The awesome way this tea brand is helping women farmers succeed.
True
Lipton

What if, just by drinking a nice, hot cup of tea, you could be showing your support for the education and financial independence of the women who harvested the leaves to make it?

When you’re drinking specially marked boxes of Lipton® tea, that’s exactly what’s happening.

The leaves that go into your tea bags are harvested by thousands of women tea farmers in Kenya. They spend a large part of their day in the arid climate that is perfect for growing tea, combing through miles of verdant bushes on the tea farms, many of which are right by their houses.


Tea farmers in Kenya. All photos via Upworthy.

When it rains — almost every late afternoon to early evening — the area is steeped in rich smells of the tea leaves as well as jasmine and eucalyptus. It may sound like a refreshingly simple life, but many of the women are looking for just a little bit more.

The women take pride in their work and are interested in how they can use and grow their earnings to support their children, the next generation. Thankfully, almost 20 years ago, WE Charity — a nonprofit that partners with underserved communities to provide the financial literacy tools they need to create change — started to work with people in the Maasai Mara region and is expanding in order to partner with tea farmers and Lipton® to give them just that.

Maasai Mara, also known as simply “The Mara” to locals, is in Narok County, Kenya. It connects to the Serengeti National Park in the Mara Region of Tanzania, and is home to a wide spectrum of wildlife including lions, cheetahs, elephants, zebras, hippos, wildebeests, spotted hyenas, and over 500 species of birds.

The people in Maasai Mara depend on its fecund environment as much as the animals living there, but, thanks to groups like WE, they’ve got more than that to sustain them.

WE focuses on reinvigorating the five pillars a community needs to thrive — education, water, food, health, and opportunity.

They built schools for local children to attend. They established a nearby hospital. They created community farms and provided workshops to help train farmers in new planting techniques that would improve their yields. And they built water kiosks so women didn’t have to spend hours of their day walking back and forth from a well.

However, potentially the greatest impact WE has delivered to communities is through the opportunity pillar.

“We believe that by empowering women, you empower the community,” says Zeddy Kosgei, a spokeswoman for WE.

That’s why when WE partnered with Lipton®, whose Unilever farms span across Kenya, bolstering these women became one of their main goals.

The first step on the road to empowerment for these women is more financial education, which means learning how to leverage their profits in more lucrative ways. While that may sound complicated, It’s really as simple as learning to prioritize what to save, and where to spend; and learning how to gain access to start-ups funds so that they can invest in things that have a more lasting return — like livestock.

While some already have chickens and goats, getting to a point where they can purchase a cow, or more than one cow if they already had one,  can give these families enough financial leverage to send their kids to higher education institutions in Kenya.

And this sort of financial prowess isn’t a far-off goal — many Kenyan women from WE partner communities are a testament to that, as they’ve broken new ground to realize their entrepreneurial dreams.

But these women aren’t just moving the needle forward in their own communities. They’re helping encourage the other 80,000 tea farmers in Kenya to follow suit.

Here’s a look at just a few of them.

Mama Jane

Mama Jane (left) talking to Mama Nancy (right).

Known as the CEO of the Maasai Mara, Mama Jane was one of the first women to dive into the WE opportunity program and, as such, is now a mentor to many others. 10 years ago, she was living in a tiny house with her husband and six children, and they had no money to send the children to school. So, she decided to stop taking sugar in her tea so she could save 50 shillings a week.

Initially a maize farmer, and with a Grade 3 education, that was the beginning of her taking control of her financial future. With WE’s help, she formed a savings and loan group with other women in the Maasai Mara region. Over time, they began pooling their funds and buying livestock to help supplement their income from tea farming. Eventually, these investments allowed Mama Jane to put her kids through school, and one daughter is currently in college. She was even able to build a bigger house for her family.

“I wanted to show women that the small savings we were putting aside could do big things,” says Mama Jane. “We can do big things just like anyone else.”

Currently, WE has helped women cultivate over 70 savings and loan groups in the Maasai Mara region, and, Mama Jane is acting ambassador to show what is possible.

Helen Maritim

Helen has been selling tea since 1995, when she married her husband. They have eight children, all of whom are now in school. She founded a savings and loan group (which the women call a merry-go-round) because she wanted to be less reliant on her crops, which can sometimes be unpredictable in their yield due to changing weather.

“I will use the training to improve myself and my family and I will also use it to teach other women,” Helen says.

Helen hopes the training her community receives will help their merry-go-round grow so they can eventually buy a cow and a bigger home, and perhaps one day, she can even start her own shoe business.

Caroline Ngetich

Caroline always dreamed of being a doctor, but her parents, who were both tea farmers, couldn’t afford to send her to school. She started farming back in 1999 and now has four children, two in high school and two in primary school. Caroline is part of a merry-go-round in her community, but she’s never received formal financial training before.

She says she’d love to understand money and business better so she can start a business selling fruit and vegetables from her garden as well as give back to those in need in her community.

Gladys Ngetich

Gladys was actually a maize farmer until 2004, when she switched to tea because it was more profitable. A strong believer in the power of a good education, she pushes her kids to excel in school. Case in point, her daughter, who just graduated high school, is studying to become an engineer.

“The greatest thing I have been able to achieve as a tea farmer is the education of my children,” Gladys says.

After recent talks with WE and their ambassadors, like Mama Jane, Gladys is eager to learn how to better manage her money so she can one day start a clothing business. However for her, it all comes back to how far her children have come thanks to her efforts.

“I think having success in life is looking at where you’ve come from and seeing where your children are,” she says.

These women are proof that no matter where you live or what you do, you can change the status quo with a little help from your friends.

Just ask Mama Jane, who recognizes she could never have achieved all she has without a supportive group of women standing behind her.

“We achieve great things when women stand together,” Mama Jane says.

And now, everyone who buys their tea can have a hand in that. So the next time you look down at your cup of Lipton®, know that you too could be  a part of some pretty amazing accomplishments.

To learn more about the tea farms and these incredible women, check out this video:

To see how your purchase supports women in tea farming communities, look for specially marked boxes of Lipton® Tea and enter the code on we.org/Lipton.

Photo courtesy of Kenneth and Jill Gonsalves
True

It can be expensive to have a pet. It's possible to spend between $250 to $700 a year on food for a dog and around $120-$500 on food for a cat. But of course, most of us don't think twice about the expense: having a pet is worth it because of the company animals provide.

But for some, this expense is hard to keep up, no matter how much you adore your fur baby. And that's why Kenneth and Jill Gonsalves decided to help.

Kenneth had seen a man scraping together change in a store to buy pet food, so he offered to buy the man some extra pet food. Still, later that night he couldn't stop thinking about the experience — he worried the man wasn't just struggling to pay for pet food, but food for himself, too.

So he went home and told his wife — and immediately, they both knew they needed to do something. So, in December 2020, they converted a farm stand into a take-what-you-need, leave-what-you-can Pet Food pantry.

"A lot of people would have watched that man count out change to buy pet food. Some may have helped him out like my husband did," Jill says. "A few may have thought about it afterward. But, only someone like Kenny would turn that experience into what we have today."

"If it weren't for his generous spirit and his penchant for a plan, the pantry would never have been born," she adds.

A man with sunglasses hands a box of cat food to a woman smiling Photo courtesy of Kenneth and Jill Gonsalves

At first, the couple started the pet food pantry with a couple hundred dollars of pet food they bought themselves. And to make sure people knew about the pantry, they set up a Facebook page for the pantry, then went to other Facebook groups, such as a "Buy Nothing group," and shared what they were doing.

"When we started, we weren't even sure people would use us," Jill says. "At best, we were hoping to be able to provide enough to help people get through the holidays."

But, thanks to their page and word of mouth, news spread about what they were doing, and the donations of more pet food started flooding in, too. Before long, they were coming home to stacks of food — and within a couple of months, the pantry was full.

Yellow post-it note with handwritten note that reads: "Hi, I read your story on Facebook. Here is a small donation to help. I have a 3-year-old yellow lab who I adore. I hope this helps someone in need. Merry Christmas. Meredith" Photo courtesy of Kenneth and Jill Gonsalves

"The pounds of food we have gone through is well, well, well into the thousands," Jill says. "The orders from our Amazon Wish List alone include several hundred pounds of dry food, a couple of hundred cases of canned food, and thousands of treats and toys. But, that does not even take into account the hundreds of drop-offs, online orders, and monetary donations we have received."

They also got many 'Thank you notes' from the people they helped.

"I would like to thank you for helping us feed our fur babies," one note read. "My husband and I recently lost our jobs, and my husband [will] hopefully [find] a new one. We are just waiting for a call."

Another read: "I just need to say thank you from the bottom of my heart. I haven't worked in over a month with a two-year-old at home. Dad brings in about $300/week. From the pandemic to Christmas, it has been tough. But with the help of beautiful people like you, my fur baby can now eat a little bit longer, and my heart is happy."

Jill says that she thinks the fact that the pet pantry is a farm stand helps people feel better.

A woman holding a small black dog and looking at the camera is greeted by Jill Gonsalves Photo courtesy of Kenneth and Jill Gonsalves

"When we first started this, someone who visited us mentioned how it made them feel good to be able to browse without feeling like they were being watched," she says. "So, it's been important to us to maintain that integrity."

Jill and Kenneth aren't sure how many people they've helped so far, but they know that their pet food pantry is doing what they hoped it would. "The pet owners who visit us, much like donations, come in ebbs and flows," Jill says. "We have some regulars who have been with us since the beginning. We also have some people that come a few times, and we never see again."

"Our hope is that they used us while they were in a tough spot, but they don't need us anymore. In a funny way, the greatest thing would be if no one needed us anymore."


Today, the Acushnet Pet Pantry is still going strong, but its stock is running low. If you want to help out, visit their Facebook page for updates and to find ways to donate.

Over the past 30-plus years, there has been a sea change when it comes to public attitudes about LGBT issues in America. In 1988, only 11% of Americans supported same-sex marriage, while in 2020, that number jumped to 70%

Even though there is a lot more work to do for full LGBTQ equality in the U.S. the country is far ahead of most of the world. According to Human Dignity Trust, 71 jurisdictions around the world "criminalize private, consensual, same-sex sexual activity," many of these specifically calling out sexual practices between men.

In 11 jurisdictions, people who engage in consensual same-sex sexual activity face the possibility of the death penalty for their behavior. "At least 6 of these implement the death penalty – Iran, Northern Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Somalia and Yemen – and the death penalty is a legal possibility in Afghanistan, Brunei, Mauritania, Pakistan, Qatar, and UAE," Human Dignity Trust says.

Keep Reading Show less
True

When Sue Hoppin was in college, she met the man she was going to marry. "I was attending the University of Denver, and he was at the Air Force Academy," she says. "My dad had also attended the University of Denver and warned me not to date those flyboys from the Springs."

"He didn't say anything about marrying one of them," she says. And so began her life as a military spouse.

The life brings some real advantages, like opportunities to live abroad — her family got to live all around the US, Japan, and Germany — but it also comes with some downsides, like having to put your spouse's career over your own goals.

"Though we choose to marry someone in the military, we had career goals before we got married, and those didn't just disappear."

Career aspirations become more difficult to achieve, and progress comes with lots of starts and stops. After experiencing these unique challenges firsthand, Sue founded an organization to help other military spouses in similar situations.

Sue had gotten a degree in international relations because she wanted to pursue a career in diplomacy, but for fourteen years she wasn't able to make any headway — not until they moved back to the DC area. "Eighteen months later, many rejections later, it became apparent that this was going to be more challenging than I could ever imagine," she says.

Eighteen months is halfway through a typical assignment, and by then, most spouses are looking for their next assignment. "If I couldn't find a job in my own 'hometown' with multiple degrees and a great network, this didn't bode well for other military spouses," she says.

She's not wrong. Military spouses spend most of their lives moving with their partners, which means they're often far from family and other support networks. When they do find a job, they often make less than their civilian counterparts — and they're more likely to experience underemployment or unemployment. In fact, on some deployments, spouses are not even allowed to work.

Before the pandemic, military spouse unemployment was 22%. Since the pandemic, it's expected to rise to 35%.

Sue eventually found a job working at a military-focused nonprofit, and it helped her get the experience she needed to create her own dedicated military spouse program. She wrote a book and started saving up enough money to start the National Military Spouse Network (NMSN), which she founded in 2010 as the first organization of its kind.

"I founded the NMSN to help professional military spouses develop flexible careers they could perform from any location."

"Over the years, the program has expanded to include a free digital magazine, professional development events, drafting annual White Papers and organizing national and local advocacy to address the issues of most concern to the professional military spouse community," she says.

Not only was NMSN's mission important to Sue on a personal level she also saw it as part of something bigger than herself.

"Gone are the days when families can thrive on one salary. Like everyone else, most military families rely on two salaries to make ends meet. If a military spouse wants or needs to work, they should be able to," she says.

"When less than one percent of our population serves in the military," she continues, "we need to be able to not only recruit the best and the brightest but also retain them."

"We lose out as a nation when service members leave the force because their spouse is unable to find employment. We see it as a national security issue."

"The NMSN team has worked tirelessly to jumpstart the discussion and keep the challenges affecting military spouses top of mind. We have elevated the conversation to Congress and the White House," she continues. "I'm so proud of the fact that corporations, the government, and the general public are increasingly interested in the issues affecting military spouses and recognizing the employment roadblocks they unfairly have faced."

"We have collectively made other people care, and in doing so, we elevated the issues of military spouse unemployment to a national and global level," she adds. "In the process, we've also empowered military spouses to advocate for themselves and our community so that military spouse employment issues can continue to remain at the forefront."

Not only has NMSN become a sought-after leader in the military spouse employment space, but Sue has also seen the career she dreamed of materializing for herself. She was recently invited to participate in the public re-launch of Joining Forces, a White House initiative supporting military and veteran families, with First Lady Dr. Jill Biden.

She has also had two of her recommendations for practical solutions introduced into legislation just this year. She was the first in the Air Force community to show leadership the power of social media to reach both their airmen and their military families.

That is why Sue is one of Tory Burch's "Empowered Women" this year. The $5,000 donation will be going to The Madeira School, a school that Sue herself attended when she was in high school because, she says, "the lessons I learned there as a student pretty much set the tone for my personal and professional life. It's so meaningful to know that the donation will go towards making a Madeira education more accessible to those who may not otherwise be able to afford it and providing them with a life-changing opportunity."

Most military children will move one to three times during high school so having a continuous four-year experience at one high school can be an important gift. After traveling for much of her formative years, Sue attended Madeira and found herself "in an environment that fostered confidence and empowerment. As young women, we were expected to have a voice and advocate not just for ourselves, but for those around us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!