INH: Tell us about Heavenly Treasures.
KATHY: Our mission is to equip and assist people in developing countries to break the cycle of poverty through their handiwork and creativity. We focus on handicraft projects that develop a micro enterprise, leading them towards self-sufficiency. These are very small enterprises, ranging from one refugee family to a group of village women, all in need of a consistent income.
Our goal is to help subsidize existing Livelihood Projects by assisting with business and product development, local marketing strategies, spiritual guidance, and international marketing. Heavenly Treasures is a member of the Fair Trade Federation and helps groups aligned with Fair Trade guidelines.
Our network consists of 50+ micro enterprise livelihood projects in 14 countries. Participants request help with developing more marketable products and we help them with “access to markets”. We are field based in our efforts and we visit clients of micro finance institutions and neighborhood co-ops in their homes and tiny workshops.
Investing in people who have the desire to see their lives change is exciting “business”. We are mission focused — Heavenly Treasures are people, not products. We network with those who can consistently develop relationships with the participants and have their own network to build the kingdom of God.
100% of our sales proceeds are reinvested back into the livelihood projects. These funds are used to ensure an ongoing market and source of income. When possible, funds are designated for special needs, seminars, and equipment.
INH: How did Heavenly Treasures start?
KATHY: In July 1996, I served on a short-term team to Tanzania, Africa, where God broke my heart for the poor. Team Leader and ELI founder Don Rogers challenged me to think of a way to help the women there with a business. The local women had been given five idle treadle sewing machines, and I had an idea to make drawstring bags out of local fabrics. After a few hours of instruction, the excited women began sewing during sunset by candlelight. In two days, they had 300 bags! The desire to have some form of income was a high priority to them and the hope they received from their hard work was an amazing experience.
When leaving the village of Igoma, the image of a woman running after the vehicle with the items she had made all night long became a life-changing event that still conjures up tears for me. I realized that not only is teaching others about a relationship with Jesus Christ our responsibility, but also “teaching people to fish” with skills that could change their lives.
Previous career experience in retail merchandising over the past 30+ years served to equip us with the skills needed to help others. With a desire to serve God, after visiting various missionaries, “field” missions, and conducting research, I saw an urgent and great need. My vision was to serve the poor through economic, income producing projects, Livelihood Projects, and to partner with those who had the same heart and desire. Livelihood Projects are effective vehicles to help the impoverished break the cycle of poverty.
God’s purpose and plan for helping the poor is very real. Working together to bring economic and spiritual transformation is a passion at the center of Heavenly Treasures’ mission. Answering the call to fulltime ministry required the entire Gaulton family to change their values and lifestyle. Realigning debt, selling cars, and moving to a small home were a part of that change. I developed Heavenly Treasures for five years and then left corporate America ten years ago.
Heavenly Treasures is founded upon Matthew 6:19-21: 19 Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (NIV)
INH: How does Heavenly Treasures help get these artisans off the ground and into self-sustainability?
KATHY: Heavenly Treasures partners with Christian ministries and charitable organizations to help micro enterprises. We research and develop specific market opportunities for product distribution, work with national leaders on local and international business development, import products, and provide micro-loan opportunities through partnering MFI groups. We develop and send short term teams to support those in fulltime ministry, as well as offer opportunities for ordinary people to use their gifts and abilities to help the poor and oppressed.
The key way we help artisans is to provide access to market for products that meet Western standards of quality and marketability. We provide product development expertise and business skill coaching. When an artisan receives an order, we provide a deposit of 50% of the total cost of the order (trade financing). Once the products are completed, our country coordinators help the artisan with packing, documentation, and shipping. Upon completion, we provide the balance of the funds for the products. We partner with churches all over America to sell them.
INH: Heavenly Treasures gives an outlet and avenue for empowerment on a material level. Along with that, do you also see an emotional shift (such as changes in self-esteem, confidence, and self-identity) for participants as well?
KATHY: The most important emotional shift in their lives is that they feel they have value, and an ability that was hidden or went unrecognized. Without exception, their changed lives include hope in a God that loves them and provides a way out of poverty through their own efforts.
They are encouraged to help others around them that are in desperate need. Many have hearts that have been changed to not only provide for themselves, but to share their new found value by taking in orphans, providing for at least ten other family members, and teaching others to learn the skills that they possess.
The overall mission of Heavenly Treasures is to bring people into a loving relationship with Jesus Christ. Once they know that we are helping them because of being called by God to do so, most groups and individuals experience a newfound faith in a living God! In every country, we have partners that encourage and help with spiritual development. It is not a requirement to believe or be called a Christian. We find that the majority of our artisans are drawn closer to God and want to know about what we believe!
INH: Geographically, what areas do you currently work in?
KATHY: Currently, Heavenly Treasures partners with artisans in 14 countries: China, Thailand, Cambodia, Philippines, Kenya, Ethiopia, Tanzania, South Africa, Turkey, Guatemala, India, Uganda, Bolivia, and Laos.
Our strategy is to expand work in the countries that we are currently serving. We plan to be in countries where partner organizations are developing and test marketing has shown promising results, both economically and spiritually.
INH: How have you personally seen Heavenly Treasures impact someone’s life?
KATHY: In July, I visited a sewing group in Kenya. They had become community and church leaders who progressed in animal husbandry, agriculture development, and adopting orphans. These women were once alcohol brewers, unemployed, and subject to abuse. They are now recruiting others to help them with large orders from Heavenly Treasures for the World Vision Donor Catalog.
In addition to their economic growth, they have grown spiritually. They were an encouragement to me as they testified of praying when I underwent surgery for breast cancer earlier this year. Their faith and personal growth has been reflected in all areas of their lives. This group went from 25 participants to over 60, affecting 600 changed lives!
INH: What’s the long-term goal of Heavenly Treasures, and what would you like to see?
KATHY: We would like to see our mission accomplished in as many countries as possible! We want to broaden and find new distribution opportunities, including retail stores, large church partners, and increase our impact on reducing the gap between the impoverished developing countries and the wealth of the Western world.
INH: How can people get involved if they would like to contribute and/or join?
KATHY: Purchase a fair trade product in our retail store, online, or at a gift fair. Partner through a gift fair. Donate financially to Heavenly Treasures to help us grow and help more people! Pray and join our prayer shield; request our prayer card!