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January 25, 2021 42 min

Tamara Woodruff Bio:

Tamara is a self proclaimed Justice Warrior, who is, admittedly, still learning what that means. She spent 7 years on active duty with the Navy as a Surface Warfare Officer (plus a few more as a Naval Reservist). She’s now a Navy spouse who has lived all over the U.S. from Virginia to Rhode Island, Hawaii, Florida, Washington state, and Washington DC. She is currently living in the UK with her husband and two hilarious red headed sons. Her life is a constant series of transitions and she says she is absolutely terrible with change. She is an introvert, an enneagram 9, and a master of self doubt. A late adopter who is late to every party - but still somehow manages to be the life of it. She enjoys traveling, sitting on the couch doing nothing, and telling stories that make you laugh at her utter ridiculousness. She became a Compassionate Entrepreneur with Trades of Hope almost 5 years ago and it flipped everything she knew right on its ear. It’s been a journey that has challenged her faith (or maybe just her religion), and her thinking, and her view of herself. The work she does with Trades of Hope feeds her soul, stretches her mind, and connects her with women all over the world. It also ensures that she is surrounded (at least electronically) by other women who spur her on to bigger things - which keeps her from spending too much time sitting on the couch doing nothing.

You can connect with Tamara on Instagram or facebook

Support Tamara's work with Trades of Hope!

We begin with a check-in Tamara: she said things are weird in the UK—back in lockdown 3.0, a new strain of covid, people working from home, closures... She is missing out of Christmas in London as well as many other holiday events. But she says that they are doing okay.

Tamara almost doesn’t remember what it was like to be a naval officer. It was the place that laid the ground work for her work with Trades of Hope; The Navy was the first place she heard the words “human trafficking.” Every year they had a training on how to recognize the signs of human trafficking, this is before she knew why it should matter to her. The Navy also exposed her to a lot different places and cultures around the world and even within the US as the Navy is “a fabulous mixing pot.”

Maggie first met Tamara over five years ago while the Woodruffs were stationed in Washington State. It was also right at the beginning of Tamara’s work with Trades of Hope. Tamara had learned about TOH from someone at previous station and was just in the transition of moving to Washington when she was asked to host a party. Having just moved she was not in good place to host and didn’t know many people; she ended up "chickening out" and hosting Facebook party instead. This was before we all were hosting facebooks parties (due to covid). For her it was an awakening! Back then in 2015, TOH had artisans in 15 countries. Through that party she connected with a friend in Florida who had just returned from a prayer walk through the red light district in Mumbai, India, one of the largest red light districts in the world. Tamara had previously held many ideas of how women ended up in brothels up until this moment but what her friend told her changed her world. He told her the women in the red light district because they had been tricked. They usually came from large families in desperately improvised communities around India and Pakistan where they didn’t have enough resources to feed themselves. Someone would come into these regions and tell these families that they had an amazing opportunity for them; “I’m going to take your oldest daughter into Mumbai. I’m going to give her a job. I’m going to provide room and board. And she’s going to be able to send that paycheck home.” Then the girls were taken, literally locked in cages in the red light district doing things “I don’t even want to try to envision.” Tamara said it was the first time she saw the connection between the desperate poverty in the world and how women end up being exploited.

Trades of Hope was founded ten years ago for the sole purpose of providing employment for women so they are no longer vulnerable to being trafficked and exploited. That first party back in 2015 was her wake up call: “This is really happening. AND there is something I can do about it.”

Maggie said she appreciated that Tamara was not deterred with how big the problem was—that though she could not solve the whole problem for all women everywhere, she could make a difference. It was a small start  that began to grow. Now Tamara has over $100,000 in sales.

Tamara says, “My only regret is that I didn’t try harder sooner.” For her it has always been "a starfish story" - Someone walking along the beach asking “why are you throwing those starfish in the water, you’re never going to save them all?” And the answer is, “But to this one that I threw back in the ocean, it matters.”

"2020 was the year we all pivoted and tried new things... we got desperate." It’s not what we hoped it would be, but it’s been a good year for Trades of Hope. The artisans have a small margin of being able to survive; It is life and death for them right now.

Tamara didn’t pivot immediately. When covid first hit she sat on the couch, she didn’t know what to do (like most of us). When they moved to the UK she thought she was taking a sabbatical from her Trades Of Hope business… she thought she was going to travel around, explore and put her business on the back burner. But when covid happened, everything slowed down or shut down and then moved online. Tamara already had all the tools and resources for a completely online business since she had been hosting virtual parties for five years. It was the same model always used but she was newly committed and now (thanks to covid) she had extra time to share these women’s stories.

"People were so receptive." At first she thought it was a terrible time to try to sell something. “Who wants to buy earrings right now?” But it turned out there were still enough people who had an income and cared about this life saving work.

Even the artisans were able to pivot; They have learned to make beautiful masks which are now being sold. Sustainability for the artisans has always been a top priority for TOH. They’ve scheduled their orders in small batches, rather than two big orders a years because their artisans need money more than just twice a year. When covid hit they moved to releasing a new product every Tuesday as a way to continue to provide a steady and predictable source of income for their artisans. And all the TOH parties work for give back incentives including medical kits, solar kits, fresh water, animals…

Danielle noted how these are empowering and generous gifts that are not restricting access to what they need, which can often happen with “colonial style giving.” Tamara said that Trades of Hope has always supported the idea that dignified sustainable employment is always better than charity. The goal is to empower people and end poverty.

Tamara mentioned the documentary Poverty Inc - which is about empowering people out of poverty rather than making them dependent on charity.

Tamara talked about her experience traveling to visit their artisans in Haiti (In 2016 TOH had two main groups of artisans in Haiti as well as a school and orphanage that they supported). There was a moment when the artisans and the compassion partners were sitting together rolling beads when she realized: "I can’t work if she doesn’t work. She can’t work if I don’t work. I want to provide for my kids just like she wants to provide her family. We would not have been able to do it from either side alone, we had to work together.”

Fanm Djanm is the Haitian Rosie the Riveter. It’s this idea that a Haitian woman can and will handle her own business.  One translation is “badass boss lady.” The Haitians don’t doubt their ability, but having the resources is completely different.

Tamara’s new goal is to be more consistent with her work. She says her artisan sisters deserve for her work and get off the couch so they can work too.

Tamara is reading: “A Women Firsts” by Edna Adan Ismail

Tamara is listening to Spotify Tony Robbins “Release the Power within” playlist

Tamara is inspired by the 2020 pivot—people, businesses and churches changing and innovating in this crazy covid time. People are finding a way.

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