Fashion can act as an expression of who you are. If you’re a person set out to change the world, you can now start with one small step: your accessories.

Hands Producing Hope is a local, nonprofit jewelry company that empowers impoverished people by helping them join a business through their jewelry-making.

Founded by Rebecca Gardner in 2012, the company is currently based in Baton Rouge but travels to Costa Rica, with plans to soon expand to Rwanda and Africa.

Gardner said she began thinking about Hands Producing Hope when she was living in Costa Rica and noticed the struggles the natives were facing.

“I saw a very tangible [need], especially for the women in the community,” Gardner said. “They had never been in a space where they have been told of their value and worth.”

Gardner said she wanted a place where people felt they could create something for themselves. She said regardless of gender, ethnicity or where they live, people have the opportunity to get dignified work.

Each accessory is hand-crafted by the women in Costa Rica with materials from their country. The pieces also have other significance to their artisans: Some of the accessories are named after the women who made them, while others are words that correlate with the piece.

“One of my favorite parts of working here is being able to travel to Costa Rica and meet our Guaymi artisans,” said Katy Martin, graphic designer and board member of Hands Producing Hope.

Products range from necklaces and bracelets to scarves and headbands, and the company will expand eventually into home products.

Hands Producing Hope looks to expand its charitable movement to more countries in need. A fundraiser is being held online through October to raise money for its next venture in Rwanda.

“I don’t want it to grow for the sake of growing. I want it to grow because that means more lives will be impacted,” Gardner said. “Right now, we have about 24 people that we’re helping provide employment to, and if in five years we’re at 50, then that’s perfectly fine with me.”

Providing experiences and opportunities to the jewelry artists is something Gardner prides herself on. She said one of her best memories was when a woman she worked with for two years told Gardner she was going back to school to get her high school degree because of a scholarship provided by Hands Producing Hope.

“In turn, she gets to have more goals in life, and that’s what we’re here to do,” Gardner said.

Hands Producing Hope is not only providing experiences for artists in other countries. It has plenty of opportunities for people to become involved through internships and campus ambassador positions.

“We love for students to get involved,” Gardner said. “We like to show students that they can make a difference within their major, whether you’re marketing, public relations or business. Everyone can help to make a change.”

The company is looking for interns and campus ambassadors for spring 2016. All of the information on how to get involved is provided at Hands Producing Hope’s website, HandsProducingHope.org.

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