Ethica Accessories has recently become a Fair Trader of Australia, selling beautifully handmade Peruvian craftwork here in Australia. Run by nuns, or more specifically, the Sister’s of St. Joseph founded in North Sydney, Ethica Accessories provides disadvantaged women in Peru with a skill, stable income and a support network that goes far beyond money.
|Hand Knitted Finger Puppets|
So who are the Sisters of St Joseph? I have always had a soft spot for them since I went on an excursion to stay in their convent for three days in high school. An odd thing to do for a teenager, but I was intensely curious about what these nuns did all day and what went on inside those walls.
Considering recent events one could say I would have been better off joining them and becoming a nun myself. Not sure if they’d have me now.
As it happens, the nuns didn’t spend much time in the convent at all. And as for what they do with their time – mostly hard work, mixed in with a bit of praying, but mostly hard work. People are so unaware how dedicated many of the nuns are, women working very hard, quietly for no reward, to try and help others and make the world a better place. Whether or not you believe in their choice of life and faith, it is hard not be moved by their dedication. I remember how focused they were on the individual – their focus was on helping each person, not on big things.
Ethica Accessories grew out of the work started in Peru by a small group of Sister’s of St Joseph 30 years ago. Realising there was a desperate need, a group of 10 sisters went to work in Peru. They started with pastoral care and now their work includes a whole range of activities including working in jails, running soup kitchens, providing dental services and running handcraft workshops.
|Hand Stitched Appliqué Cushion|
The workshops began when the sisters noticed that women were bringing them beautiful handcrafts as thank you gifts. This gave them the idea to start workshops to share the women’s skills and teach other women in the community. “Women are paid for the work done, without having to wait for the goods to be sold,” explains Gina Bradley, Sales and Operations Manager for Ethica Accessories. “By then selling the goods made in the workshops in Australia, we provide a solid income for the women.”
There are now 4 different training workshops; one of these is attended by mothers of handicapped children. The mothers meet once a week at the parish to make bracelets whilst their children are in respite care. “I met some of these women in 2010,” says Gina. “They said that the workshops were like therapy to them, it was not just about the money. It enabled them to get together and connect and share, and feel the support of the other mothers.”
|Bracelets with Mary MacKillip Medal|
“I really admire the dedication and commitment of the sisters,” says Gina. “In the 1980’s one of the sisters was murdered, but they decided to stay and continue their work.”
It doesn’t get much more dedicated than that.
Thankfully we don’t all have to become nuns to do our bit. We don’t even have to suffer at all – we can simply spoil ourselves with a bit of handmade love.
|Hand Knitted Jumper|
So – maybe the nuns won’t have me, but it does make me feel good to help them out. With beautiful things like this, it’s not even hard.