Buying a Handbag and Lending a Hand

Photo Credit: The Free Lance-Star Purses made by Honduran women out of snack bags are on sale at the UMW Bookstore.

Visit the UMW Bookstore to find out more about the handbags. They're simply made, sturdy and colorful. But the "eco-clutch" handbags for sale at the University of Mary Washington bookstore are much more than fashion accessories. They are one small step out of poverty for women in Siete de Abril, a wretchedly poor village in Honduras. Thanks to the bookstore and an enterprising group of UMW students, their professor and volunteers, the women are joining the ranks of Third World entrepreneurs. It began with Rachel Mason, a UMW senior who journeyed to the Central American nation last year with Students Helping Honduras, a relief agency founded at UMW. While visiting Siete de Abril, which means 7th of April, Mason taught some of the villagers to make clutches out of recycled potato chip bags and soda labels. The women then began selling them to SHH volunteers to buy food and medicine. At that same time, Shawn Humphrey, a UMW assistant professor of economics, was working with … [Read more...]