Lindsey Jo Scott gingerly holds the hand-crafted jewelry, each item carrying a story disproportionately heavier than the pieces themselves.
The Haitian signature bracelet holds a story of redemption and second chances. “The beads are made out of cereal boxes and Haitian clay,” says Scott. “It’s made by a group of women who without our partnerships wouldn’t be able to keep their children.”
Scott is an Akron-based Compassion Entrepreneur for the organization Trades of Hope, which empowers disadvantaged women around the globe, offering them job skills and a living wage. Each piece of handcrafted jewelry or home decor is a key that unlocks a new life for these women, and you can tell immediately that Scott carries a deeply serious empathy for the makers of these items.
“At Trades of Hope our mission is to empower women out of poverty. We want people to realize their potential as business owners and dreamers and heroes of their own story,” says Scott, from her home in West Akron.
The aforementioned Haitian artisans can trace their group’s inception to a U.S. couple that went to Haiti with the hopes of adopting a child. The couple realized that the boy had a mother who loved him but couldn’t afford to keep him, which was indicative of a much larger problem in this country. “In Haiti, there are 500,000 orphans with many of them having parents who are alive,” she says. Thanks to the Trades of Hope partnership, “these women are able to work and have a sustainable income to support their families and to keep their families together.”
Another group in Southern California, which makes leaf earrings and redeemed necklaces, was started by a woman who moved to Hollywood in her early 20s with the dreams of being an actor. She was soon coerced into the sex trade, and then became a drug addict who lost contact with her family.
The woman moved out of Hollywood and into the high desert and started Cherished, which offers opportunities for other women to use jewelry-making as a means to help support counseling and self improvement. “Through the jewelry-making program they realize they do have value and worth and they are cherished and loved,” says Scott, whose voice cracks with emotion as she shares this particular story.
Trades of Hope works with 20 different groups of women in 16 different countries, from startups to large companies. The Trades of Hope website states that “many women live in poverty not because they lack abilities, but because they lack opportunity.” Scott sells the items as a mobile storefront, setting up at various local festivals and shows, and also through a home party model.
Scott, who’s also an artist, yoga instructor and part-time nanny, holds up the Julia necklace, accented with genuine turquoise and a freshwater pearl. “My favorite part is the Sterling silver charm, which has the fingerprint of the artisan who made it. We work with women who have been aging out of their orphanages.” The organization works with these young women to teach them jewelry-making, job skills and financial management so they can become more productive citizens.
Scott started working with Trades of Hope last year after attending a show. “Right away I fell in love with all of the products. After hearing the stories and realizing the vision, it was something that I couldn’t shake.
“I saw that this was a way I could make money for my family but also do something really meaningful. Since then, my reason has grown. It is a way to partner with women in a dignified way and to be a voice.”
Women comprise 70 percent of the world’s 1.3 billion people in poverty, according to the Trades of Hope website, which adds the women who participate in Trades of Hope end up making about six times what they would normally make at other jobs in their home countries. The artisans are paid 100 percent of the asking price of their products.
Scott also has been able to meet some of these artisans, with whom she considers the working relationship a partnership. She recently visited Costa Rica. “I got to not only meet them, but sit down with them at their work bench and learn about the process and talk to them one-on-one and learn about their stories. My favorite thing was communicating with them how this has changed my life, too.”
Scott has worked in other capacities with women in vulnerable situations, from studying art therapy and counseling to traveling to the Dominican Republic, where she started a women’s empowerment curriculum, and working with refugee resettlement at the International Institute of Akron. Her current effort follows a natural progression: lifting up others who may be in less fortunate situations, and not taking this responsibility lightly. And she adds that Trades of Hope serves as a sort of art therapy.
“I think that many of us are surprised at the path we have found ourselves on selling jewelry,” she adds. “The stories of the women compel me every day. I know that they’re living in places that I can’t even really even fathom and they’re living stories that are really difficult. I’m motivated and compelled to do this work because of them, but I also realize that our purchases have power.”
Scott will appear at a number of upcoming craft shows, festivals and community events, including Akron Farm + Flea at Musica Aug. 1, Vintage Ohio Wine Festival Aug. 7 and 8, and the Global Village Festival at Lock 3 Sept. 13. She’s also available for home parties and private events.