Orphan Outreach Marketplace provides work for Guatemalan artisans
As the coronavirus pandemic spread globally and businesses began shifting to remote work or shutting down, whether temporarily or permanently, Orphan Outreach Marketplace took a different approach.
Orphan Outreach Marketplace, a social enterprise for faith-based Orphan Outreach, needed new ways to design products and communicate with partner foreign artisans when the usual method, mission trips to Guatemala, became unavailable.
WhatsApp, a free mobile text, voice, and messaging service, made it possible to continue operating, said Jennifer Kassing, a Preston Hollow resident and OO Marketplace product designer.
“It is an incredible way we can all globally stay connected,” Kassing explained, adding it also helped with maintaining consistent relationships and building new ones.
For Kassing, the most challenging part involved language. Some artisans would message her in Spanish because they don’t speak English. She used Google Translate to understand their message and compose her replies, but it doesn’t always translate correctly.
Communication depends on sending one question at a time and getting an answer before asking another, she said.
“There is a lot of detail in design and development when it comes to colors, measurements, and sizes,” Kassing said.
With communication maintained, OO Marketplace could continue to source products for its online business while providing employment to the artisans and revenue for Orphan Outreach’s ministry to vulnerable children and families in several nations.
“People that I have never met that I have gotten to know, I now know their children’s name, their husband’s name, and their community very well,” Kassing said. “I know things they needed prayer for.”
OO Marketplace grossed more than $70,000 while providing work for more than 100 artisans in Guatemala and their families, she said.
“Keeping those relationships and connections literally makes me a different person now from when I started this because of these amazing people that have such humility and integrity,” Kassing said. “They have so little, yet they bring so much joy and impaction to their craft, and they have blessed me beyond measure.”
OO Marketplace works with 11 artisan groups in Guatemala and partners with two companies in the United States that support efforts to end human trafficking in North Texas and China. Products include scarfs, towels, pillowcases, bags, clothing, and other items.
“I really think the Lord went before us in this, and because we have been working with artisans for so many years in Guatemala, I think it was just an obvious opening to be able to continue working with these artisans,” Kassing said. “Since it happened right at the time COVID started, we were able to come alongside them and help provide meals, and kids were able to stay in school. All of the proceeds from our product selling in the United States go back to our orphan and vulnerable children program. I think in the years to come, we might think of something else, but we did what we could with what we had. God was really gracious to bless our ministry and our artisans, and for that, we are so thankful.”