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Center Grove resident Amanda Sparks finds her passion in empowering women and helping others through Trades of Hope

Amanda Sparks finds her passion in helping empower women through Trades of Hope, a fair trade organization.

Amanda Sparks wasn’t looking to get into another direct sales company, but when she discovered Trades of Hope, she found the items they sell beautiful. When she heard the stories that accompany each piece and the mission behind the organization, she was hooked.

“Becoming involved in this opened my eyes to a lot of things that I was really naive to before,” Sparks said. “I didn’t watch the news. Anything that was bad, I didn’t want to know about it. It opened my eyes to a lot of things in the world that you and I have the power to change.”

Trades of Hope is a fair trade organization which aims to empower women and help them out of difficult circumstances. By marketing the handmade products made by these women, funds go back to them which help house, feed and give medical care and education to their families.

Sparks, a Center Grove resident, discovered Trades of Hope while at a vendor event. She felt like she was in limbo, looking to get out of direct sales but also wanting to find something for which she could have a passion.

Bracelets from Haiti are made with recycled cereal boxes.

“My husband had said no other direct sales companies, but I couldn’t get it off my mind,” she said. “I finally told him about it and two sentences in, he said that’s what you need to do.”

She’s now been with Trades of Hope for four years, hosting house parties and attending vendor events. She will be at the Extension Homemaker’s Craft Fair at the Johnson County Fairgrounds, Scott Hall, on Oct. 21, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

“We help to empower women out of slums, sweat shops and sex trades,” Sparks said. “Every product has a story. They’re beautiful, handmade and everything has a story behind it. Like in Thailand, they have a bracelet that the proceeds gives back to an elephant sanctuary. In Cambodia, we have women who are victims of acid attacks. The women we’re working with there, we’re helping them to not feel so ostracized. In their country, they feel they’ve done something wrong to deserve these acid attacks. For every group we’re helping, there’s tens of thousands more who need our help.”

Not only do the products help these female entrepreneurs create a better life for themselves and their families, but through programs such as Gifts of Hope, 10 percent of profits are used to give back to organizations with a similar mission of fighting for justice for women around the world.

In the past four years, Sparks said she has had the opportunity to travel to Haiti and Costa Rica to meet some of the artisans and hear their stories firsthand.

“Haiti is the poorest country in the western hemisphere, but I didn’t know what that meant until I was there,” she said. “It was such an eye-opening experience. It sets your heart on fire to want to do even more. While we were there, one of the founders (Shelley Clay) of one of the organizations, Apparent Project, an orphanage, (spoke about how) some women in Haiti will go door-to-door and ask people to take their baby. Those children end up being put into bondage, become a house servant or end up in slave trades. When she hears of people going door-to-door, she will find them and put them to work. The average Haitian makes $1 – 2 a day. Shelley is able to pay them $15 a day. For us, it doesn’t sound like a lot, but in their world, it changes generations, literally. Those children have hope in their future.”

Sparks encourages others to get involved in selling for Trades of Hope, too.

“The more people that sell, the more artisans we help, the more countries we add and people whose lives are changed,” she said.

Outside of Trades of Hope, Sparks and her husband, TJ, are members of Emmanuel Church of Greenwood. Amanda will soon volunteer for Purchased, a group helping victims of human trafficking. She will be assigned to someone and mentor her for at least a year. She is also involved in a group called Circles in Indianapolis, helping people who are impoverished and doing poverty simulations at different churches to educate people on the issue.

To learn more about Trades of Hope or to reach Sparks, visit mytradesofhope.com/amandasparks.