Sesame Street & IRC: Helping Refugee Children

Sesame Street Workshop IRC helping Syrian refugee children with education opportunities

The ability of education to change lives is amazing. The women refugees here in the studio often share how grateful they are to have received education and healthcare from the International Rescue Committee while living in refugee camps, and what it has meant for them, their families, and especially their children.

Moo Kho says she uses the math she learned in a refugee camp every day to calculate the correct amount of fragrance to blend into wax. More importantly, Moo Kho is hopeful her four young daughters will one day go to college to pursue a master’s or doctorate’s degree and become leaders in a field of their choosing. To her, it doesn’t matter what they pursue as long as they can determine their own futures.

This vision of a brighter future originated in a refugee camp, and was made possible by education provided by international support. That’s why we are so happy that the International Rescue Committee (IRC) and Sesame Workshop are partnering to bring local, culturally-relevant learning opportunities to millions of refugee children displaced from their homes in Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, and northern Iraq.

Sesame Street Workshop and IRC providing education program to Syrian refugee Children

These children are undergoing terrible trauma from war and conflict – and being uprooted from their homes – and are deprived of that basic childhood experience of learning and playing that most of us here in the U.S. were fortunate to have. Bringing love and care to these refugee children through education is important for them to be able to cope with challenges and begin the process of healing. Because these children are still so young, a nurturing learning environment has the power to reverse the effects of traumatic stress.

A whole generation of refugee children whose future and development is at risk will now have an opportunity to follow a different path and, hopefully, grow into adults who can thrive in their communities and contribute to the world.

We feel tremendous gratitude to Sesame Workshop for supporting these young  refugee children and helping bring them a brighter future. We believe that kindness and compassion are the ingredients for making the world a better place, and there is no better place to start than with children.

IRC and Sesame Street Workshop helping Syrian refugee children through education and opportunity

Read more about IRC and Sesame Workshop’s work with Syrian refugee children.

And please watch and share: great video of actor Mandy Patinkin and Sesame Street’s Grover talking about education for refugee children. It’s short and inspiring!

#nolostgeneration #standwithrefugees #achildisachild #refugeecrisis #childrenuprooted #missionforchildren #savethechildren #wakeupworld #sesamestreet

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Link/source: https://www.rescue.org/article/irc-and-sesame-workshop-bring-education-and-hope-refugee-children

Image sources: https://www.rescue.org/article/irc-sesame-workshop-rescuing-childrens-futures

Video source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=121&v=AFfw5MQdnTw

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Who are refugees? Stand with them!

World Refugee Day Refugees Children“In my experience, going home is the deepest wish of most refugees.” – Angelina Jolie

Stand #WithRefugees on June 20th, #WorldRefugeeDay.

At this moment, there are over 21 million refugees in the world, and many more who are displaced from their homes. In fact, there are more refugees and displaced people now than at any other time in history. Over half are children.

It’s a number that feels totally overwhelming. Here is another that feels the opposite… rather underwhelming: just 162,500 were referred for resettlement last year by UNHCR – the U.N.’s refugee organization. The U.S., Canada, Australia, France, Germany, and Scandinavian countries took in most of them.

Resettlement is an incredibly rare opportunity. Less than 1% of those seeking safety and a brighter future are given the chance to do so. You are 13 times more likely to be admitted to Harvard University than to the U.S. as a refugee, and first you must undergo an 18-24 month screening process. Of all people entering our country, refugees are by far the most carefully scrutinized.

Who are they? Refugees are people fleeing their country because of violence and persecution due to race, religion, ethnic group, nationality or political opinion. They are mothers and fathers, daughters and sons, grandparents, aunts and uncles. They are not leaving for economic reasons, and given the choice would return to their homes. We know this from the many we have worked with here at Prosperity Candle… women who were forced to run for their lives, leaving behind everything they knew and cherished.

The journey is difficult and dangerous, usually ending in temporary camps with insufficient food, shelter or medical care. School is interrupted for children, and parents can no longer work to earn a living. Families end up living in these conditions for years, even decades.

And yet, they are hopeful. They are resilient. They are strong. They are wonderful people who contribute to our communities, our democracy and our economy.

We encourage you to take a moment to meet Solaf (a 9 year old girl who loves to draw), Mojtaba (22 year old biologist researching cancer), and Baw Meh (78 year old woman who dreams of a safer future for her grandchildren). Your day will be enriched for doing so.

Then join Cate Blanchett, Ben Stiller and millions more adding their names to this petition to send a clear message all governments to act with compassion, in solidarity and shared responsibility.

And on June 20th #WorldRefugeeDay, tell the world you stand #WithRefugees and #EmbraceRefugees.

Thank you!

Watch more at Refugee Day Stories
Learn more at Embrace Refugees
Be sure to sign the Refugee Day Petition

Quick Facts from UNHCR
Top photo by P. Biro/IRC

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Join In! Celebrate #FairTradeDay

World Fair Trade Day

May 13th is World Fair Trade Day. Around the globe, people are gathering to celebrate the principle of ethically made goods sold for a price that supports a living wage.

Take a moment and make some noise with #FairTradeDay and at WFTO on Facebook.

Imagine for a moment that you weave baskets, working daily to earn enough to put food on the table, send kids to school, and pay for medicine when needed. And you’re good at it… one of the best. Your baskets are amazing.

But somehow, no matter how hard you work, it’s just not enough. Traders come by once a week and pay you a pittance, barely more than the cost of the materials. Yet your baskets sell in distant markets for what seems an outrageous price.

Sometimes that’s simply the way it is. Shipping is crazy expensive, as is marketing, rent and packaging. It can cost a lot to get a product from maker to market, and everyone involved needs to earn a living too.

But often it’s simply unfair. Too little of the price consumers pay goes to the person who made a product. Too much goes to everyone else.

That is where fair trade comes in and is so important. Businesses and nonprofits that are Fair Trade Certified follow 10 principles that help ensure products are ethically made – a reasonable wage, safe workplace, gender equality, environmental sustainability, no child labor, and more.

World Fair Trade Day

We are a proud member of the World Fair Trade Organization, and believe that every single product offers the opportunity to do good. Not just avoid harm, but actually improve lives – help lift families out of poverty and clean up the environment.

If made the right way, everything we purchase can contribute to a better world. Is that far-fetched? We don’t think so. For the most part, it’s about the choices we make each day.

Sometimes the best option is too expensive, unavailable or simply not quite right. That’s OK. What is important is that we are thinking about our buying decisions and making an effort where and when we can. Switching to fair trade coffee, shopping at a fair trade store, choosing a t-shirt that was made in a fair trade certified factory.

And steering clear of the really bad stuff no matter what.

Together, we can make a big difference. Each of us can be an agent for change in a small way that cumulatively has a huge impact on the world.

World Fair Trade Day

So take a moment to celebrate World Fair Trade Day with us. Tweet, post, share a fun selfie, and by all means purchase something stamped with a fair trade logo!

#FairTradeDay    #AgentForChange  

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Beautiful Gifts with a Purpose for the Moms in Your Life

“Sometimes the strength of motherhood is greater than natural laws.” — Barbara Kingsolver

Mother. A simple word for such a pivotal role.

We’ve worked with mothers all around the world… skilled artisans carving stone and weaving baskets, entrepreneurial widows inspiring us with their strength and determination, and the candle-makers here in our studio who fled persecution and their beloved homes to build new lives here in the U.S.

What we see most evident is dedication – to improving themselves and their communities, to creating enterprises that can enable everyone involved to thrive, and to raising children to be educated and successful in realizing their dreams.

Money matters, but more often than not, it is not the only priority. From what we’ve observed, it’s also not the highest priority. As best as we can articulate, doing the right thing takes precedence over all else.

As Mother’s Day approaches and we talk about all the moms in our lives and the many women we’ve met in our travels, it’s that dedication and order of priorities that is the common thread. It is incredibly inspiring.

The idea that every day is Mother’s Day resonates because we all recognize the truth in this. Still, it’s nice to pick a special day to recognize and appreciate moms. We make candles handpoured by women who are not only former refugees but also mothers themselves, so of  course we think everyone should receive a Prosperity Candle. But whether you give a card, call or a special gift, we hope you’ll take a moment to celebrate the many moms in your life.

If you are of a mind to give a candle, here are our picks for Mother’ Day. Be sure to use gift code MOTHERSDAY5 for $5 off on orders of $25 or more, and order by Sunday, May 7th midnight for delivery for Mother’s Day.

Mother’s Day Picks

  • 1. For The Mom Who Needs A Spa Day: Pamper

All moms need a little time to relax and take care of themselves.

The Angel Face Botanicals is a wonderful combination of salts, herbs and natural essential oils, to soak in a bath.

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The fun matchbox bottle makes the process unique because perfection is in the details.

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The glow of warm candlelight of our Spring Washi Tea Tin burns for up to 15 hours, customizable in 8 fragrance options.

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  1. 2. For The Mom Who Loves To Garden: Garden State of Mind

Back to nature, back to earth, feeling renewed.

The Moon Valley Organics soothing lotion bar hydrates and restores skin. Choose from Coconut Lemon or Lavender.

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The light of our Liberte Pot burns for up to 25 hours. Once the candle is burned down, you can remove the wick at the bottom and use it to plant a favorite little surprise.

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The self-striking strip on the matchbox glass bottle makes it easy to light our beautiful candle!

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  1. 3. For the New Mom: Replenish Yourself

After long nights, new moms need to replenish themselves.

The Mullein & Sparrow’s Lavender Blossom Body Oil is formulated with the meditative and healing attributes of pure lavender oil from France.

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Formulary 55’s Sea Salt & Lavender Sparkling Bath Tablet fizzes when placed in warm water, for pure aromatherapy bliss.


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The light of our Washi Tea Tin candle burning for up to 18 hours, customizable in 3 fragrance options.

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  1. 4. For the Mom To Be: Spring Washi Tin

One of our customer favorites: the Washi Tea Tin candles! Now available in springtime colors to lighten up any room. Made from Japanese washi paper, they’re customizable in 8 fragrances and 3 colors and burns up to 15 hours.

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  1. 5. For the Mom Who Loves Flowers: Liberte Pot Candles

Because, honestly, who doesn’t? The Liberte Pot Candles are beautiful and fun, perfect for any room. And they look great with a small, flowering plant. Once your candle is burned down, remove the wick at the bottom, and use it to plant your favorite flowers. So perfect to repurpose, because this candle comes with a drainage hole and saucer.

Liberte Pot

Browse our full Mother’s Day Collection here. Order by Sunday, May 7th by midnight for on-time delivery for Mother’s Day.

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Celebrating The Moms In Our Lives

Mother's Day Gifts

“There’s no way to be a perfect mother and a million ways to be a good one.” – author Jill Churchill

If you ask everyone you know about the moms in their lives – sisters, friends, grandmas, aunts, daughters, cousins, colleagues… and of course, their own mothers – Jill Churchill’s often cited quote rings resoundingly true.

We actually tried this a few days ago, just to see what people in our own circles would say. The responses were surprisingly diverse, and still Churchill’s universal truth shined bright in every one.

Tough, yet loving.

Struggled with her own demons, but put her children first.

Critical of herself while so forgiving of others.

Unconditional support.

Approached even our worst moments with humor.

Encouraged our independence, and was heartbroken when we left.

Always a phone call away with “it’s okay, just be true to yourself.”

Mother's Day Gift

There really are a million ways to be a good mom.

We all kind of know this… that there is no such thing as a perfect anything. That’s not real life. There’s no perfect dad or sibling or friend. Or kid for that matter. Still, it’s nice to be reminded once in a while.

Every day we see there are so many good, caring people in the world. No matter any missteps along the way, they strive to do the right thing as often as possible. And that in itself is to be appreciated and celebrated as often as possible.

This unexpected reflection came about when we sat down last week to share thoughts about Mother’s Day and started talking about all the different moms in our lives and what we admire about them. It was easy to recognize the unique good in each one. That made us curious to hear what others thought, which led to emailing friends.

It also brought up the notion of the “perfect” mom, which we couldn’t help but Google. In all the writings we found that thoroughly debunked the idea, there was one short list of what really matters that we thought we’d share.

A good mom…

  • – is there when needed most
  • – teaches the importance of self-worth
  • – allows room to make mistakes and acknowledges her own
  • – instills the idea of living life to the fullest
  • – provides food, shelter and safety
  • – encourages us to love unconditionally
  • – sets a good example
  • – makes time for fun

There was also lots about hugs, patience, educating and being peed on, but we thought this simple list was refreshing.

Here’s to celebrating good moms everywhere.

#celebratemom    #mom    #motherslove   #motherhood

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Inspirational and Heartwarming: Weddings That Give Back Are The New Trend

“We can do no great things – only small things with great love.” — Mother Teresa

Often the best gifts are those that are both pretty and purposeful – bridesmaids’ gifts and wedding favors included.

So the frantic planning for wedding season has officially started! This is the perfect time to go completely cozy and chic; you want your ladies and guests to remember your special day fondly and thank them properly for their support.

April is wedding month at Prosperity Candle and we have a few creative, purposeful ideas for you. How about wedding favors that are not only beautiful, but also give back? Gifts that empower, inspire and bring light to the lives of others?

Save $95 all month long! We’ll waive the design fee during April for 100 custom candles or more at just $6 each. Get started here

Personalize Your Wedding: Wedding Favors and Centerpieces

Give your wedding an added special touch of light, beauty and purpose:

√ Personalize your candle favors with a unique design, selection of fragrances, and your favorite quotes. Each candle can be individually gift boxed with a message enclosed for your guests.

√ Accent your tables with a custom candle at each place setting, or arrange at the entrance as a unique welcome gift. Even better, use favors as a creative way to guide guests to their tables!

√ Fill the room with the light of soy blend candles handmade by the women artisans at our studio. Match your centerpieces and flower arrangements, share your message of thanks and joy. Over 100 fragrances to choose from, all made with essential oils. Or go fragrance-free.

The Power of Giving Back

More and more couples are choosing to make a positive impact in planning their weddings. Because as we all know, even the smallest action counts. And what a powerful way to begin your journey together.

Every Prosperity Candle is handmade by women artisans who are formerly refugees, each building brighter future for herself and her family in western Massachusetts after many years in a refugee camp.

Now you can join our effort to create positive change in the world: one candle, one woman, one wedding at a time.

Let us help you personalize your special day. Send us a message to find out more!

Custom wedding favor with impact Custom wedding favor with impact Custom wedding favor with impact Custom wedding favor with impact Custom wedding favor with impact

 

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Dignity, Respect & Equality for Women

International Women's Day

“Strong women lead to strong nations.”  – Zainab Salbi, founder of Women for Women International

We like to celebrate women every day – no matter where they are from or what religion they practice. But today is special. On March 8th each year, people around the world recognize the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women.

Today is International Women’s Day.

There are infinite reasons to celebrate women. But what strikes us as particularly noteworthy is the strength and resilience demonstrated by women to overcome sexism and inequity.

We have traveled throughout Africa, the Middle East, Asia and the Americas. To China, Russia, Afghanistan and India. Azerbaijan, Vietnam, Indonesia and Kenya. Haiti, Honduras, Argentina and Bolivia. Morocco, Lesotho, Uganda and Ethiopia. Eastern, Central and Western Europe. Mexico, Canada and all over the United States. Collectively, to over 50 countries.

Is there any place where we can honestly say women have equal opportunity?

There are certainly countries notorious for holding women and girls back, where they are denied education, representation and simple freedoms we take for granted like driving a car or taking a stroll down the street on your own. Many such places are known for much, much worse.

But nowhere does there exist a truly even playing field, whether in rural Pakistan where Malala bravely stood up to her oppressors or in the board rooms of American business. As much progress as has been made over the last century, this remains a stubborn truth.

Which is why it is so admirable when women around the world achieve success despite the additional obstacles they face. Aung San Suu Kyi is one example. Following decades of being obstructed and harassed by a military regime ruled by men, and being held under house arrest for 15 years, she has risen to political power in Myanmar (Burma) and stands as a powerful voice for democracy around the world.

Her courage and determination are unquestionably worth celebrating on this day.

Among the 10 values championed by International Women’s Day, the ones that especially speak to us are dignity, respect and equality. It’s surely a result of all that travel. Seeing and listening first-hand affects you more than reading about oppression… it changes your understanding, and your life.

There are many things we would like to see happen to create a more just world. Chief among them is recognizing the dignity, advancing the respect, and guaranteeing the equality of women. Equal opportunities for women and girls everywhere will help build a brighter future for all.

For videos, events, resources and more visit International Women’s Day, and carry the message of #BeBoldForChange throughout the year wherever you are.

And if you would like to purchase a candle handmade by a woman refugee that shares the values of International Women’s Day in a unique way, we will donate 10% to the Global Fund for Women supporting the rights of women and girls around the world through groups working to ensure that women everywhere can own property, vote, run for office, get paid fair wages, and live free from violence.

Thank you. Time to celebrate.

#BeBoldForChange   #CelebrateWomen

 International Women's Day

Top photo courtesy of The Boston Globe

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Refugees Welcome

refugees welcome proudly made by refugees

“Compassion is what keeps America great” was the title of this morning’s editorial in our local newspaper. It caught our eye.

Americans are a generous people. Across this country you see individuals and communities helping others in little and big ways. You read stories about acts of kindness and people feeling empathy for one another. This unites us, as it unites communities around the world.

Look at the outpouring of support from Americans at times of tragedy near and far. In the wake of Katrina and horror of 9/11, or devastation following Haiti’s 2010 earthquake or Indonesia’s 2004 tsunami. We reached into our wallets, jumped on a bus, organized relief, and cared for the displaced.

“This is just the type of thing to do – you do this for people,” says Nancy Flickinger, a member of a local church group. “They need all the help they can get.”

What is interesting is who she was talking about… a 56-year old Kurdish widow and her sons who have spent the past 2 years in a Turkish refugee camp. They are refugees from Iraq fleeing violence, hoping for the opportunity to build a new life in our town after their world had been torn apart.

For a few weeks it looked like this family of three might not make it to the U.S., despite a lengthy vetting process. But when the travel ban was blocked, they were cleared for resettlement and arrived last night to a welcome of 180 Americans who have all made a 5-year commitment to help with transportation, learning English, and acclimating to life in this country.

Americans are indeed a compassionate people, and that empathy makes us great.

Seven years ago someone who loaned us money to start Prosperity Candle pressed us to figure how we could have a local impact in addition to supporting widows in Baghdad. So we reached out to women refugees recently relocated nearby, and ever since are glad he nudged us in this direction.

Working side by side with refugees who fled persecution, lost their homes and livelihoods, endured endless hardships in refugee camps, and arrived here with little more than hope for a better life has been educational and inspiring, and has enriched our lives and community.

The story we tell is that we helped these foreign-born women, but in truth they have given much more in return. Every day in our candle studio we are grateful for their skill and attention to detail, their diligence and hard work, the constant improvements they make.

Mostly, though, we are we are grateful for their friendship. Compassion and caring go both ways.

#refugeeswelcome    #refugees

refugees welcome proudly made by refugees

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Compassion & Kindness

Prosperity Candle Compassion Refugees

“Here are the values that I stand for… honesty, equality, kindness, compassion, treating people the way you want to be treated, and helping those in need. To me, those are traditional values.” – Ellen DeGeneres

Our values, too. Especially compassion.

Compassion is what binds us together, not in pity, but as human beings who have learned how to turn our common suffering into hope for the future. Nelson Mandela said that.

We are a small candle studio in an old mill in a town with empty manufacturing buildings long since closed.

We provide living wage jobs to women refugees who have relocated from places of conflict to the U.S. through federal programs.

We don’t mind where they are from or what religion they practice.

For the past seven years, these new Americans and their families have enriched our lives in countless ways. We are proud and fortunate to work side-by-side with them.

We support Muslim women in Iraq, helping them perfect candle-making skills and earn a livelihood. We’ve shared meals, embraced their husbands and friends, and exchanged photos of our kids. We’ve told stories and laughed at each others’ jokes. We are equally frightened of terror and saddened by violence.

We are Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist and agnostic.

We all want the same thing… a safe place to live, enough food on the table, healthcare when needed, education for our children. Everyone seeks a brighter future for their loved ones.

As we look around and engage in the world, we feel a lot of things. Sometimes fear, often joy, occasionally sadness. But the strongest emotion is compassion.

Albert Schweitzer said “The purpose of human life is to serve, and to show compassion and the will to help others.”

That includes refugees.

#compassion #kindness #equality

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Change is OK. Hate is Not.

kindess compassion candle

My name is Kay. I was born in Burma, but spent most of my life in a refugee camp. My family is one of the minorities that the Myanmar military persecuted. Led by a succession of strongmen, they burned our homes and forced us to flee our country because we are not in the dominant ethnic group.

Hundreds of thousands of us sought asylum in Thailand, and although we were safer in the camps, conditions were very poor. We had few freedoms, limited opportunities for education or work, and little hope of returning to our villages and way of life.

I am one of the lucky ones, though.  I was in the refugee camps for 11 years when my application to relocate to the United States under UN and U.S. government programs was granted. To this day, I am immensely grateful to this country. For its humanity, its compassion, and its generosity.

There are many who have been in the camps for much longer, some close to 20 years. I ache for them because I know their despair. I understand their fears for their children who face discrimination and joblessness for their entire lives. I know what it is like to have no rights, no voice, no path out of poverty. The sense of hopelessness can be overwhelming, even with faith at your side.

kindess compassion candle

Here in the United States, I just voted for the first time in my 31 years. After 9 years of working and paying taxes, and weeks of studying the U.S. constitution and all of its amendments, I took a test and passed, then stood with hundreds of other new Americans and pledged my allegiance to this country. I was proud, emotional, and ready to accept not only the freedoms but also the responsibilities of citizenship.

The simple act of casting a vote so that your voice can be heard is extraordinary. I listened to the arguments, watched some of the debates, and talked with others. Then I made up my mind, registered, and voted. I did what so many around the world admire about America – participated in a democratic process to elect our leaders. Without tanks rolling, thugs in my home, or laws blocking me. Mine was only one vote among many millions, but as Aung San Suu Kyi said, “even one voice can be heard loudly all over the world.” I believe she is right.

The next day I was disappointed. The candidate I voted for did not win, but that is not what saddened me most. Only 55% of those who could vote did. Almost half gave up a privilege that a judge had just told me was the most important I would ever exercise as an American.

The electoral college is a mystery to me, no matter how many times it is explained. Apparently it determines who becomes president even when a majority want someone else. And if I understand correctly, the outcome might have been different if more people had gone to the polls.

On the cliffs near where I live and work, anti-black and anti-Jewish graffiti has appeared along with demeaning words about women. I know this is not who we are, whether your family immigrated here 200 years ago or more recently. Americans are a decent people, with compassion and kindness for our neighbors and those less fortunate around the world.

Some say this election was a rebellion and a demand for change. As a Burmese woman, I understand that. My brothers and sisters are fighting for the same right now. But let’s be careful it doesn’t become something much darker, fueled by hate and cruelty. I’ve lived that as well.

#kindness #compassion #peace #gratitude

Burmese Candle compassion kindness

Burmese Candle in Peace, Joy, Compassion, Kindness and Gratitude scents. Handpoured by Burmese women in Prosperity Candle’s studio, Easthampton, MA

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There is no one named Kay at Prosperity Candle, yet she exists. Hers is the combined voices of the women refugees who work at this small social enterprise, as well as its founders, and the many who embrace our values and commitment to the greater good for this country, the planet, and everyone seeking a brighter future for themselves and their families. Kay’s story and opinions are common to all the refugees here. Thank you for hearing their voices.

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