If you follow me on social media, you’ve likely seen posts and a video about a project my family has been working on called SJ Boutique. I wanted to take a moment to share more about SJ before we launch it into the world in the coming weeks (or days!!).

What is SJ Boutique?

SJ Boutique - 1SJ Boutique stands for Sydney Jean, named after and by our daughter by the same name. This small shop is in partnership with Azizi Life and the Abumurava Cooperative (“People Striving for Excellence” Cooperative) in Rwanda.

The Abumurava Cooperative was begun by a core group of women in October 2007 as a forum for working together in order to provide mutual support, development, and increased standard of living. Through the group, the artisans have been able to use and improve their skills in weaving sisal fibers in order to better provide for themselves and their families. The weavers hope to find new markets for their creations in the coming year. In their time weaving together, the members of Abumurava support and encourage one another in many areas of life.

The women of Abumurava Cooperative provide most of the jewelry provided here at SJ Boutique.

Why SJ Boutique?

In October, I went to Kigali, Rwanda with the wonderful organization HOPE International, a microenterprise development organization that partners with individuals and churches to provide loans, discipleship, and more.  During that trip, we visited the Abumurava Cooperative through another organization, Azizi Life.

Abumurava-Speciose-Mukamana-e1472028945684I have tried to stay away from the clichés that many say after trips like this but it was indeed life-changing or as one friend said, I was gloriously ruined. It’s been hard for me to put it all into words but meeting women from Rwanda, passionate about Jesus, working diligently and caring for their families was convicting, encouraging, challenging, and inspiring. Women like Primitive (who became a fast friend) and beautiful Speciose (pictured here) are women I knew I wanted to support.

Upon coming home and sharing about the women, their dignified work, and the relationship that I quickly built with them in just one day, my husband, Thern, wanted to get involved. As we sat at our dinner table, Thern developed the idea of supporting the women through their work, helping them expand their market reach so they can have greater financial stability to provide for their families and communities. But we wanted it to be a family adventure, one where we could all learn about Rwanda and support the Abumurava women together. Thern came up with the idea of allowing our daughter Sydney to “own” the shop.

SJ Boutique serves several purposes. It allows the Abumurava Cooperative to get their products into new hands, which has been a prayer of both the women and Azizi Life. A prayer that Thern and Trillia were unaware of until after they approached Azizi Life! It also allows Thern and I to teach our children about poverty alleviation in a way that we pray will help and not hurt. From everything that we are learning, simply sending money is not the way to best serve the Abumurava women. By purchasing their products, we are teaching our children about the value of work and in turn supporting the economy in that village.

Sydney has been involved in every aspect of the development, allowing her to learn leadership and management skills as well as use her very creative gifts and imagination. Their son will help with shipping, inventory evaluation, and cheering on his sister. It has been a true joy for our family—we are praying it will serve the families there too!

This is not a big business. It is a small shop where you can purchase handmade goods online as they are available, mostly jewelry to start.  On a personal note, we are thrilled about this opportunity to partner with Azizi Life and the Abumurava women. I will have the joy of speaking at an event in Rwanda in 2021 and the goal is to visit the women as a family. We are also grateful to be able to continue the to support the work and ministry of HOPE, a portion of all profits will go to the continued work of  HOPE International, where I have been involved in various capacities since 2014.

How can you keep up and get involved? 

The community of people who read here and read my work in general are some of the kindest and most supportive around. I’ve been floored by the support already and we haven’t even opened our doors yet! Knowing that you would likely be interested in knowing how to keep up with SJ Boutique and support this effort, here are a few quick things you can do:

  1. Sign up for our newsletter: Keep up with when we launch, when there’s new products and more. I do not plan to send out a newsletter more than once or twice a quarter. You can sign up on the front page at sjboutique.net.
  2. Follow us on Instagram: One of our goals is to tell the stories of our artisans. Instagram provides a wonderful way showcase the jewelry and these wonderful artisans. Follow us here: https://www.instagram.com/sjboutique2020/
  3. Help spread the word: Admittedly, it’s easier to spread the word after you’ve received the product! I’m happy to tell you that I own many of the earrings and they are fantastic. But more than that, I’ve met the women we are supporting. If you think this would be a worthwhile venture to share, then please do let your friends and family know that they, too, can sign up for our newsletter and follow us on Instagram.

We are looking forward to letting you know when SJ opens for business. Until then, we covet your prayers! Thank you for partnering with us!

earrings- tagging

SJ Boutique will be selling products like these beautiful woven loop earrings.

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