HOPE Outreach has a new project to help vulnerable women in the Okanagan. (HOPE Outreach)

HOPE Outreach has a new project to help vulnerable women in the Okanagan. (HOPE Outreach)

Okanagan outreach service launches new initiative to help vulnerable residents

Jewels of Hope teaches women tangible skills while earning money

A local non-profit’s new project is helping Okanagan women in a new way.

HOPE Outreach launched its new initiative, Jewels of Hope, on Sept. 18. The program will give marginalized and exploited women, often living in the streets, have the opportunity to earn a little bit of money while learning some skills in crafting and retail that they can use in their resumes and help them find work.

Participants learn how to make bracelets, which are then sold through the project’s website or through pop-up markets. This way, they get to learn how to handle online and physical sales.

Lorraine Richmond is HOPE Outreach’s project lead and she said the goal of the initiative is to bring resources to women who otherwise won’t get access to them.

“We teach them something tangible, a horizontal skill. For now, we’ve started with bracelets because it’s simple,” she said.

“Basically, we’re teaching them skills for potential sustainable employment.”

Besides making learning accessible, Richmond said the goal of the project is to give dignity back to vulnerable women and for them to realize that they, and the work they do, matter.

“Women are given a five-dollar honorarium… and we give them a gift card to a store so they can buy food and other necessities,” she said.

“It’s about human dignity and because finances are often an issue, this way they can supply their own bare and basic needs. It’s a safe place and will bring them belonging and help them build a community.”

Richmond said they’re also partnering with other community organizations for retail education.

“SHARE Society, for example, has a retail training program. So for the women that make these bracelets, it’s something they can put on their resume,” she said.

“SHARE can teach them WHMIS (Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System) or Foodsafe. This way they can have put together their own table at the farmers’ market or grow their own business. Some places, once the women gain the skills and confidence, want to hire them.”

She added that another important part of the program is the product itself: the bracelet, which features yellow, white, black, and red beads, with a silver pendant in the shape of the word HOPE. The colours are reminiscent of the traditional Indigenous medicine wheel.

Now with the initiative live, Richmond said they’re looking for stores they can partner with and sell the bracelets, as well as volunteers who can help HOPE Outreach’s clients in making the bracelets.

More information on Jewels of Hope is available through their website.

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