She had me at hello.
For some reason, I assumed our call would be quick and courteous, the standard style for world changers with an agenda prioritized by life and death. My call? I was just a curious and crazed fan who fell in love with her heart even before our first conversation.
After weeks of missing each others calls and her nursing her husband and then herself back to health, we finally connected. Her hello? Cheery and bright, as though I was the only priority of the day.
Well, me and her nephew whose playful sounds continued to punctuate our conversation while under the watchful eye of his aunt/babysitter, aka Visionary and Founder of 31Bits. (If you still don't know about this company, please, please click here, there, and pretty much everywhere!)
As much as I have been impressed by the vision and success of 31 Bits, that day all I wanted to learn about was the heart and motivation of Kallie Dovel, the one who was there at its very inception.
It could be said that loving others and looking beyond one's own immediate needs is a genetic transference in the Dovel family. Kallie's father was a missionary in Chile and her parents made sure they saw the world, and not just the 5 star version. As a family, they traveled a lot, going on missions and vacations and, more than just souvenirs, they brought back the understanding that there existed much greater needs that their own.
While her sister would go on to receive a PhD in public policy (note the hereditary world-changer mentality), Kallie thought her impact might come through orphan care, specifically as a nutritionist. She spent time in orphanages during her undergrad years in Haiti and thought that this might be where her life could be spent in saving the lives of others.
It wasn't until a trip to Uganda in 2007 to volunteer in an orphanage there, that she sensed maybe God had something else in mind for her and her dreams.
A short stint at an Ugandan orphanage opened Kallie's eyes to the corruption so prevalent in the system there. After some unfortunate events at the orphanage, she opted out of her three month commitment and rented a small room with a shared porta-potty in a nearby cheap hotel until her flight departure date came.
It was at this displacement from her own plans and purposes that God began to place in her new ones of His own choosing.
She met a group of women working near her hotel, coiling paper beads for hours on end. They struck up a friendship and when the time came for Kallie to head back home, she bought a box of their jewelry to support their livelihood.
The box of paper beaded jewelry sold out quickly at an Oregon Christmas show and in that moment, something clicked for Kallie. Maybe, just maybe, this was a way she could spend her life in support of others.
The rest is history. In August of 2008, Kallie and friends began with a group of six Ugandan women what would become 31 Bits. The goal then, as it is now, was to provide employment and education that would lay a new foundation for the women in the program. They learn about health and business, are visited by a local pastor monthly, and are encouraged into community groups where they learn the beauty of supporting and loving one another. They stay on as contributors to 31 Bits for four years, after which they go on to support themselves in other ventures by using the tools and resources gained from their apprenticeship.
What began as a support system for six women has now grown to support 99 and while each of these bring joy to Kallie and the 31 Bits team, there is still the daily one or two who stop by the compound inquiring about a job. It's hard to turn them away, because as Kallie told me, "One soul has the same value as many in Christ's eyes."
Still, with a growing fan base that began to explode exponentially after a providential partnership with Reef sandals and one that now includes celebrities who proudly wear 31 Bits fashion-forward designs, there is always hope that this is still just the beginning. Who knows how many more women will eventually be employed or how many countless families and lives this company will continue to touch?
The only certain thing is that this? All of this? The jewelry, the marketing, the growing support? It's a God thing. Because when Kallie offered Him her own ideas, He took them, shook them up and upside down, and gave back to her, and the others working with her, an opportunity to get involved with what He had in mind all along. Even on the days where the work is long and hard and the challenges and sacrifices weigh heavy, Kallie leans on the truth that this is God's work and she is content to play a background role to all that He has yet to do.
Thank you, Kallie, for taking the time to share your life and story with me. Your journey is an example and inspiration to the rest of us who want to give God the bits and pieces of our lives and wonder just what God might do with them. With yours, He made beautiful jewelry that sustains life. I believe He can use ours too to continue delivering the life-giving and life-changing truth to those He brings across our paths.
*models, mine. as in, birthed from my womb! :) everyone wearing old favorite styles that began our growing collection of 31 Bits jewelry.