Wandering down Acland Street, St Kilda, and loving all things handmade and boho with a touch of ethnicity, it was a no-brainer to walk into Empower at Shop 3, number 112 on Acland St. Recognising the shop as a new establishment, I just had to have a stickybeak. Intrigued by this slightly smaller version of similar shops around, I started asking Geoff, who was behind the counter, questions about the origins of the shop.
Geoff and his wife Lynice run a charity called Empower International, and put simply, they exist to combat human trafficking. A not-for-profit trade organisation, this retail outlet is not-for-profit and Fair Trade.
All the products in the shop have been carefully selected by Geoff and Lynice who trade with small businesses that offer training and employment to precious people who are striving to change their lives of poverty and injustice.
The producers of the goods are mostly girls and women whose lives have been invaded by HIV/AIDS, human trafficking and abuse.
Keeping it small means Geoff and Lynice know each and every individual person who makes all the goods in the shop, personally. Committed to making changes and passionate about what they do, Geoff and Lynice don't pay themselves at all for all the hours they put into running the shop.
They also personally sponsor 40 children in northern Thailand and provide vocational training for a couple of women in Thailand who are studying pharmacy at university and the other, community development.
You can't help but feel in awe in the presence of a person who is taking steps to change the world of each woman, one life at a time. Like the Starfish Parable on the back of their business card; when a man exclaims to a little boy on a beach filled with starfish washed up by the tides, that his throwing them back into the ocean one at a time was never going to make a difference. Thoughtfully, the boy picks up another, throws it in the ocean and says "It sure made a difference to that one".
Thank goodness for driven people like Geoff and Lynice I say, but us mere mortals can also contribute by getting the word out there about Empower. Check them out, have a chat with Geoff and Lynice and shop with them on Acland street (they've only been there two and a half months), spread the word, bring friends and family for that special festive gift with Christmas on the way.
You won't be short on ideas with the huge variety in the store. I picked myself up a gorgeous backpack that had been up-cycled in denim.
Currently Empower has a project running to raise $26,000 before Christmas to fund the construction of a much needed sick bay/medical room, office and kitchen at Clear Skies House - The Fasai Home in Thailand. Why not get on board and be part of the answer. Donate via the website for tax deductibility. Otherwise, donate straight to Empower's bank account BSB 063 832 Acc No.10133769 (with reference Clear Skies House).
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