Isabel Allende is an international, best-selling author who has sold more than 65 million copies of her books worldwide. She set up the Isabel Allende Foundation to pay homage to Paula Frias, the daughter she lost in 1992. The Foundation is run by women devoted to bringing light and hope to other women's lives, in honor of Paula, and guided by a vision of a world where women have achieved social and economic justice. Isabel and her team visited Thistle Farms earlier this month, and writer Kay West asked her to tell us more about how the relationship with Thistle Farms and founder Becca Stevens began:
My foundation has 100 organizations that we support and every year we give our biggest award, we call it our Espiritu Award. We choose a theme for the year and the year before it was Trafficking. We said, 'Who is working in this field that it would make some difference to give this grant?' Our friend and priest, Frannie Kieschnick, told us about Becca and Thistle Farms. That’s how the story began.
When we give the award, we have the group come to California, a getting to know you gathering, with us and the women from their organization. (When Thistle Farms came), it was very moving. I asked them to send me their photographs in advance, and I made necklaces for all of them. We had hired a videographer to shoot it. The guy was so moved by what he heard and saw that he would not charge us! He is a war correspondent and still, he was still moved by this.
Anika, it was her first year. She had just begun the program and she was so wounded. We sat in the circle and everyone introduced themselves and she could barely talk and couldn’t look at anyone. Her head was down. Becca did not force her to do anything. As the day went on she sort of started to come out of her shell, but just a little bit. A little more than two years later, she is the person she is now. She emerged, like from a cocoon. She is not recognizable from who she used to be. She shines. One of the women said yesterday that nowhere else in the world will you be given two years, to find your soul, to recover, to heal, to find yourself. At no cost! And no demands of any kind. It is astonishing.
When we gave the award to Thistle Farms, Becca chose to invest it in Shared Trade (Thistle Farms Global), and it multiplied. It is empowerment to women, so it fit perfectly with our mission. It starts with education, and through that they usually receive some skill to make a living. Financially they will support the family. If you give a loan to a a woman she will buy two goats. And will have four goats the next year.
When Becca talked about Shared Trade that is exactly the kind of things we talk about but we don’t have the connection to make it marketable. Sometimes women produce things but you can't sell them or take them out of the country. But to have an organization that can connect those things and make the product successful, that is essential.
Part 2 coming soon: Isabel tells us about Paula, her remarkable daughter who inspired her foundation.
Gratitude to Carole Hagan for capturing the tea party and photo of Anika & Isabel.