This is part of an ongoing series called Embodied, which features women who we feel embody some element of the persona they’re featured in. Amie (pictured on the left above) valiantly launched her own non-profit organization as a response to the desperate worldwide need for to secure vocational opportunities in order to launch them out of poverty. Read on to learn more about Amie’s non-profit and about the story that led to its creation.
Tell us about NationWares, the amazing organization you founded.
I created NationWares to function as a business with a social cause in order to break the cycle of poverty for marginalized people around the world impacted by extreme poverty, disability, and HIV/AIDS. I’ve spent 10 years in the development field and, through my experiences, I’ve found that these groups usually suffer most from multiple areas of marginalization and exclusion from any kind of aid or development. NationWares was meant to fill the gap. Fashion is the vehicle that NationWares employs to drive sustainable and creative employment for over 2,000 beneficiaries in 10 countries as they create jewelry and accessories that positively impact their society, the economy, and the environment.
You were born in Guatemala and then adopted into a Canadian home. Do you still feel tied to your Guatemalan roots?
As the 13th child born to my birth mother in Guatemala, I was the only child that she had placed within the international adoption system. I came to Canada as a six-month-old refugee and became a Canadian citizen at the age of three. As a child, I came to know my birth mother through stories and photos my parents delicately shared with me as they revealed her history of drugs, crime, and prostitution, all of which she engaged in simply as a means of survival. I returned to Guatemala on a family trip at the age of five and have been madly in love with the country and its people ever since. Since then, I have returned about 20 times and finally met my birth mother and several siblings when I was thirteen. My deeply rooted love for this country, my birth family, and the Guatemalan people grows stronger each day.
How did your upbringing in Canada shape you into the woman you’ve become?
Although Canada is a country of great privilege, my parents (who are incredibly amazing, by the way) made sure that I stayed connected to my heritage. They ensured that I never took anything for granted. I have always felt a divine obligation that has motivated me to change lives and help others escape poverty just like I did. I call it a divine obligation because I feel that God placed within me a divine calling to end poverty and create the same hope, opportunity, and love that I have experienced so that it may be shared with others who need it. I guess the obligation part is because dedicating your life to helping others certainly isn’t the easiest way to live, especially within a culture that teaches us to focus on ourselves. I have to remind myself of that calling every day. Watching lives transform around the world through NationWares is a constant reminder that I’m following the path made for me and that I was put on this earth not just to enjoy it, but to share it.
We love that NationWares provides individuals with the opportunity to find fair work. How did you decide that jewelry and accessories would be the right items to produce and sell?
I have always had a passion for fashion and creative arts. From childhood to womanhood, I’ve grown up in a society that feeds me thousands of ads a day telling me that I need certain hair, skin, makeup, clothing, products, and accessories in order to be the best version of myself. I want to show society that we can do better than what we’ve done in the past. Fashion shouldn’t cripple young girls and force them into eating disorders and seasons of self-hatred. When done right, our jewelry, accessories, and clothing cannot only be made ethically but they can also share a powerful story of hope, opportunity, and love. I’m actually working on developing a personal blog that will share my struggles in this area while also recommending other ethical sources for many of the products we frequently use on a daily basis. Any time I wear any of our NationWares products, I instantly feel connected to the person who made them. I can celebrate their success and creativity knowing that my purchase has not only helped them as an individual, but it has also helped their community and the environment.
Tell us how you’re tying the international component of employing workers around the world into your domestic component of empowering at-risk youth in Ontario, Canada.
I’ve been so blessed to speak to thousands of Canadian teens who are struggling with self-image, feeling that they have nothing to contribute to the world. They may have been adopted and they are struggling with their identity, or they are simply frustrated with our culture of consumption. Sometimes we need a reminder to focus on others instead of ourselves, a life-changing act in and of itself. Right now, our NationWares team does a lot of speaking, seminars, and workshops with schools regarding poverty, disability, HIV/AIDS, international development, and consumerism, but our goal is to be able to create educational storefronts where students and at-risk youth can work with our products hands on and also experience meaningful employment within their community.
do you hope to see NationWares grow in the coming years?
The sky is the limit for NationWares! I’m excited to continue to expand the scope of our fieldwork internationally. Our next big projects will continue to focus on employment and international development specifically within Latin America. I also look forward to new partnerships and relationships with stores, customers, and retailers who are interested in sharing not only our products but also the incredible passions behind them.
Just for fun—if you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go?
I would love to do the whole Che Guevara thing and do a complete tour of Latin America by motorcycle (with incredibly padded seats).
Images provided by Amie