Meet GladysRich Stigall
I was in Jinja, Uganda, in July visiting the production boutique where the scarves in our fall line are made. Inside the Fount of Mercy boutique, 15 workers full of joy functioned side-by-side in the two room boutique, their movements highly coordinated like a little symphony. In the front room, some of the workers – artists really – used hot wax and paint brushes to hand batik each scarf making each unique. Others dyed the scarves in beautiful color ways and hung them on the front porch to dry in the warm African air.
In the back room, two smiling and highly skilled ladies worked the foot pedals on their sewing machines as they stitched the intricate hems on the scarves.
At the end of the process, a well dressed woman with a joyful countenance stood at the ironing station against the wall. That’s Gladys. Gladys meticulously hand irons every single scarf destined to adorn the neck of the generous GOEX buyer who selects that scarf.
For ten minutes I watched this woman of peace go about her work like a melodious song.
It was quiet in the back room. The only sounds were the ebbs and flows of the sewing machines, and some spillover of laughter and chatter from the front room.
In that moment, I felt exhilarated about what we’re all doing together at GOEX.
I understand what this means to Gladys and her teammates. In addition to their own children, the 15 workers are trying to care for 12 orphans they have “adopted” into their families and support other vulnerable children in their extended families and communities. This is possible because they are making five times what the average textile worker in Uganda makes. As part of their work, they have received life skills training and business training. And they’ve become like family supporting each other.
This is a way different scene than some third world factory filled with withdrawn workers whose names manufacturer’s don’t care to know and don’t want you to know.
I understand what this means for orphaned and abandoned children. Because GOEX gives all of its profits to help the children we serve, they directly benefit from Gladys’ efforts and your purchases.
In that moment, I felt GREAT about what we’re all doing together at GOEX.
As I walked out of the back room, I heard Gladys’ voice. She wasn’t looking up from her work. She didn’t want to offend. But she could not miss the moment to offer a humble plea: “I hope to keep my job.” Gladys arrested my spirit with these six gentle words.
You see, six feet away from Gladys’ ironing board this hung on the wall. This was the Production Schedule for the first GOEX products. The last date noted the day of order completion.
To us, that schedule represented progress, organizational necessity, solid planning to meet a business deadline. To Gladys, that schedule marked a coming day of blessing or doom. That last day could be a “YES,” with more orders and more work from a job faithfully done. Or it could be a day of “NO,” a day of disaster with no more orders and no more work. There was no government safety net waiting for her and her children. And other than doing her job with excellence, today, there wasn’t a thing more that she could do to swing her future life one way or the other.
“I hope to keep my job.” These six words motivate us at GOEX.
Every product we sell – from jammies, to tees, to purses, to scarves – has the hard work and dignity of a Gladys in it. Our aim is not just that they will keep their jobs, but that we’ll create work for hundreds and hundreds more, including for young men and women who age out of our partners’ care, and including women here in the United States.
For us to help them keep their jobs – and to keep blessing children with our profits – we at GOEX must do our job. And that means:
- Selecting great products;
- Making the products with excellence;
- Treating workers very well (not with slave wages and oppressive work conditions that many brands exploit to lower costs and increase profits);
- Importing the products; and
- Making the products readily available in the American marketplace for purchase.
By God’s grace, we have been able to do this. But like Gladys, we can only put the beautiful work of our tailors and artisans before you. Whether you answer “YES” or “NO” is beyond our control.
With energy growing in GOEX, we hear you answering loud and clear. You get it. You understand. You love this new way of orphan care and orphan prevention. And you are answering “YES.” With confidence in your “YES,” we have continued to place new and larger orders.
From the time that GOEX started to now, we’ve grown to support 78 workers, including Gladys, with continuing orders. And the products are really catching on, as you buy and share the GOEX story with friends. We see the great possibility with every mouse click purchase.
On behalf of the children we all serve together… On behalf of the workers… On behalf of Gladys… We say: “Thank you. Enjoy the Fall/Winter collection, our best work yet!”
Yours in Christ,
Fount of Mercy Team