand against exploitation and abuse and help protect other women as well. For married women, we are trying to involve their husbands. As their wives and children have glimpsed a different type of life, we want to make sure husbands are included in that.
Q: If you could give one piece of advice to someone who aspires to start her own creative non-profit organization, what would it be?
Sarah: Pray! At Hand & Cloth, everything starts with prayer. I can look back in my journals and reflect upon so many answered prayers. In fact, I think this experience of being involved in a start-up organization has, more than anything, brought me to my knees, and caused me to see that we can do nothing apart from Him.
Q: What do you two do in your free time (if you have any!)?
Sarah: I love reading Scripture. Lately I’ve been studying the book of Philippians.
Robin: I don’t have much free time but I try to get glimpses of nature and I love to read.
Q: Readers are surely going to want to purchase some beautiful blankets from Hand & Cloth. Where can they buy them, and how can they learn more about the cause?
What do you girls think of Hand & Cloth?