One of the main reasons I moved to N. Africa was to work with a B4T business, Wonderful Widgets, and her sister company GO2. GO2 is a textile factory with 400+ employees which makes garments for customers around the world. They use the profits generated by it to partially fund Wonderful Widgets (WW) which develops and distributes women’s health products to refugees and to create women’s businesses in the 3rd world.Refugees are heavy on the hearts of these business owners. The owners have found unique ways of helping those who are in desperate need. For example, the textile factory produces hi-tech clothes for first world customers. In the cutting and sewing process there are portions of fabric not used in the product resulting in boxes of scrap cloth being tossed out at the end of the day. This company is recycling that scrap to sustain and improve lives. One of WW’s first products was to make fleece blankets and infant clothes from the leftovers for those in desperate need. What is really great about this story is that the Muslim and Christian workers, managers and some family members volunteered to come in on their day off to make the blankets for no pay. Being part of something bigger than themselves as individuals or even as a company was very positive and bonded them more as a family than just a factory workforce.
Refugees and many women throughout Africa cannot afford disposable feminine products. In order to meet their monthly needs, many of these women continue to use items that it is hard for Westerners to imagine today. The women described to us how they would use old clothes, rags, even banana leaves, goat skins, feathers, and worse. It is hard to imagine what these women use to get by. Hygienic is not a word they use frequently or easily here. And this is the list of folks who are fairly well off by African standards. Thus, the owners realized there was a need.
The product that WW has created is washable and therefore reusable. This has been very helpful in the refugee camps. During extensive periods of the year, those camps cannot get medical supplies and food, let alone sanitary napkins. In the non-refugee, third world context, we are using this product to create women entrepreneurs who will sell the product to others, creating a source of income while reducing the trash issues that plague this part of the world.
Again, in the 3rd world context, once young women start their periods, they frequently drop out of school as they cannot afford what we today just take for granted. The wrong solution is just providing feminine product handouts which can kill jobs here. Teach fishing versus giving a fish is our practice, unless the person is starving. (In other words, stop buying Tom’s shoes.)
To see the young girls and their mothers get these products is really eye opening. This entire process is transforming. It has had a huge impact on me, on the men and women making the products and ultimately the people starting businesses selling these products — not to highlight the joy and benefit they bring to the actual users. Better health for women and spiritual transformation in Jesus are the main goals. Please pray that this process continues.
Investing my later years of life, working as a coach to B4T workers is a blast! I don’t miss the golf course or tennis courts one bit. This is the way God intended me to retire “refire” for Him. Who says old dogs can’t learn new tricks! Although this old horse is out to pasture, the grass is greener on the other side of the world and I am enjoying it.
PATRICK LAI and his family have worked in SE Asia for over 37 years. His experience in doing business with Jesus has brought him to understand the meaning of work and worship in the marketplace. He started 14 businesses in four countries, six of which are still operating. Patrick and his wife, May, mentor and coach businesspeople working where there are few or no Christians. Check out Patrick’s latest book, Workship, now available in paperback and e-book.