“My past doesn’t define who I am today.”


She sits across from Hayley and I every other Tuesday night, as we share a meal during the EnCompass mentoring program and catch-up on life. You can bet we’ll go back for seconds, sometimes thirds, and we always save room for dessert. She usually keeps quiet when everyone shares their “highs and lows;” she’s not one to draw attention to herself in a group. We keep our phones off during our time together, but sometimes her screensaver lights up and I see the familiar picture of her and her son, Axel, as she snuggles him close.

Amanda was introduced to drugs at a time most girls were studying for a fifth-grade English test or coming home from dance class. “Family,” she said, “and cousins.” More than that, she doesn’t say.

She was one of three children - now, she’s one of two. Four years ago, her sister passed away, and this only deepened her addiction. Six months after her sister’s funeral, she found herself staring at a close friend’s casket, another victim to overdose. She realized she was staring at her future.

For five weeks, she called the rehab center every day.

She was persistent in seeking help, “I wanted it. I didn’t want to do it anymore. I was tired of living that life.”

When they had an opening, she joined the one-and-a-half year program.

“The hardest thing about rehab,” she said, “Was not doing what I wanted to do. I had a problem with authority. Yes, I do think it humbled me. I realized there are guidelines for a reason. I still live by those rules that I learned.”

She met her close friend Jessica in rehab. “I thought she was funny,” Amanda said. She laughs so hard as she tells us a story about Jessica, who one day decided to wear sunglasses, despite the leaders telling her to take them off. Finally, she removed them and started stomping on them, yelling, “If I can’t have them, no one can!”

When Amanda moved out of rehab she had a difficult time finding a safe place to live. At the first location, men would proposition her as she walked to the bus stop. She stayed here for three months before relocating. Her second location was better, but it forced her to be out of the house during the day and took her cell phone. She didn’t have a job so she would go from bus stop to bus stop, filling time.

When she was accepted into Amethyst Place, they provided her with resources to get a job and start school. When she even moved into one of their fully-furnished apartments, she was given the beautiful gift of privacy. “I had my own space, my own apartment, just for Axel and I,” she said.

Amanda has since graduated with her GED, and is pursuing a nursing program with Penn Valley. She is looking forward to pursuing sewing to help support her during the meantime. “I like the people, and I like learning on the machines.”

By Grace sponsored the costs for Amanda to learn at the MADI Makes seamstress program, started by non-profit MADI Donations in partnership with Hope Faith Ministries. Once Amanda graduates the MADI Makes program, she’ll be offered a job sewing for MADI Apparel, founded by Hayley Besheer Santell.

Hayley says, “Our goal is to be flexible. If the women need to pick up their kids or take them to school, they can do that. We want them to be able to use the money they earn to save up for their next big step - whether that’s a new apartment, childcare or something else that betters their life.”

Amanda says that one day she dreams of owning a house, having a good job and most of all - being financially stable. She says she wants Axel to be in a good school, and to set him up for a lifestyle that keeps him away from the things she was exposed to at such a young age.

Amanda is a mom of six, although Axel is the only child that remains in her care. He is the only child she gave birth to in sobriety. The other five were removed from her care as a result of addiction.

“My past doesn’t define who I am today,” she said, as sadness starts to well in her eyes. She says these words boldly, filling the room with her strength. “What gives me hope is that one day, my kids will come looking for me, and I can be something they would be proud of.”

Amanda with her first completed garment!

Amanda with her first completed garment!

Images of the impact  MADI Apparel  has made with their impactful intimates line and through their non-profit arm MADI Donations. MADI donates a pair of intimates for every item sold, as these are the most under-donated items at homeless shelters. MADI donates in the U.S. and abroad.

Images of the impact MADI Apparel has made with their impactful intimates line and through their non-profit arm MADI Donations. MADI donates a pair of intimates for every item sold, as these are the most under-donated items at homeless shelters. MADI donates in the U.S. and abroad.

The women learn to cut fabric, sew on an industrial machine and finish with a serger.

The women learn to cut fabric, sew on an industrial machine and finish with a serger.

Miranda instructing the MADI Makes class at Hope Faith Ministries.

Miranda instructing the MADI Makes class at Hope Faith Ministries.

Hayley and I at the MADI Makes program!

Hayley and I at the MADI Makes program!

Hayley, Andrescia and I at the MADI Makes seamstress program at Hope Faith Ministries. Andrescia is a recent graduate of the MADI Makes program.

Hayley, Andrescia and I at the MADI Makes seamstress program at Hope Faith Ministries. Andrescia is a recent graduate of the MADI Makes program.

Meet Our Intern: Arianna Taralson


Where did you grow up, and how do you think that shaped you? I was born and raised in Sioux Falls, SD. I think growing up in a big city that feels like a small town really taught me the value of people and finding community with one another. I grew up in a wonderful Jesus-loving home with family members I truly do not deserve. The family I have and the city I grew up in allowed me to find beauty in small places, seek joy in the difficult seasons, and find God in every single human I encounter.

One day, my dream is to be...an author and a photographer. I would also love to do some sort of traveling, speaking to young girls, and sharing the love + goodness of Jesus I’ve been blessed to experience firsthand.

Tell me about what you feel God speaking over your 2019. Do you have a word for the year, or how do you feel God is encouraging you for this upcoming year? I most definitely have a word I feel God is speaking over me this year and it is STRENGTH. Ever since I began college, anxiety and depression have been something I have struggled with constantly. Both have affected my everyday life along with sending my health into a downwards spiral. I’ve always lacked the strength I needed and could never see the light at the end of the tunnel — I thought of giving up several times. But God !!! He has brought me through over and over, and here I am in my final semester of college. HE is my strength and the only One I am capable of doing anything through! I currently have a key necklace around my neck with the word STRENGTH to remind me of these very things. He is TOO good !!

I am passionate about...Jesus, writing, photography, people, sunsets, horses and hearing someone’s story. (Also passionate about sweet potato fries, elderly people, wildflowers and the sound of banjos!)

I’m interning with By Grace because...I absolutely love their mission in partnering with women from all over the world not only to create, but also getting to build relationships with those very women. What an honorable thing to be apart of in which I get to experience a front row seat to it all and even get the ability to serve alongside such a wonderful organization.

Tell me about a time where a friend did something or showed love to you in an impactful way. A time a friend has showed love towards me would definitely be the past three and a half years living with my college roommate. Her name is Emily and she has showed more grace, love and patience towards me in my anxious to the brim moments than I knew was possible. She always pointed me back to relying on God and I needed that more than I realized.

What does "women for women" mean to you? For me it means uniting together with women while approaching them (and life) with a love so radical, so deep, and so reflective of the great love God has for us. I think it means serving, laughing and crying with one another, side by side. 

2018 Year in Review


As we reflect upon 2018, we are filled with gratitude! Your support has propelled our mission and programs to partner with and serve more than 44 women this year. These women are capable, talented individuals, coming from backgrounds that afforded them little support, training or resources for success. With your help, By Grace is helping to elevate them above their current circumstances and out of generational poverty.

A few highlights:

  • We opened our first brick-and-mortar vocational training institute in Tamale, Ghana. In this building, we sponsored the training of 12 apprentices. These young women, all coming from backgrounds of generational poverty, did not otherwise have the means to afford the training fees or sewing machine/supplies. Through a sponsored three-year training course that will equip them with the necessary skills, materials and certifications to succeed in the marketplace, they are becoming entrepreneurs and self-sufficient providers for themselves, their children and their families.

  • We were awarded the Young Leaders of the Americas Reverse Exchange Grant. We mentored Nayleen Quintero, of Sante Cutarras, then partnered with her to launch our first workshop in Las Tablas, Panama. Here we taught two girls how to make cutarras (leather sandals), making them the first women trained in this ancient tradition.

  • We worked with eight women on the Rosebud Native American Reservation, providing 1,000+ hours of employment that were completed in a safe environment and compensated with fair wages. With the beautiful beading and handiwork of these artisans, we launched our most successful product line yet: the Rosebud Collection. This allows us to continue reinvesting in the communities that inspired our sellable goods.

  • We offered three paid internships and one-on-one mentorship to female college students in Kansas City and Los Angeles, helping to nurture the hearts and skill-sets of future entrepreneurs and change makers.

Extraordinary things are happening every day at By Grace, and they wouldn’t be possible without you. Thank you for your support!

Gratefully yours,

Emily Grace Kolega and Kelsey Carlstedt

Executive Directors, By Grace

Women For Women Event


Images captured by Tara Shupe Photography

We collaborated with some local female-founded businesses and incredible volunteers so that the hard-working moms of Amethyst Place could have a special night of free shopping. Each mom received a shopping bag filled with brand new items donated from local companies, while enjoying treats and having fun with the photo booth.

Every volunteer brought their skills to help the women:

  • MADI Apparel donated women’s intimates (check them out here! They are 1-for-1 women’s intimates)

  • By Grace donated zip clutches

  • EMBR Wipes donated foot and body wipes

  • Heroine Flowers donated floral (including flower crowns for the women!)

  • Tara Shupe and Molly C Photo donated photography and portrait sessions (see the photo booth shots! We even had a maternity shoot - it was so beautiful!)

  • Volunteers wrote encouraging notes to place in Bibles for each shopping bag

  • Volunteers brought snacks, treats, lemonade and water for the women to enjoy a light refreshment

  • Volunteers stationed around the shopping area, helping women pick out items

  • KC Made donated the video skills to capture the event, which you can see below:

Amethyst Place offers recovery housing and rehabilitation services for mothers undergoing a housing crisis and chronic substance abuse. They provide counseling, housing and practical resources for struggling moms to overcome addiction and re-enter the workforce.

Hayley Santell, founder of MADI Apparel, and I became aware of the Amethyst Place mentorship program three years ago, and have been involved ever since. The mentorship program pairs volunteers with a mom in the Encompass program, and we meet twice a month to share a meal and talk about our lives. “Arms around you,” is the mission of the mentorship program.

Ruby Paine said that the two ways to end poverty are: 1) education and 2) knowing someone that is not in poverty. Solving poverty can be so daunting - where do we even start? It’s effects are everywhere - down the street and around the world. 

The encouraging truth about Paine’s research is that the act of sharing a meal with someone, and establishing a relationship with him/her, is one of the most powerful ways to break the cycle of poverty. 

I’ve mentored a total of three women at Amethyst Place, and each woman I have felt so lucky - we have always had such great conversation and a deeper connection. I remember looking around the room at the mentors and their mentees deep in conversation. Surely, I thought, the director of Amethyst Place, Julie, took careful consideration into who she matched with who. 

I’ll never forget when one meeting, Julie announced as an aside, after everyone was collecting and throwing away plates after dinner, “Most people think that I sift through and match everyone, because they can’t believe how well they get along. But the truth is - it’s completely random, and it just goes to show you how much you have in common with every person you meet, if you just take five minutes to sit down and talk.”

”See that no one misses the grace of God.” Hebrews 12:15

Interested in participating in the next Women for Women event? Let us know below!

Name *

Meet Our Intern: Elena Martinez

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Meet our newest intern: Elena Martinez! She’s 21 years old, and just graduated from San Diego State University with a degree in marketing. She has a passion for philanthropic pursuits and empowering women. She has been volunteering with By Grace for nearly two years, but now that she’s an integral part of our team, we wanted you to know a bit more about her with a little Q&A.

Where did you grow up?
Torrance, California

One day, my dream is to be...

A world traveler. I recently left the country for the first time! I went to Italy and never wanted to come back. I believe that the act of traveling opens your eyes to the world around you. It also provides perspective into the lives of others. I like the sense of adventure involved with traveling as well as the authentic food that you are able to experience and enjoy with each country you visit.

My favorite memory is...

When my older sister and I went to Disneyland. My sister lives out of state so we don’t see each other that often. It was fun spending quality time with her. Getting the chance to spend the whole day at Disneyland wasn’t too bad either!  

My favorite food is...

Chipotle. I could eat Chipotle EVERYDAY.

A trip I will never forget is...

As a high school graduation gift, my parents and I went to Las Vegas to see Britney Spears in concert. I was able to see my favorite singer perform along with spend time with my parents. I actually teared up a little bit when she first hit the stage. The whole trip was so much fun and as a family we created long lasting memories.  

If I could go anywhere in the world I would go to Bora Bora because...

I have always wanted to visit an island and experience an island culture. I love the beach and warm weather. Bora Bora seems like the ideal place for relaxation and opportunities for pure adventure. If one day I have the chance to visit Bora Bora, my dream is to stay in an over-water bungalow.

Where is one place in the world you wish you lived?

New York! I love the city vibe and the fast-paced lifestyle that New York offers. I adore the historic buildings in the heart of the city. I would also love to live in one of the fashion capitals of the world!

My favorite thing about myself is...

My strong work ethic. I am dedicated to any task that lies in front of me. I am very driven, motivated, and I always try to perform to my fullest potential.

An insecurity I overcame was...

Being comfortable in social situations. I was very shy growing up and this insecurity continued throughout high school. I really overcame this social self-doubt when I went away to college. I was able to find my voice and confidence. I overcame the fear of talking to others and was able to build lifelong friendships and meaningful relationships as a result.

The best compliment I ever received was...

That I have a pretty smile. I always like to smile and be happy! As the fun-loving character, Buddy, famously says in one of my favorite movies, Elf, “I just like to smile-smiling’s my favorite.”

I am passionate about...

Life! I believe we should all live life to its fullest because we only get one chance at it!

What is your proudest moment?

When I got accepted into a four-year university. It had always been a dream and a goal of mine. It was also proof that all of my hard work paid off.   

Do you have a role model? If so, who? Why?

My mom. To me she defines strength and wisdom. She is selfless, understanding, courageous and fearless. She inspires me and motivates me every day. She is my best friend and I would be lost without her.

I’m partnering with By Grace because...

I love the message behind the foundation. I love the fact that the priority is to empower women in impoverished countries. These deserving and hardworking women are earning an education in this craft. Also, the clothes and fabric are so beautiful and unique. The clothing and different pieces within the By Grace collection gives customers a taste of the Indian and African culture.

Do you think it is possible for one person to make an impact? How so?

I think it is possible for one person to make an impact. On a small-scale basis, one person can change the lives of others through simple and small acts of kindness. In terms of a larger scale impact, it only takes one person to influence countless numbers of people to follow that one person’s beliefs and goals to make the world a better place. We have witnessed this numerous times throughout history with a variety of dominant leaders such as Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela.     

If you could change one thing about our society, what would it be?

I would like to see people be more open to those that are different from them. Although our society has come a long way regarding this issue, there still remains many who choose to be closed minded. These intolerant individuals regard those that do not share similar backgrounds as them as inferior and non-deserving. As a society, we cannot judge people. Rather we need to be accepting towards others in order to be a prosperous society for years to come.

What is the best way for women to support women?

Women simply need to encourage other women’s success. Women should feel inspired by powerful and triumphant women. Often, the media magnifies the stigma of women bringing other women down. Women need to ignore this and not feed into these negative media messages.

How would you describe your style?

Relaxed, simple, practical, and casual.

What are some of your favorite brands?

Levi’s, Kate Spade, H&M, Target, Hollister, Steve Madden, Urban Outfitters.  

Give your best style tip on how to wear a By Grace original.

Simplicity is best! Let the By Grace pieces speak for themselves. Pair By Grace pieces with simple clothing and accessories to showcase the beauty of the prints.

There you have it! A brief intro to our girl Elena! You’ll be reading more from her soon!


Interested in applying for a paid internship with By Grace?

Submit your info below!

Name *

Three countries, three collections


The India Collection

It's here! We've collaborated with Lions in Four to create a custom line. Each item is handmade by a woman overcoming poverty in Kochi, India. Read the stories of the women that we work with on our blog, and shop our new products here!


The Rosebud Collection

We've partnered with a women's recovery shelter on the Rosebud Reservation to employ talented women overcoming poverty and abuse. Shop our jewelry line or view our list of donation needs to get involved!


The Azuero Collection

Our sandals are employing female artisans saving for college. We've partnered with Sante Cutarras and the U.S. Embassy in Panama to develop a custom line. Sandals will be available for sale on our website soon! Read more about the difference we're making in Panama.

Real women, real impact


Celebrating women across the world and in our neighborhood

Thanks to everyone who contributed! We hosted an event with MADI Apparel and Tara Shupe Photography to celebrate women at a local women's shelter in Kansas City.  Women were able to shop for free, enjoy food and drinks, and have their picture taken in the photobooth.

Thank you for empowering women in the U.S. and abroad!



New partnerships

"If we spend our money in ways that align with our faith, our impact would be immeasurable." - Bought Beautifully

We are so excited to partner with a company that shares our mission to empower women across the world. 

Shop By Grace at Bought Beautifully!

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Revitalizing Her House

Think about your favorite spot in the house. Is it the corner next to the window? Or that chair by the fireplace? What if you didn't have a place to which you could retreat? Learn about how we're using the principles from The Broken Windows Theory to regenerate and invigorate the Rosebud Reservation on the blog here.

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Shop with us at Coco Brookside!


On Saturday, August 11, we'll host a pop-up shop at Coco Brookside.  If you're in the KC area, come see us between 11 a.m. -  5 p.m.!

Thank you to every By Grace donor and customer. Together, we're changing the world, one woman at a time.


"Now all we can do is go forward from that."

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Of all the virtues that the Lakota have, which one means the most to you?

Probably Bravery


Why is that?

It’s hard to be brave. When you have to, it will leave a big impact on your life.


Were there times in your life when you had to be brave?

Oh yeah. Multiple times.


Can you tell us about that? Or a time when you saw your Mom be really brave?

Right now. She got her priorities in order and it takes a lot of bravery to do that. We all lose ourselves sometimes, and we don’t know how to come back to reality. In order to do that, we have to brave enough to face our responsibilities and the consequences, which can be good or bad. Over the summer, I’ve seen a lot of bravery from my mom. She is sober, and she put her sobriety first. And she put me first. It’s heart warming because it’s left a big change in her life. And now all we can do is go forward from that. And let each other grow as individuals, and just live.


What’s your favorite thing about your Mom?

Everything. She’s my mom. I’ve lived with her my whole life. I guess, when she starts something she has to finish it. I like that about her, because most people procrastinate a lot, like me.


Can you tell us why you wanted to start beading?

I started when I was eleven years old. It just came about. My mom wanted to teach me and I guess I wanted to learn. After school I would start beading. Now, I choose to bead because I’m sixteen and I want to help my Mom. There’s stuff we need and we don’t have income, so the only way to get money is to bead, so that’s what we do.


What was your favorite moment from yesterday?

The whole day. You guys are goofy!


What does being Lakota mean to you?

To me it means a lot of things. I’m proud of being Lakota as an individual, I don’t know about as a tribe. A lot of our people do bad things which leaves a bad reputation for all of us. There’s not much we can do about that really except to be good as an individual and help others. Some people are hard to help because they don’t want to help themselves, so that gets tiring because I see these people on the streets and I see druggies and it makes me wonder how they could live like that all the time. It’s traumatic to those around us, especially to the younger children. When they grow up, they won’t know the difference between good and bad, because all they grew up seeing was the negativity. They just grow up as confused children, because they just don’t know, until someone good comes and shows them how to live their life positively and what to do instead of being stuck in the same cycle. 


You were talking about going to school. What gives you hope and what do you dream of becoming?

I’ve had a lot of therapists and counselors. Some of them are harder to relate to because they’ve never experienced it themselves. It always irked me because they said, “I understand. I know what you’ve been through.” It irritated me because they don’t. they grew up without seeing the things I’ve seen or experienced. I always shut myself down to that because I thought, “what’s the point of opening up to you when you’re just going to write it down in a book and next week I’ll say the same thing.” So, what I’ve gone through makes me want to go into that field of psychology because I can not only relate to them on that level but because I made it out. I don’t do most of the stuff I used to anymore. I’ve grown as an individual. I know the differences between a lot of things. And I liked what you said yesterday because it’s true, “the only way out of poverty is education.” I have a friend that’s not in poverty who lives in Nebraska. I went and visited him this summer and he had the nicest house I had ever seen. It was nice. And he had a job.

I would like to live like that someday or be somewhere like that, and put most of my childhood away. I try to avoid it a lot because there’s nothing I could do about it. Just not repeat it in the next generation to my children. I want to live somewhere that can help me grow. Because you can’t grow if you don’t feel comfortable. You have to be comfortable in your habitat. 

"Talk to these women about what they can do and what they can accomplish. They don't know that. They need to know that."

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What was your visit to the women’s prison like?

It was awesome going up there and seeing those women. We worked with a woman named Cierra, she’s a non-native, but she’s the one who started this club that they have in the prison. Every year they do a spiritual service. It has to do with the culture, the healing in the culture, and they do it all week. They called us and asked us to come because they had seen our mini-dress workshop. She got all of these speakers to come up, every day for a week they did something for the women’s culture, whether they are Lakota, Nakota or Dakota. It didn’t matter.


What was your role there?

I don’t know where they saw our mini-dress workshop but they invited us up to do it. To me, the mini-dress workshop is really good when it comes to healing because these women are sitting there and making these dresses and thinking about what happened to them and how far they’ve come. They’ve been through so much and here they are surviving, sitting there and making this dress. They come out with some awesome, beautiful dresses. Then they tell a little story. We tell them, “write whatever inspires you. What helped you heal? What do you think you need more of?” one lady just put, “survived.” That word in itself is big. So yeah, that mini-dress workshop is very good to help with healing and thinking about everything.


The women gave you the earrings you’re wearing, right?

Yes, they honored us and were so appreciative to have us there. So when we were getting ready to leave, one of the guards asked if we could wait because they wanted to give us a gift. So one of the ladies had us go up front and made a pretty big honoring about it. They gave us all different gifts. It was really good.


Did you participate in the healing ritual when you were there?

No, they didn’t have one when we were there. You asked Jan about the Sage and why we use it, well the Lakota believed that everything has a spirit. Even the rocks we use. The water that we pour on those rocks has a spirit. The cedar that we throw on the rocks has a spirit. The steam that comes up, that has a spirit. So when we’re praying, we’re sending our spirit up to Watanoka so that he can hear the prayers.


When did you get involved with White Buffalo Calf?

In 2014 I got a job with White Buffalo Calf as a child advocate. It was a new grant that Janet had written and it was only supposed to last a year. So I worked for about a year before the grant was up. I took the position of sexual advocate.


What’s the toughest part of your job?

It was tough being a sexual advocate. I’m not anymore because of the heart attack; I couldn’t take the stress. That’s really a stressful job. These ladies go out in the middle of the night and could be out there at 3 or or 4 o clock in the morning. It didn’t matter, when you got the call, you go. You take on their pain and all their everything. What they go through, you go through because you’re there from day one. From the time they call you, to the time you take them home, to the day they go to court. You’re there all the time with that lady. Now I’m a facilitator for Her House.


What’s the best part of your job?

The best thing I like about it is this; having you guys here. Having this wonderful opportunity for these women. You don’t know what I go through to try to get them to come over here and do something. Nobody wants to come over and sew or anything. So, if they’re going to make money for themselves and be able to sustain themselves then that’s good. And, I can’t think of anything that I don’t like. I’m here for community members that come and want clothes, and it makes me feel good to help them clothe their family. Her House is awesome.


What was your favorite part about today?

Meeting you guys. Putting those beautiful faces to those beautiful voices. Just listening to you, Em, talk to these women about what they can do and what they can accomplish, because they don’t know that. They need to know that. Having you here made it all real. I kept telling them, but I don’t know if they believed me. Hearing it from you made it all more real.


Is there a proverb or something that your Mom told you that is special?

I can’t think of anything, but I will tell you, Janet’s mom is my aunt. I was fighting with the housing because I got evicted. They tested my place and it was positive for meth, but they had never tested it before I moved in. Her mom told me, “Debbie, stop being an Indian. Fight!” So, I did. She had a big impact on my life. 

"We provide a really safe space for them to be able to be the artists that they are."


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I never got to five foot and I never got quiet.


Tell us about the Sage ritual

Look what the people use: plants and nature. And look how we relate to the world. Look how we relate to good and bad things that happen to us. When we’re working with women, whether they come to us in the shelter or we’re responding to an emergency situation, we use the knowledge of the plants that was passed down through generations. One of the plants that we like to utilize is sage. Sage naturally grows in this area and certainly across the plains. Sage comes in different types. The sage in the Southwest is different from the Sage that grows here. But we use Sage in a way to expel any negativity or harm that’s been done to somebody.

A lot of the women that we serve have suffered multiple traumas. If they’re coming to us for help it’s usually during an emergency situation, where they have been beaten or raped. When we use Sage, it’s not going to solve all of their problems, but it does have a very calming effect. We use it to help reduce anxiety. When someone is traumatized their adrenaline is at a high level and Sage helps balance that out. What we do when responding to emergency situations is we will give them some sweet grass, some sage, some lavender the shell in a little packet and tell them how to use it so that they can take it with them. Even if we never see them again, they will at least have something to help them with their healing.


The process of the Sage Ritual:

You can use it in a variety of ways. We like to put it in an Abalone shell, we crumple it all together and then we light it. We surround the person in the smoke of the Sage. It’s called smudging we smudge ourselves using our hands to make the smoke cover our bodies, cover our head, and cover our hair which is a sacred part of us. We breathe that in. Even our young children are taught how to sage ourselves off. It’s very natural. We don’t just use it in emergency situations. It’s always used in prayer, when people are praying as a group and at any of our ceremonies. But we also use it in another way. If I have a woman who has been severely traumatized, I will take the sage and rub down her body. Starting from her head, her hair, her back, her front, her arms, her legs, her feet. I just pray with her and ask our grandfather or our relatives, to help give her strength. To remove some of the anxiety. To help her begin healing.

Then we like to give it to them, and not everyone knows how to use it, so we give her instructions on how to use it. Public places don’t like you to light up Sage, so you can also take the Sage off of the stem, rub it in your hands, and rub it all over yourself. Rub your hair down, your face, your arms, the rest of your body. That is the same thing as actually lighting it and smudging yourself. I’m not an expert on it, but we use it as a regular practice in our shelter. We sage every morning, both the staff and the children. And when things get tough, if there’s been something really traumatic happening to our women or to our staff that just feel the burden, we’ll say, “ let’s just smudge it off.” And we will light some sage and take it around, and it’s just almost an instant calming affect. It’s important not to pull it out by the roots. We want to make sure there are plants left so the seeds will be there so we can have more.


Is Sage the only plant used?

There are other things we use, like lavender. That’s not a traditional plant to us, but we know and have learned from other people that lavender has that same kind of effect of anti-anxiety. So we can put that in a shell and show the women how to use that to smudge off. The aroma, and it’s the same way with sage too, is anti-anxiety. We also use Cedar and sweet grass, which is a plant that grows in moister areas, like in boughs. We use that also.


Can you tell us about the Sweat Lodge?

It’s something that we offer. We try to do it at least once a month. We use wood and rocks that are heated outside in a fire pit. We have a covered lodge that we use. There’s rituals to it: like the way you go into the lodge, and how you sit down. I am not the leader, we usually have someone come in that has the experience and the knowledge about how to run a sweat. They come in and support the women. And it’s really about prayer, the whole thing is about prayer. You go in there, and it symbolizes the womb. We are taken back to that place and it is cleansing because it’s like a steam bathe. They take the hot rocks, put it into the pit and there’s all kinds of rituals that are part of that, and then we use water to pour over the rocks and then there’s steam. The steam cleanses you. There’s usually four different rounds of prayers and it’s done differently depending on who is running it. We don’t do mixed sweats, we have purely women or men sweats, some people do but we don’t. But everybody in the circle gets an opportunity to pray. If they don’t want to say anything out loud they can pray in their own way.


Did you grow up doing Sweats?

That’s not something that I grew up with, but I’ve learned through the last 30 years that participating, when I do, you just can’t describe it. When you come out your heart is lifted, your heaviness if you go in there with heaviness it helps lift your spirit. I think it’s also because everybody else in there is praying for you too. Especially if you’re struggling or have grief or trauma you feel the support of everybody else in there with you. It’s uplifting in that way too. Whether it’s in grief or trauma we often feel we’re alone, but its’ a place where you can feel that you’re getting support. As a Lakota person who didn’t grow up traditionally, it’s very special to me. I know people that sweat every week, that participate in ceremonies all the time, I don’t necessarily participate that way, but when I do need to it’s awesome that we have the ability to help our staff and the women and children that we serve. That’s really part of our cultural healing so we’re so glad that we have the ability to do that.


Can you talk about the state of the women when they come to you?

I’m going to speak hypothetically about the women because we really try to maintain confidentiality. But, women come to us probably at the worst times of their lives. Some are severely injured, I mean we have women that have come with broken bones, legs, arms, backs, necks. They may not report their injuries to the police. They need stitches, they’re bruised. Sometimes they’re unrecognizable because they’ve been battered so badly. The honor that we get from being there and serving them every day is that we get to see the changes in them. We get to see this woman who has been terrified and harmed from so badly by someone who they believed loved them. We get to see her grow. We don’t always succeed. They will go back to their batterers and situations. A lot of the women we serve have mental health issues so they’re easily victimized and re-victimized. And that’s across the board, across the country. Mental health issues are unfortunately horrific for women in this country because people take advantage of them. Drugs and alcohol addictions are also really high which can also lead to re-victimization.


How important is work in their recovery?

It’s so difficult to watch the trauma, but that’s what gives us the push to go on when you see a woman really trying to succeed and struggling to get on her feet. Because we don’t have a lot of economic opportunities here on the Rosebud, it’s hard for them if they’ve never held a job or haven’t learned job skills, then it seems insurmountable to them. I’ve worked my whole life, but I know how fearful I was when I was in my 20s and 30s and didn’t have a college education and small children and working menial jobs. Also being a victim of domestic violence myself, I know how stuck you feel economically when you can’t support your children by yourself. That’s a reason why women go back to battering situations too because they don’t have financial independence. 

If you don’t have money in your pocket or the ability to pay rent or buy food or put gas in your car, it makes you feel stuck.  This community is so wide. Our communities can be 40 miles apart from where a job site could be. If you don’t have gas money, it’s horrible. So, working with By Grace for us really means a lot to the women that we work with. It gives them an opportunity to use their talent, because they are so talented, and using the cultural aspects of our talent too. If you go to pow-wows or see our traditional regalia we’re very colorful and joyful. We love to laugh, we love humor, and I think you really see that in the things that we’re able to create.

Our women come in and that’s how they survive. They sit up until midnight, take care of their kids and bead all night so that the next day they go out in the community and ask, “will you buy my earrings? Will you buy this beautiful item that I have made?” and they’re able to get by. This is an aspect of our service: that we can provide a really safe space for them to be able to be the artists that they are and promote the wonderful things that they are trying to do with their lives. I’m telling you, I’m seeing transformation. I know that one of the ladies that was here today, a couple of months ago she was so low in her life. Just watching her joy today, seeing how excited she was about what we’re doing, she didn’t look like that when she came a couple months ago. Seeing her grow and feel good about herself, you could just see that.


Is there something your Mom told you that has inspired you?

It wasn’t what she said, it was how she lived. She became an attorney because she wanted to help people. She knew that she wanted to serve, and that’s what she did. She maintained such a level of integrity and so powerful in the way she walked her life. No matter what life threw at her, she overcame it and believed that everybody could do that and believed that we should always give back without expecting anything in return. Her life was all about service, not just to the community but to her family. She was our matriarch and gave not just to her daughters and grandchildren but to all of our extended family. She believed that it was important that she passed on whatever knowledge she had. And family was very important. And it was important for us a Lakota people to be proud of who we are. She lived that, she never had to say it. It was the way she walked her life.


Bianca (Janet’s granddaughter) has been here all day. She’s watching you and watching us and watching all of these women make a living for themselves. Is there one thing you want her to take away from today?

I hope that Bianca, even though life is not easy, I hope that when things are hard that she will remember that we will always be standing with her and by her. We will always support her. I hope she never feels lonely. I know that she’s just going to be an awesome woman. 

"Their life is saved just like that."



What were you doing before you started working here?

I was working with young girls. This was my passion working for women and girls. So I was working with young girls and then I took a break for my second son. And then God opened the doors for me to come here.


Were you working in a home for young girls?

No, it was a training center. I used to counsel them and feed them. I counsel the women here one on one too!


Do you notice a change in the women after they are here for a while?

Coming here, they know the love of Jesus. Despite their problems and situations at home they know the love of Jesus. God really does miracles in their lives. We have a Scripture portion and we read from a devotional book every morning. On Mondays we have group prayers. We divide ourselves into 5-6 people in a group and we take their personal needs and we pray for them.


Do the women stay in the same group?

Yes, for a while, so that they can get to know each other. And during the week I encourage them to pray for each other.


Can you tell us about the situations that the women come from?

Mostly just abusive ones. Some of them are unskilled and they wouldn’t have gotten a job anywhere else if not at Daughter’s (of Hope). They were going for house work jobs. Which is a very less pay scale. But this is a dignified job for them. And they’re educated also.


Do most of the women have arranged marriages?

Yes, most of them are arranged.


How old were you when you got married?
I was 21


Who does the arranging?

The parents. That’s why it’s called arranged J Sometimes other relatives are involved but at the end it comes back to the parents and they’re the ones that tell the children. Once the parents agree and accept it you have to do it. The women don’t have a choice. But now the generation has changed. Many have the ability to choose their wives and husbands.


What is it like working in the other places that the women come from?

it’s hard. Some of them tell us that there is so much difference in working here compared to there. The managers at the other places use abusive language and men are involved there. Men and women both work together so it’s not a safe environment and they don’t respect them. Pay is good but the other things are not so good. The hours are not good, they work late and on Saturdays.


How do the women hear about Daughter’s?

It’s God that’s bringing them, and he gives us the Spirit to choose the right people. For example, you just came today and I don’t know anything about you, but the Spirit says, “she needs this job. We need to take her.” God brings the right people. They aren’t here by accident. After about 2-3 months I start to get to know them and we come to learn that at that particular time, if we hadn’t given them a job, we don’t know what would have happened in their life. Most of them lost their husbands and are single parents with children. And some women wanted to attempt suicide but just happened to walk by and we took them in and their life is saved just like that.


So you feel that God really guides?

Yes, yes. It’s all God.


What are the age ranges of the women here?
We take women starting from 18 years old because you can not legally hire anyone younger than that. And then 58 is retirement age. But we did have one woman that we just sent off this month who was 60 years old. She was lonely so we kept her for 2 years more than her age because she needed this place but in the end we had to say no. The government gave us a lot of issue.


Someone mentioned that the women are all friends here?

Yes! The women used to be against each other with anger and jealousy, but it’s changed.


Has counseling influenced that?

Yes! They were not friends and I make them work together and be together and at first they don’t like it, but they can’t say no to me J and for my sake they will do it. I say, “when you don’t show love to one another, it’s not a good environment to work in. When we love Jesus, we need to love one another.”


“Fashion includes culture and acts. It’s something that promotes the Ghanaian culture.”


The By Grace Foundation is a female founded 501(c)(3) nonprofit that sponsors the training and education of women in impoverished communities.

In Ghana, By Grace sponsors technical training, specifically sewing, for women without the means to afford it. Becoming a seamstress is a highly regarded profession, and By Grace sponsors training so that women are equipped to become entrepreneurs and stop the cycle of generational poverty in their families.

These are their stories. 



How old are you?



Do you have a Builsa name?

Yes, my name is Deborah Awennala. Awennala is my Builsa name, which means, “God is good”.


Did you grow up in Fumbisi?

Yes, but I didn’t complete my childhood there. I grew up in Fumbisi and then Sandema and then back to Tamale.


When did you meet me (Emily)?

You? I don’t know how old I was. Since I was a baby. 


You go to school?
Yes! I am in school now.


What are you studying?

I’m studying fashion and design


What do you hope to be?

I want to be one of the biggest fashion designers in Ghana. Not only in Ghana…in the world.


What makes you want to be a fashion designer?

If you look up fashion in Africa for instance, it doesn’t just have to do with fashion. Fashion includes culture and acts. It’s something that promotes the Ghanaian culture. That’s why I like fashion.


You help your mom right now?

Oh yes. That is why I started studying fashion, because I started helping her and learning more from her.


How important is it for girls to have education?

It’s very important because a girl can’t always depend. How do I say it, a girl will grow up and a girl will get married, so the girl will depend on her husband. You have to do something for your family though. Your husband can not take care of you and your kids and your family as a whole. You have challenges, so it would be good for a girl to have her own profession.


Are there a lot of opportunities for jobs for women?

It depends on the kind of job you want and what you have studied. In Ghana, it’s difficult to get a government job. 

                       Sponsor a woman                                       Shop for good

“Small, small catches the monkey’s tail.”


The By Grace Foundation is a female founded 501(c)(3) nonprofit that sponsors the training and education of women in impoverished communities.

In Ghana, By Grace sponsors technical training, specifically sewing, for women without the means to afford it. Becoming a seamstress is a highly regarded profession, and By Grace sponsors training so that women are equipped to become entrepreneurs and stop the cycle of generational poverty in their families.

These are their stories



How old are you?



Why did you want to learn to sew?

I wanted to help myself.


What is your favorite proverb?

Small, small catches the monkey’s tail.


Why do you like that one?

If you’re patient, you will catch the monkey’s tail.


What would you like to say to someone who sponsored your sewing?

God bless that person.

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“I want to be respected.”

Munira 2.jpg

The By Grace Foundation is a female founded 501(c)(3) nonprofit that sponsors the training and education of women in impoverished communities.

In Ghana, By Grace sponsors technical training, specifically sewing, for women without the means to afford it. Becoming a seamstress is a highly regarded profession, and By Grace sponsors training so that women are equipped to become entrepreneurs and stop the cycle of generational poverty in their families.

These are their stories. 



How old are you?


Why do you want to learn to sew?

I am learning a skill because I want to be respected in society


(Munira was ill on the day of interviewing and unable to answer many questions. She is still a valuable part of the By Grace team though, and we want her voice to be heard whether she has 5 or 500 words to say)

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“Expectations of me are low. I want to surprise those people.”

Theresa 1.jpg

The By Grace Foundation is a female founded 501(c)(3) nonprofit that sponsors the training and education of women in impoverished communities.

In Ghana, By Grace sponsors technical training, specifically sewing, for women without the means to afford it. Becoming a seamstress is a highly regarded profession, and By Grace sponsors training so that women are equipped to become entrepreneurs and stop the cycle of generational poverty in their families.

These are their stories. 



How old are you?



Where are you from?



Why do you want to be a seamstress?

I’m learning to gain this skill so that I can prosper.


What’s your favorite proverb?

A dry branch will bud to surprise those who gather sticks.

When a tree is cut down and dry, nobody expects it to bud again because it’s not connected to a branch. But this proverb says that such a branch will bud to surprise others. So basically, what it means is that those people who don’t have expectations of me will be surprised by what I can do. Those who have lost hope in me, I will surprise them by what I can do.


Why do you like that proverb?

I like this proverb because expectations of me are low. People don’t expect much good from me. I want to surprise those people by exceeding their expectations.


What would you like to say to someone who sponsored your training?

I just want to say thank you for helping me to learn a skill. I want to say God bless them. 

                       Sponsor a woman                                       Shop for good

“This can help me in the future.”


The By Grace Foundation is a female founded 501(c)(3) nonprofit that sponsors the training and education of women in impoverished communities.

In Ghana, By Grace sponsors technical training, specifically sewing, for women without the means to afford it. Becoming a seamstress is a highly regarded profession, and By Grace sponsors training so that women are equipped to become entrepreneurs and stop the cycle of generational poverty in their families.

These are their stories. 



How old are you?



Why do you want to learn to sew?

I am learning sewing because this can help me in the future


What do you mean by that?

Any time I am short of money in the future, I can always sew and get money from that.


What is your favorite proverb?

“if they are cooking something and you are waiting while they are cooking, they don’t need for you to ask, ‘what are you cooking?’, because eventually, when they are finished cooking you will know. In short, “No need to ask what they are cooking. When it’s done you’ll know.”


Why do you like that one?

There are times when you are doing something and people ask so many questions. You have to wait and find out.


What is one thing that you would say to the person who sponsored your sewing?

I am going to say Thank you to them and I am going to pray for them, that if they should be in need of something, somebody else will help them get it.

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"In the future I want to get something to take care of my children."

Idrissu 1.jpg

The By Grace Foundation is a female founded 501(c)(3) nonprofit that sponsors the training and education of women in impoverished communities.

In Ghana, By Grace sponsors technical training, specifically sewing, for women without the means to afford it. Becoming a seamstress is a highly regarded profession, and By Grace sponsors training so that women are equipped to become entrepreneurs and stop the cycle of generational poverty in their families.

These are their stories. 



Did you go to school?