Wendy Bird founded Pearls With A Purpose in February 2002 with the intent of selling handmade pearl jewelry to women in America. But within a few months of working with Amara Flordeliza, her pearl supplier in the Philippines, Wendy became aware of the dire circumstances of families in Asia. Together, Wendy and Amara established the Pearls with a Purpose Foundation, a 501c3 tax exempt organization dedicated to helping the families of Asia.
Living conditions in the Philippines often consist of a 10′ × 10′ dirt room with thin corrugated sheet metal for roofing. Kitchen supplies normally include a propane stove and a hanging basket for food. Available jobs pay an average of $1.50 to $3 per day, which barely pays for an evening meal. Many families sub-exist on rice and casaba roots throughout the year, leaving them nutritionally deprived and hungry. Children don’t have access to education because of a lack of money for school tuition. The lack of education diminishes the opportunity for adequate income, which perpetuates ignorance and poverty among the next generation.
Pearls with a Purpose works specifically with mothers from abusive situations or those who have been abandoned by their spouses. Lani Adalla and Janet Mendez, both mothers, manage the Foundation’s in-country efforts to 1) provide job training and 2) distribute educational and humanitarian supplies to mothers and children in need.
To foster economic self-reliance/sustainment among the women, PWP provided jewelry making skills training to individual women. To further their success, Business Development and Training is offered in the Philippines through the Academy for Creating Enterprise located in Cebu, Philippines. ACE teaches men and women how to successfully own and operate their own independent business within their own country. PWP has had several graduates from ACE. Businesses range from sewing, embroidery, quilting, mechanics and computer/floral/camera shops.
The women who have learned jewelry making use this skill to supply unique hand-crafted pieces to women in America through the Pearls With a Purpose Partners program. To date, 172 women in Philippines have been trained in jewelry making along with 22 women in Ban Nam Kem Thailand and 53 women in Bharatapurm India (a leprosy colony outside of Chennai which was opened in January 2011).
After seeing the extreme conditions that existed in the Philippines, Wendy began to send relief supplies gathered through family, friends, and neighbors. Many donations consisted of canned food items that enabled families to focus more on education and training than mere survival. Formal educational tools are limited in underdeveloped countries, so the Foundation provides educational supplies on an annual basis. Donated items are gathered through the Utah State Junior Miss Committee and are sorted and boxed by the 42+ contestants. These boxes are then shipped to 22 coordinators in the Philippines and are used for students’ yearly school supply needs. Foundation volunteers send books in English from preschool to college level, along with pencils, pens, notebooks, and other school supplies. These supplies enable those in the village with teaching skills to provide a learning environment for children and adults.
The Foundation succeeds in its endeavors through the support of individuals throughout the world. Foundation volunteers continually receive donations throughout the year in Lehi, Utah. Items are sorted and packed in 24″ × 24″ × 17″ boxes. The boxes travel by boat to the Philippines and arrive within 4 weeks. Foundation volunteers take photos of the boxes as they arrive in-country, verifying that boxes are sealed and the original shipments intact. Foundation coordinators then distribute the items to the schools, orphanages, and families in need. There is a constant need for libraries and classrooms to be updated in their books and learning supplies, and to be replenished when schools are damaged by frequent typhoons and monsoons.
Today Pearls with a Purpose has sent more than 2,000 boxes containing food, clothing, and educational supplies to over 22 Philippine islands and provinces. The Foundation has trained over 152 deserving women in skills of economic self-reliance, and have helped support over 52 children in their educational pursuits.