Market of Hope: Austinites Shop to End Poverty, Slavery
Christmas shopping with a purpose…
Market of Hope in full swing, Nov 23, 2013. Rebecca Bennett.
Sheltered from the bitter cold in an old event center across from Round Rock’s Main Street Plaza, steady streams of bundled shoppers perused vendors’ artisan wares—beaded jewelry, wood carvings, handbags, and even iPad and laptop cases.
By all appearances, the market was simply a small-scale international arts and crafts festival where Austinites could support fair trade entrepreneurs and get a little holiday shopping done in the process.
But shoppers who attended Market of Hope on November 23 bought more than just unique Christmas presents—they also bought hope for victims of human trafficking, natural disasters, war, economic slavery, and poverty cycles.
At most booths, products covered every inch of table space.
“Everything you see here was made by one of our widows in Africa,” said a worker at the True Vineyard Ministries booth.
She went on to describe TVM as a Rwandan nonprofit focused on helping windows to break free from poverty cycles. The organization helps widowed women to recover from emotional trauma and teaches them artisan trades, empowering them to provide for themselves, their families, and their communities.
“Sometimes one woman’s income can provide for her whole village,” the TVM worker said. “All of your money goes to them—we’re just volunteers.”
True Vineyard was just one of twenty like-minded vendors selling goods at Market of Hope. The various nonprofits represented artisans from over 25 countries throughout Asia and Africa, and each group focused on helping specific demographics.
Destiny Rescue, for example, rescues Asian children from human trafficking and provides them with everything they need, including counseling, safe homes, and vocational training. Their merchandise table was piled high with jewelry made by young Thai girls, in whose culture it is customary for children to provide for their parents one way or another, often ensnaring them in a life of prostitution.
Volunteers running the Exile International booth. EI provides care and empowerment to former child soldiers and war-affected children in Uganda and the Congo.
Hosted by New Hope Community Church of Round Rock, Market of Hope was a faith-based event, but event organizers gladly welcomed anyone and everyone with a mind to see victimized women, men, and children throughout the world restored and empowered.
“The goal of Market of Hope [was] to generate as much support as possible for these organizations, and to give the people of our community an opportunity to both find unique gifts for loved ones and support [ethical] worldwide entrepreneurs,” event organizers said.
While artisans are paid well for their craftsmanship and sell their creations at legitimate prices, some aren’t able to claim “fair trade” status because they receive most of their materials as donations from various supporters all over the world, which makes tracking impossible.
New Hope Church did their part, however, by ensuring that all refreshments at the market were fair trade, including sweets.
Batman greeted new Market of Hope shoppers while Superman patrolled indoors.
What’s more, two men dressed in Batman and Superman costumes made appearances at the event, reminding all in attendance that those victimized by trauma and abuse need heroes to fight for their freedom—even one shopping bag at a time.