“[I] really felt called to be working where nobody was working and really felt specifically called to Rwanda,” Wiley said.
Initially, Wiley planned to build homes for women who had been affected by the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi, and she raised money to build 10 homes for local women.
But Wiley’s focus soon shifted to providing women with ways to earn a consistent income by creating natural yarn made completely by women employed by the organization.
The nonprofit organization now partners with churches, organizations and leadership in northern Rwanda to provide more than 200 women with sustainable employment, community and spiritual counsel. More than 500 individuals receive education, health care, nutrition and housing through the organization.
Handspun Hope owns a sheep farm in Rwanda where local women create yarn with organic wool and dyes and have access to supportive resources, financial training and more, Operations Director Carly Oosten said.
Research conducted in surrounding regions suggest access to sustainable employment and support are integral in building strong communities, Oosten said.
“Once women are empowered and they thrive, whole communities thrive,” Oosten said. “So from this office, we help kind of oversee and guide our Rwandan team. They're entirely Rwandan led there on the ground, but we help kind of guide and oversee that, as well as production needs for all of our different wholesale customers.”
In addition to operating the farm, Handspun Hope hosts lay counselor training for local leaders to learn how to offer trauma counseling to members of their community. Since 2013, more than 200 individuals have received counseling training.
In early 2020, the organization relocated its headquarters and showroom from San Marcos to New Braunfels and continued selling products online and to wholesale and boutique businesses around the country.
Wiley and her team briefly opened the showroom in New Braunfels but closed temporarily due to the coronavirus pandemic.
On March 23, Handspun Hope reopened its showroom in New Braunfels at 647 S. Seguin Ave. after temporarily closing the storefront.
The storefront sells fair trade gifts, clothing, home goods and more made by the women employed by Handspun Hope as well as other artisans from the region.
“Every single one of our vendors that we work with has been vetted by the Fair Trade [Federation] that we paid fair wages, and we're really committed to honoring and serving the different artisan groups that we work with,” Oosten said. “Ultimately, it goes to support the livelihoods of our women and then also our artists and partners that we work with in East Africa.”
Wiley said that as the organization has grown, she is grateful for how God has provided opportunities to learn and ways to provide wholistic care for the women working at Handspun Hope.
“It's not something that I would ever, like, take credit for,” Wiley said. “It's something that God's done and how God has brought different people with different knowledge to make things happen.”
The showroom is open weekdays from 9:30 a.m.-6 p.m., or customers can shop online and learn more about the organization at www.handspunhope.org.