This past March, Thistle Farms’ survivor-leader and hospitality expert, Jennifer, traveled to San Eduardo, Ecuador with a small group from St. Augustine’s chapel. She had in hand the measurements for pencil and computer cases for the women artisans at Sibimbe, one of Thistle Farms’ Global partners. Two years prior, Jennifer visited the women of Sibimbe and their small sewing cooperative. She remembers that the community was struggling, but that the women she met loved working on beautiful sewn bags for Thistle Farms healing oil sets. When she returned this spring, Jennifer couldn’t believe the differences she witnessed. “The community is thriving!” she exclaims, “They have moved way beyond just the healing oil bags. They have made major changes just by going brick by brick, stitch by stitch, a little bit at a time – just like me.”
A graduate of Thistle Farms, Jennifer knows what it is like to make a series of small changes that add up to more than the sum of their parts. Before coming to Thistle Farms, she recalls feeling like being on the streets was her “lot in life.” When she found Thistle Farms, though, and saw that there was a whole group of women just like her who were holding each other up and healing, she knew that she could do it too. “It took the community—people who love me unconditionally—to get out,” Jennifer recalls. “That’s why I feel so connected to the women in Ecuador; they are a community coming together to change their lot.
I don’t understand Spanish and the women of Sibimbe don’t understand English, but we understand each other – the universal language of love – we can talk to each other without having to say words.
The women of Sibimbe and Thistle Farms are forever connected through Thistle Farms Global. This growing network of social enterprises is connected through their universal belief in love and their commitment to healing and economic justice. In visiting Ecuador, Jennifer was not only helping to connect Thistle Farms and Sibimbe, but also every member of Thistle Farms Global. She laughs and says, “We literally brought Rwanda with us in the form of our Bug Free spray from Ikerizi! It worked—nobody got a bite! It is beautiful to see the ways that our individual journeys are part of a global community; we’re small yet big.”
Last week, Thistle Farms received a shipment from Ecuador. When Jennifer saw the contents she was ecstatic, “It’s the pencil cases! It’s amazing to have brought the measurements down several months ago and now here they are coming in the mail. It’s full circle. I love to be able to say that I was a part of this process.” The women of San Anduardo and Nashville may be separated by distance, but they—and all of us--are united by the universal love at the heart of our being.