Looking Through the Lens of Women Trapped in Poverty, Trafficking, and Abuse.
A great leader is one who follows their greater calling, even if they don’t know exactly where it will lead.
Upon graduating from undergrad, Adisyn Pyles envisioned moving to French-speaking Africa and focusing on community development after graduating college. With this mission in mind, she began applying for work with nonprofits and social enterprises, but her lack of overseas experience made it difficult to find the right fit. It was her decision to spend a gap year in Asia learning Mandarin and volunteering that set the stage for Freeleaf to become a reality.
Her volunteer work in Asia gave Adisyn a new perspective, and introduced her to a local woman named JiaYi. The two of them shared a passion for coming alongside women in need, and quickly realized that they were being called to serve previously exploited and abused women in their city.
“When women are poor and lack educational or economic opportunities, they often find themselves vulnerable to abuse and/or exploitation,” according to Adisyn. For these women to heal and move forward in a sustainable way, Adisyn and JaiYi knew that they needed to create a safe place for women to earn a living wage, and have the opportunity thrive both professionally and personally.
Hand Knotted, Fair Trade Products for a Sustainable Future
Knotting is an ancient art-form that has been practiced in China & all over Asia for centuries. In addition to tying knots for functional purposes, knots have been used to show elegance and express blessings, which is a sentiment we are continually inspired by to this day, so it felt like a natural place to begin our product line.
The process of knotting can be quite messy as a single strand of rope is molded to become something beautiful. With patience and dedication, the knot slowly begins to come forth and eventually you’re left with a stunning product. We find that this process so often mirrors our lives—if we’re willing to be patient and keep walking through the messiness or chaos of whatever’s going on around us, beauty will always emerge.
Empowering women every step of the way
We met the woman who would later become our first staff in 2015. She now says that when we met her, she was at her most depressed and disappointed moment with no idea what she was going to do in the future. Together, we fumbled through learning how to make our first product, which was a jute oval rug. Quickly, we realized that she was far better than either of us at creating beauty with her hands.
Over the last 6 years, Lin has been able to develop both her artistry and her management skills and she is now Freeleaf’s production manager and primary designer. We’ve seen her become a mom and make incredibly brave choices to set healthy boundaries and leave environments of abuse. In her own words, she describes that “before Freeleaf, my life was so dark, but today it is full of color and hope for the future.” She frequently shares her story to encourage all of our new staff in their journey.
By walking alongside her as a staff and as a friend, we have come to believe in our mission even more deeply than ever before.