We have been taking some time to reflect on 2015 and celebrate the great impact of Vi Bella. We continue to form important and transformational relationships between our artisans, home office staff, ambassadors, and customers. We love the Vi Bella family and want to share with you a quick recap of some of the great things from 2015:
2015 was a big year for our artisans.
We are very proud of the skills our artisans have learned and developed. When we started Vi Bella production in Haiti over 4 years ago, we did not seek out and hire jewelry artisans who had experience in this area. We simply wanted to give jobs to people who really needed them, so we asked our local managers to find people with great needs who might be good employees. We trained all of our artisans on the job. Because of this, some of our Haitian artisans struggled to follow a simple pattern. At first, none of them were able to complete a necklace by adding a beaded component to a chain. But now, If you look at the beautiful designs in our current catalog, you can see that our artisans are becoming experts in jewelry making techniques, such as this special type of bead weaving. It is both exhilarating and humbling to reflect on that reality.
In June we trained our artisans in new skills. These included metal stamping and riveting, intricate beading, and making leather bracelets. We are thrilled to offer a wider variety of jewelry to our customers.
Our One Vision Center in Haiti moved into a new, beautiful building and location. It is clean and well lit, and the ladies love working there. We are grateful to the late Arnold Ver Hoef, who helped raise the money to build this lovely building. We dedicated the building in his honor this summer.
Our artisans in Mexico have used their talents in paper bead production to increase the amount of beads they produce. They have also begun creating bulk amounts of paper beads for our designers at the Home Office to use during the designing process. Our Mexican artisans are great at their jobs. They love working in a location close to their homes so they can stay connected with their families and not spend money and time traveling to large factories in the city. They are a wonderful support system for each other and enjoy Bible study together.
We were able to hire a few more artisans in Mexico and in Haiti. Our managers tell us that one of the most difficult parts of their jobs is turning away people who want jobs. The need for employment is so great, especially in Haiti, that they must turn away people almost every day. Kudos to our fine managers in Haiti and Mexico for their outstanding work. Please keep these fine people in your prayers. Oh, how we want to hire more people! In 4 1/2 years, we have never had a Haitian artisan quit their job. Just thinking about these skills they are developing gets us excited to think about what the future will bring!
We celebrated our 4 year anniversary In Haiti. We had a fun beach party and banquet with each center. At the banquets, every artisan took the chance to tell us how important their job is to them and how thankful they are for employment.
One artisan shared,
“We know people who get to work for two or three months and think that is a big blessing. We have had good jobs with VI Bella for four years. This is a very big thing! We are thankful! “
This was extremely humbling, and compels us to continue to work to keep improving and growing. We want to provide these opportunities for many more people!
Our non profit, Vi Bella Serves, funded school sponsorships for over 40 of our Haitian artisans’ children this year. This is especially appreciated in communities where many children are not able to attend school. Some of our artisans attended little or no school, so being able to provide their children with the opportunity of an education is extremely important to them. In fact, this one thing can be life-changing.
Here at the Home Office we have been able to provide employment in an encouraging atmosphere to women in our own community who are referred to us from transitional housing situations for various reasons. God has blessed these opportunities, and has affirmed to us at Vi Bella in several ways that He is at work in this ministry. One such young woman who worked at Vi Bella a few years ago came to visit our office recently. She wanted to share with us how well she is doing: that she had graduated from college and is ready to begin a new career. She is engaged to be married, and invited us to her wedding, which she said will be a “Vi Bella wedding” with everyone being adorned in Vi Bella pieces. She went on to say that had it not been for the support she received from her Vi Bella family while was going through a very difficult time in her life, she “would not be here”! We are blown away by what God does in the “mundane everyday” when you have no idea that He is using you for His purposes.
Vi Bella Jewelry was recognized in 2015 by several magazines, writers, and publications.
- A piece about our artisan Joanne in Haiti was featured on the Huffington Post
- Julie, our Founder and CEO, received the “Visionary of the Year” award in Dallas in October with Equanimity Magazine.
- We partnered with two new Christian authors: Liz Curtis Higgs, with jewelry for her new book, “The Queen of Sheba,” and Deidra Riggs with two bracelets to accompany the message she shares in her book, “Every Little Thing”
- We continued a relationship with Fair Trade Friday, being part of their monthly boxes and “Earring of the Month” club.
- We have been featured on several blogs and built relationships with writers, presenting at several retreats and conferences across the nation.
Our Ambassador Program has continued to grow and develop through the year.Our Ambassadors are our most important story tellers. It has been an honor to walk alongside them during this journey and we can’t wait to continue building this team in 2016.