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The Blue & Gray Press | September 26, 2017

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SHH bags at bookstore

By Sara Marron

Through a partnership with the University Bookstore, Students Helping Honduras is supporting women from the communities of Siete De Abril and Villa Soleada in Honduras by selling handmade Eco-Friendly bags.

The bags are made by women of the communities from recycled products, such as chip bags and soda labels, and are sold at prices ranging from $14.99 to $29.99.

The revenue from the bags provides income for village women who have trouble affording food, water, medicine and schooling for their families.

The bags also help the environment by minimizing the amount of trash that is burned.

According to Kathy Underwood, retail operations manager at the bookstore, 95% of the net profit goes to SHH. The bookstore takes 5% of the profit for marketing space and labor.

“The bookstore is not profiting, that was not the idea,” Underwood said.

Underwood reported that in the month of September, 49 total bags were sold with a total profit of $1,050. Of that profit, $997.51 will return to SHH.

As of Sept. 24, 102 bags were received in a second shipment from Honduras. The first shipment contained 38 bags.

“Its an amazing thing that these students are doing,” Underwood said. “Its so inspirational.”

Sophomore Ashley Cameron, a U.S. Administrator for SHH, fosters the relationships between SHH and the bookstore. Working closely with Dr. Humphrey, assistant professor of economics, Cameron assists with marketing ideas, displays, and inventory.

“SHH buys the bags directly from the women,” Cameron said “They are handed the money up front so they get it right way. SHH has a deficit until the bags are sold.”

Each bag comes with a small insert containing information about the artisan who created it. These personal stories give brief descriptions about the lives of the fourteen different women who craft the bags.

“The women are using the money to support their families, to buy food, and get medicine,” Cameron said. “One of the girls is only thirteen years old and says all her money is going towards schooling.”
The project is also aimed at fostering entrepreneurship and international relationships.

“One women said that she wants to branch out into business and is hoping that this project will help her continue to other businesses ventures,” Cameron said.

The project is called Esfuerzo de Amor, meaning Labor of Love.

“We want people to know these aren’t just some bags that the bookstore is selling, they are really helping to influence people’s lives,” Cameron said.

According to Emerson Ayestas, President of the Mary Washington SHH chapter, UMW is the first school to offer the sale of these types of products.

“We’re one step ahead of the game,” Ayestas said. “Hopefully it will turn into something even bigger, in the sense that other schools and universities will be able to buy them.”

“We are very proud of the women for what they’ve done and what it has created in Honduras,” Ayestas said.  “It has created a new way to do business and a chance for them to become more independent; it’s a great cause.”

The bags can be purchased at the University Bookstore as well as online at umw.edu/bookstore.

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