When it comes to ethically made accessories it can be tough to know what exactly to be on the look out for. It’s hard enough to find clothing with certifications like GOTS or transparent production lines, and it can be even more complex trying to find anything at all about how our accessories are made. Finding pieces that are sustainable, ethical and minimal is no mean feat, and I’m so happy to have discovered the wonderful Hands Producing Hope, who are doing a wonderful job bringing ethically made, sustainable accessories to a wider market.
Hands Producing Hope’s describes their mission as providing economic, educational, and spiritual resources to empower remote communities to rise above poverty. Their vision is to see all people (regardless of gender, ethnicity, or geographical location) have access to opportunities of dignified, fair work, in order to provide for themselves and their families, and grow as individuals and within communities.
The story begins in 2010, when Hands Producing Hope’s founder Rebecca lived in Costa Rica for six months and began to learn about the discrimination and difficulties faced by a native people group called the Guaymi, or Ngabe people. Indigenous to northern Panama and southern Costa Rica, when Spanish explorers arrived many of them were driven into the remote mountains of northern Panama. In the 1940s a small group of Guaymi returned to Costa Rica, however governments in Costa Rica and Panama sent them to remote reservations where they live off subsistence farming, and are some of the poorest communities in their respective countries. Their remote locations, combined with a history of discrimination, makes finding other employment very difficult.
Rebecca visited one such reservation, named Coppey Abajo, and began hoping for a way she could play a role in bringing more opportunities to this community. Despite oppression and poverty many of the women on the reservation still retained hope, as well as a keen passion for creating and learning, and Rebecca realised she could play her part by bringing a wider market to them. In Autumn 2012 Hands Producing Hope was launched, selling items made at the reservation at a variety of events and fairs. More volunteers joined, and as Hands Producing Hope grew they worked alongside village leaders in the reservation to spread the word about opportunities to work with them. Twelve women showed up to make the first products, recycled cards and envelopes, and became Hands Producing Hope’s first artisan group. In 2016, Hands Producing Hope expanded to Rwanda, partnering with women on Nkombo Island who weave home goods.
Knowing that they could provide more to artisans than just a steady income, in both locations Hands Producing Hope have developed specific empowerment programmes for the communities they work with. This begins with each artisan being paid an above-fair wage and earning a consistent monthly income to provide, send children or themselves to school, and save money, but does not stop there. Both programmes prioritise education; in Costa Rica the community has a 6th grade education level, while in Rwanda many of the women haven’t had the opportunity to attend school. The programmes offer financial assistance towards tuition and supplies, whether sending an artisan to school for the first time or giving them the opportunity to return to school and obtain their diploma. Additionall in Rwanda all artisans are involved in weekly literacy classes, and throughout the year Hands Producing Hope hosts workshops in both locations to teach artisans practical life skills, for example family planning and financial savings.
In Costa Rica Hands Producing Hope also aims to help contribute to communal reconciliation. The extended local communities are involved with their work through events and retail partnerships, forming lasting relationships which they hope will pave the way to dismantling discrimination.
Hands Producing Hope very kindly sent me a few of their products to see for myself, sending me their Maria Elena necklace and their Kaia necklace, both of which are made in Costa Rica. One of the big things I love about these pieces is that they’re made with Lagrima de San Pedro seeds, known as Job’s tears in English, which are actually seeds collected in the Costa Rican rainforest by the artisans themselves. The plastic-hater in me finds this so cool on its own, as these natural alternatives to plastic beads are incredibly beautiful and a great sustainable switch. I also love that each pieces names who specifically made it, which is the total opposite to the who made my clothes? question we’re so often asking.
When it comes to aesthetics, I love both of these necklaces. They’re minimal and elegant, making them a super easy accessory to pair with any outfit. One of the best ways to be an ethical accessory buyer is to own less pieces that are easily adaptable; these certainly fit the bill whilst still having character to them, with each bead being totally unique. Their classic designs also mean they aren’t going out of style any time soon, as avoiding fads and aiming for long-lasting is another simple way to shop ethically and mindfully. Essentially, I love them, and I think I’ll be wearing them for many a year to come.
So, while finding ethical accessories to our taste can feel like a total minefield sometimes, if you’re looking for minimal, classic and sustainable, then Hands Producing Hope might just be the perfect place for you.
Until next time, stay magic y’all.