A faith-based organization is making waves in the world of style and fashion, but with a purpose that goes far beyond aesthetics. Mission Lazarus is an organization dedicated to individual, family community, and economic development in Honduras and Haiti. While they have a strong presence in the heart of Nashville, the true magic of Lazarus lies in the hands of the artisans from the countries they serve.
Mission Lazarus has several programs dedicated to educating and economically uplifting individuals in Haiti and Honduras such as schools, health care centers, ranches and even a coffee farm. One of their programs, Lazarus Artisan Goods, is the epitome of the organization's mission to empower individuals through education and vocational training. With a focus on producing high-quality leather goods, this social enterprise has not only transformed the lives of its artisans but has also impacted the communities they come from.
According to Francesc Pedró, director of the UNESCO Institute of Higher Education for Latin America and the Caribbean, only about 19% of people in Honduras have a college education. Even having a college degree is no guarantee of a high-paying job.
In Honduras, women are unlikely to finish high school. Those who do complete secondary education often don’t find jobs that will allow them to support their families. Mission Lazarus provides artisan training opportunities to women and men and offers their graduates not only a high school degree but also jobs that pay a better than fair wage, relative to the economy of Honduras.
At the core of Lazarus Artisan Goods are the artisans themselves. These skilled individuals, hailing from the local communities in Honduras, undergo rigorous training to craft exquisite leather products. Under the guidance of experienced mentors, they learn the art of leather crafting, from hand-stitching to intricate detailing, transforming raw materials into works of art.
When Mission Lazarus Founder and President Jarrod Brown met Juventina in Honduras, she was the only girl in her sixth-grade class who wasn’t pregnant or already a mother. Juventina was offered the opportunity to go through the vocational training program in the Lazarus Artisan Goods leather shop and became the first person in her family to graduate from high school. She now earns a premium wage and was able to build a small house.
“My life has been very different,” says Juventina, “because I have been able to learn this profession, which has been very useful for me and my family.”
Purchasing products from Lazarus Artisan Goods is more than just a style statement. It is an investment in the lives of these artisans and the communities they represent. By providing vocational training and sustainable employment opportunities, Mission Lazarus creates a positive ripple effect for families and local neighborhoods.
“We have to ask ourselves if our programs are a sustainable investment,” says Jarrod. “We are investing in people so that they can transform their communities from the inside out, rather than continually trying to bring help in.”
Phil Smith, the COO of Mission Lazarus who lives nearby and attends church in Mason, started as a volunteer in Haiti. Phil witnessed the struggles faced by communities firsthand, and the challenges of nonprofit organizations. His experiences inspired him to join the board of Mission Lazarus and eventually assume the role of COO, following his retirement from a Fortune 50 company after 32 years. He emphasized their high standards of excellence, including those within their business practices as his inspiration for joining the organization.
“I got to know Jarrod in Haiti. The practices he brought over from his work in Honduras on measurements, accountability and transparency rang true to me. Those were the same practices we used at the company where I had worked every day. Those are things Mission Lazarus did just as second nature,” explains Phil.
The success of Lazarus Artisan Goods goes beyond sales figures. Each purchase is a step towards empowering individuals, fostering economic development and promoting sustainable change. And of course, the products are great. Their best seller is the Cecilia Tote. The large size and four internal pockets make this gorgeous bag perfect for holding your laptop, notebook and all other essential items. And because the quality of handcrafted leather is so fine, not only will this bag last for years, it gets better with age.
“The leather goods that we have are phenomenal and the quality is impeccable,” says Phil. “When you know the story behind them, it is even more meaningful.”
Follow Mission Lazarus on the path to style with a purpose. They lead the way one beautifully crafted leather piece at a time. Lazarus Artisan Goods are available at boutiques across the United States, as well as directly from their online shop at LazarusArtisanGoods.com. MissionLazarus.org