Fair Trade Spotlight: Ruth Burk with Trades of Hope

Y’all, I am thrilled to introduce you today to Ruth Burk, a compassionate entrepreneur with Trades of Hope! Ruth is empowering women across the globe by selling Trades of Hope’s fair trade jewelry and accessories right here in the Triangle area of North Carolina.

Ruth Burk, Trades of Hope. Empowering women across the globe with jewelry and accessories sold in Raleigh, NC. | Fairly Southern

I recently sat down with Ruth to get to know her and learn more about Trades of Hope. The company, which is a member of the Fair Trade Federation, sells beautiful, artisan-made jewelry and accessories that are all certified fair trade. Trades of Hope partners with local artisan groups in 16 countries around the world to connect artisans with a market in which to sell their goods.

Ruth became a compassionate entrepreneur in January 2017. She was attracted to Trades of Hope because of how the model empowers women.

“Nonprofits and charities are important, but you also need to find a way to help people find a skill,” says Ruth. “I don’t think people really want a handout. They want to be able to take care of their families, have a way to make their own living, and feel a sense of accomplishment.”

On the day we met, Ruth was wearing several stylish Trades of Hope pieces. She showed me each one and explained what made it special.

The Julia necklace (pictured below), was made by Guatemalan women who have escaped from the sex trafficking industry.

Fair trade "Julia" necklace by Trades of Hope! Features the artisan's fingerprint in sterling silver. | Fairly Southern

“It actually has artisan fingerprint impressions in the silver,” explains Ruth, pointing out the fingerprint on the necklace. “I think it’s really nice to wear the jewelry and have that personal connection. That’s something that Trades of Hope is all about.”

Sex trafficking is not the only challenge that Trades of Hope’s artisans have overcome. Ruth explained to me that one of their groups in Cambodia primarily employs women who have suffered acid attacks.

“In Cambodia, if a man makes an advance on a woman and they reject that, it is acceptable for the man to throw acid on her,” she says. “Her husband will leave her, and the woman is left with the children, disfigured and with no way to support herself. The artisan group there has given these women a way to support themselves by helping them create jewelry and have a skill set they can use.”

Another piece of jewelry that Ruth loves is her Haiti Signature bracelet (similar to the Faith and Pure Love bracelets pictured below). Ruth explained to me that artisan groups are very resourceful with the materials they use. In fact, each of these bracelets is made from cereal boxes!

Fair trade, artisan made Faith Bracelet by Trades of Hope | Fairly Southern

Fair trade, artisan made Pure Love Bracelet by Trades of Hope | Fairly Southern

In addition to women’s jewelry, Trades of Hope sells scarves, bags, home decor, and jewelry pieces designed especially for men. Some of Ruth’s favorite non-jewelry items are the handmade journals.

“It’s not anything you can get in Barnes and Noble,” she says. “Quite a few have actual handmade paper with magnolia leaves in them.  It’s very unique.”

Fair trade, artisan-made Kancu journal by Trades of Hope | Fairly Southern

One of my favorite things that I learned about Trades of Hope is how the model empowers artisans beyond a basic meeting of needs.

“The artisan group in Thailand has been successful enough that they give back in their own ways in their community, ” says Ruth. “They donate a portion of the profits they make to an elephant sanctuary. I think it’s really neat that you’re not only giving them the opportunity to support their family, but you’re also allowing them to give back to their own communities and make them better places.

If you’re interested in learning more about Trades of Hope, check out the online store or read more on Ruth’s website and blog.  And, if you’re local, you can contact Ruth to set up a home party or catch up with her at pop-up shops around the Triangle! You can find her at The Frontier in Durham every third Wednesday from 11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. and at Chatham Hill Winery in Cary one Saturday each month from 2:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m. All pop-up dates are posted on her website.

Y’all, isn’t it awesome that we have the opportunity to participate in global empowerment simply by being thoughtful about the jewelry that we purchase right here in our local community? I am so grateful to have met Ruth and to have had the chance to share about her business.

And, I may have just added quite a few Trades of Hope pieces to my own wish list!

xoxo Laura

[P.S. – Not a sponsored post. All photos via Ruth Burk/Trades of Hope.]

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