There are so many stories intricately woven into the leather satchels and threaded into the jewelry hanging in a light-filled boutique right off of East Boulevard.
The sign outside reads, "Fashion & Compassion,” often two concepts at odds with each other. But founder, Michele Dudley, has created a business of beauty and dignity that builds opportunities for women to be self-sufficient and independent both here in Charlotte and around the world.
After traveling to Rwanda on a mission trip in 2009, Michele knew she was being to called to serves others and began researching how to start her own business.
"As I finished one book after another, it continually blew my mind that aid often leads to corruption and dependence, rather than self-sufficiency and independence,” she reminisces. “And something that really impacted me was a line in Bob Lupton’s book, Theirs is the Kingdom, when he said, 'the deepest poverty is to have nothing of value to offer. Charity that fosters such poverty must be challenged.'”
“Our heart has always been to serve our artisans and to support their individual journeys of healing and transformation," Dudley says. "And we’ve always been super intentional about giving people a hand up vs. a hand out, because a hand up is what empowers people to change their circumstances and ultimately change their life.”
Another beautiful part of Fashion & Compassion’s mission is that each artisan gets paid for every piece of jewelry created, so they have an income to pay bills, feed their families and educated their children.
To further meet the needs of their artisans, Fashion & Compassion partners with like-minded charities around the world to assist with things like money management, housing, counseling and job placements. Their local partners include Justice Ministries, Dove's Nest (Charlotte Rescue Mission), Jackson Park Ministries, Project 658 and World Relief in High Point.
"To date, we’ve had the opportunity to give over $200,000 and that money has been to used to purchase a safe-house for human trafficking survivors in Ecuador, care for & educate 12 abandon children in Ethiopia, train upcoming leaders in Central Africa, start a school for the blind in Rwanda and start micro-business training in Uganda!" says Dudley when asked about one of Fashion & Compassion’s core values of generosity and how they operate as a nonprofit.
As their website proclaims, "to have dignity is to have Freedom," and if you want to help empower vulnerable women, there are plenty of ways to be involved – volunteer, consider hosting a trunk show, follow them on social media or visit their boutique. Learn more here: http://www.fashionandcompassion.com/