The white outline of a horned animal head stands starkly against the blood red door that marks the entrance to Yobel Market. The animal is a Ugandan Kob, an icon of the Ugandan flag, and it is particularly significant in light of the experiences that catalyzed Yobel, a humanitarian organization in downtown Colorado Springs.
Donavan Kennedy and Sarah Ray founded the company in 2008 as a response to the human suffering of poverty and sexual exploitation they witnessed during their post-college travels as volunteers for various service organizations in Africa and Asia. Ray says that when they returned home, they knew that they would have to be innovative with their desire to respond to injustices and inhumane practices abroad.
They were wary of the typical humanitarian organization route, which often strips oppressed people of any real dignity; instead, their goal was to elevate humanity.
“Our answer?” Ray says to the challenge. “Business.”
Yobel began as a boutique on the historical streets of Old Colorado City. The idea was to find displaced or oppressed communities of people with crafts to sell at retail prices. Their first item was a bamboo jewelry collection from displaced Civil War survivors in Northern Uganda, which they sold at the local farmer’s market as well as in their store.
After three years, Yobel represented 39 nations and 50 communities within its narrow walls and was became a growing collection of unique, fair trade items from around the world.
Ray and Donovan used the momentum of this success to move to downtown Colorado Springs and expand the Yobel Market to include their non-profit enterprise, Yobel International. Founded in 2012, the non-profit aimed at training entrepreneurs in poverty-stricken areas overseas, while prompting Pikes Peak residents to be conscious activists and facilitators for positive change.
Yobel’s mission will always be focused on staying in close communication to the people who they support. “[We] wanted to work with indigenous community leaders to arrive at their own solutions to the poverty and exploitative labor situations they were facing,” says Donovan.
This integrity is one reason that Indygive!, a local crowd funding organization for non-profits in the Pikes Peak region, supports Yobel International as they continue to reach as many people as possible.
Yobel International has the potential to go beyond the practicality of supporting oppressed communities through retail and revenue by providing other Westerners with experiences that may inspire future activists like Sarah and Donovan.
This non-profit will use the funds from their Indygive! campaign to host more entrepreneurial training events, plan “Exposure Trips” (which allow participants to witness and aid oppressed communities internationally), and spread awareness through university lectures and videos. Indygive! selected Yobel as one of 75 participating non-profits, all of which are supported by Indygive!.
Through public endorsement and weekly training sessions, the crowd-funding organization provides information about how to run a crowd-funded campaign through donor care and board management.
So far, Yobel has raised $5,500. “Beyond this, we have a shot at winning some additional funds through the G.E. Johnson Young Adult Friendly Competition,” says Ray. “If our campaign has the most 18-36 year old contributors, we will be rewarded an additional $3,000. That would be an amazing help!”
“By providing a sustainable solution to poverty through business training and development, we see people then begin to address issues of education, nutrition, medical care, and clean water for themselves, their families, and their communities,” says Ray. “They do not remain dependent on aid organizations and instead are able to create solutions for themselves.”
Yobel is a fantastic organization to support because it strives to create long-term solutions rather than temporary aid. I urge you to support this Indygive! campaign, or at least check out the Yobel Market retail store downtown for some fair trade holiday gifts.