Meet Laura Leigh: A Noonday Interview

I have a christian-lady-blogger confession to make. I was really really skeptical of the Noonday collection. Even when someo fo my favorite ladies were reppin’ for Noonday I was like….I am not so sure about this. But when my friend from church invited me to a party I decided I could at least hang out with the ladies and drink some wine. What I found was a company that mostly had the answers to the questions I had been harboring and a woman who was deeply passionate about what she does. Also, the stuff is just really really cute. There is a goat leather bag that I am totally coveting. So, without further ado, meet Laura Leigh! I will let her tell you about Noonday and why it matters. You can shop from her right here!

In case you are wondering what to get me for a back to school gift.

Why is selling Noonday important to you?

My husband and I have had the joy of going on missions to several different countries: Haiti,South Africa, China, Romania. Each time I come back from the trip and wonder what can I dohere in US to show love to people like I just met, who stole my heart. You can’t see poverty likethat and not be moved to want to change it. It’s tempting to stay in my American bubble, letthose memories fade and become complacent. Noonday is my way to stay active, to rememberbrothers and sisters who are battling poverty, and come alongside them as best I can.

For me, it comes down to the Golden Rule that Jesus commanded in Matthew 7:12, “So ineverything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and theProphets.”What if it were me who couldn’t afford to feed my children and were about to leave them at anorphanage? What if it were me who was infected with HIV and ostracized by relatives? If it were my children who had no hope of receiving an education or medical care? What if I was woman in India and told that I was of little value because of my gender and physical violence from my husband was acceptable? If prostitution looked like the only way out of my circumstances?

Wouldn’t I want someone to help me? Wouldn’t I want someone to give me a job so I could provide for my family? Even better – a job that allowed me to care for my children and earn livable wages? Wouldn’t I want someone to offer me hope for a better life?

It’s what Jesus did for us. He came to dwell among us, to understand us, and to offer us hopefor more, for a better life than we could ever dream of.

So it seems bizarre that selling beautiful jewelry is a way to do that for me, but for me it’s morethan that. I don’t sell this stuff because I want to make money (although I think it makes for a better business model). It’s a joy and thrill to get to come into women’s homes and tell them how they can be connected with people around the world. How they can play a role in alleviating poverty and providing dignified jobs. How they can cherish children and empower women simply by purchasing a stunning necklace or scarf. I love that Noonday provides a long-term solution of jobs, not just a temporary handout, a Band-Aid on the gaping wound.

What is your favorite piece from the collection?

Wow. It’s like trying to choose your favorite child. My most often worn piece, especially during summer, is the Dainty Paper Beads Necklace. It goes with pretty much everything in mywardrobe, you can double or triple it, or layer it with other pieces. In my mommy life, it’s an easy go-to. Plus I got to meet Jalia and Daniel, the founders of African Style, our Noonday partnership in Uganda, this spring and was so inspired by their story and passion.

The Ethiopian artillery pieces, like the Emebet necklace and Metallic Pearls Earrings, are a pretty close second. But I’ve also found myself surprised by some of the pieces I thought were scarier and then I come to love them. Noonday has made me brave in my accessorizing…and in other areas.

How can we pray for the artisans?

This a tough question for several reasons. Our artisans are in 13 different countries, and each one has their own stories and struggles. Our women artisans in India and Afghanistan face opposition to working everyday simply because they are women. Our Nepal artisans are still recovering from the earthquake that hit there a few months ago. Poverty is such a complex issue, but it’s certainly a spiritual battle. The more educated you are about those issues, the more specifically you can pray. We have a great impact section on Noonday’s website that provides information on specific countries and artisans. Our Flourish blog has even more information, here and here

From the artisans in Nepal

If there is one thing I’ve learned from working with Noonday is that we are more similar than different. They want similar things for their lives and families as you want for yours. So the things you pray for yourself, you can pray for our artisans.

The prayer request I hear conveyed often from our artisans is “pray for more work.” They want more business! They want more opportunities for their community, for their neighbors and friends. So you can pray for their physical needs, that God would provide for their needs. But also that God would give them hope and joy in their circumstances. That peace and love would reign in their workplaces. That they would be protected from exploitation and injustice.

Another way I pray is for American hearts to be opened to how their purchases matter. How they can purchase intentionally and convey life with their consumerism. Cheap fashion often comes at the expense of the quality of life at the end of the product chain, so that Americans, who have a disproportionate amount of the world’s wealth, would be convicted to shop more ethically. We all have a role in this!

What is your favorite story from Noonday?

Again, it’s like trying to choose your favorite child! Jalia and Daniel, who I mentioned earlier, are one of my favorites. I had the joy of meeting them a few months ago, while they were in the States, and hearing their story. Both are college-educated, had degrees in art, and had a desire to serve as missionaries. But at the point they found Noonday, they were living in other people’s houses and barely had enough money for food. Both of them shared about the experience of poverty, how it is steals your hope and your dreams.

They began with an order for 50 necklaces, and now they produce more than 140,000 pieces of jewelry. They went from just the two of them to now employing more than 300 people in a country with an unemployment rate of 86%. They provide a daily meal, uniform and Bible study for their workers. Personally, they now own a car and a home. Local law enforcement visited their business to let them know that they attributed a decreased crime rate with the success of African Style and the jobs it was creating in the area.

Their business recently opened a daycare for children of workers because they found that the majority of women working for them were single mothers. Unable to afford child care, many of these mothers were leaving their young children unattended during the day or with incapable family members. Now their children have a safe, nurturing environment in the day time! I also enjoyed hearing about how Jalia and Daniel partnered with Noonday to grow their business. They were artists making beautiful pieces, but they didn’t know all the ins-and-outs of running a business. Noonday taught them how to price their jewelry, factoring in overhead costs, as well as how to use Excel for their business. Noonday also helps provide scholarships for several of the workers’ children.

What are your working mom challenges this summer?

It’s pretty funny because my children are having an extravagant amount of Minecraft time while I write this article. I think it’s the same as most moms – how do I balance work needs with my children’s needs? My boys are older this summer (5 and almost 8), so they can entertain themselves more easily, but I also want to balance that with intentional time with them. Thething I love about working with Noonday is that I do have flexibility. I can work while my children are sleeping or at school. My trunk shows are normally at night or on a weekend when my husband can watch the kids. My big challenge lies ahead: we are expecting a third child at the end of September! That will be a lot harder to find balance in that stage of life. I’m planning my first few trunk shows post-partum with people who I know won’t mind passing around a

newborn! Overall, I think it’s a positive thing for my children. They know what motivates me in thisbusiness, and it’s made them more aware of worldwide poverty and the privileges they experience.

If you want to just take a looksy, you should totally just check it out!

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