This month marks 9 years – nine! – since the idea of empowering women in places of conflict through candle-making first took shape over a cannoli in a pastry shop in Northampton, MA. As 2017 winds down and we reflect on the journey so far, we are feeling an overwhelming sense of gratitude.
It hasn’t been the easiest path. Prosperity Candle was conceived in 2008 as the financial meltdown was growing here and spreading across the world. The economy was teetering, conflict in Iraq was never-ending, and few people were supportive our idea.
Amber, Siiri and Ted had worked for years with women artisans in Afghanistan, Rwanda, Sudan and Kosovo – all places of conflict. They saw how the long shadow of war placed an especially heavy burden on women who were the least likely to receive economic support.
So they decided to do something about it. But it had have the potential to change a life for the long-term, to help someone create a brighter future for herself. Beyond charity, it needed to invest in women as entrepreneurs to enable them to not just survive, but truly thrive.
Our founders sought deep and lasting impact, and to foster independence that could have a ripple effect across a community. After much searching and a few bad ideas, it turned out that candles and candle-making were perfect for what they wanted to do.
The journey from that pastry shop to today has many twists and turns, and a few moments of doubt. If you’re curious, read The Full Story.
The short version is that we overcame a bunch of challenges, and today the vision of creating economic opportunities for women extends to refugees here in Western Massachusetts. We are incredibly honored to work with these resilient individuals, mostly from Burma where they endured suffering and loss as they fled for their lives.
Like Ma Kaing who joined our candle-making team a few weeks ago. She came to the U.S. through UN and federal resettlement programs after living for more than 10 years in a refugee camp. With her brother and parents, she was forced out of her home and village by a military regime, leaving behind everything she knew and cherished.
Life in the refugee camp was safe, but hard. Ma Kaing took care of her parents, forgoing an education and spending most of her time growing food. When she and her husband arrived in the U.S., they had one wish: that their children go to school and receive the education they had been denied.
At age 36, making candles is Ma Kaing’s first job. Last week, she received her first paycheck.
Prosperity Candle’s studio is a small but happy space in a repurposed mill building that once housed Stanley Home Products, maker of brushes and cleaners. With wood floors and 12-foot tall windows that look out to a mountainside, it’s a beautiful place to work.
But what makes it special is the sound of laughter… women artisans pouring and packaging candles, sharing in their own languages, celebrating the everyday joys of life. They are a continual inspiration to us. The hardships they have faced and overcome are beyond our imagining, yet here they are making one another laugh.
As we prepare to enter our 10th year, we would like to express our gratitude to you for helping to make this social enterprise possible. Your purchase of candles and gifts, and sharing Prosperity Candle’s story, is the reason we are here today and still growing our impact. You are the reason we could give Ma Kaing a living wage job.
Here is the impact you have supported:
From all of us here in the studio, a huge thank you for helping spread light far beyond your homes. And an equally big thank you to our partners, new and old, who support our mission. We are continually energized by your work, and by the many other social enterprises helping to solve problems and create a more equitable world.
To everyone who has been there along the way, lifting us up when times were tough and celebrating the milestones, you are truly the best.
Here’s to doing all we can to create a brighter future for everyone, everywhere.