SAN MATEO (KPIX 5) – A Peninsula mother’s family trip to South America brought her face-to-face with families struggling in poverty. What she decided to do about it has earned her this week’s Jefferson Award in the Bay Area.

What was once Stacey Horowitz’s home art studio is now a warehouse of sorts, stocked with colorful, hand-crafted works of art from around the world.

“This is a Peruvian belt,” she said, displaying the brightly-colored beads.

Next is a handbag made in Uganda from beads made of paper. Then there are bracelets crafted by HIV-positive women in Rwanda.

Horowitz knows the story behind each and every item. From jewelry to woven bowls and knitted sweaters, she imports an emporium of crafts from 23 countries—almost all of them made by women struggling to help their families.

“They want the same thing for their family that we do: they want a roof over their heads, they want to feed them, they want to educate their kids,” Horowitz explained.

Three years ago, it was her own family trip to South America that inspired Horowitz to take action.

“The poverty I saw in contrast with the beauty of the people and how colorful it was and all the artistic talent there… I came back struggling with ‘what can I do to help,’” she remembered.

She got to work, raising money and launching a nonprofit known as Shopping for a Change. She developed a web-based platform to sell the artisans’ products.

“They are paid up front. It’s all fair trade,” she said.

Prices range from $5 for beaded necklaces to a couple of hundred dollars for handcrafted bowls from Swaziland. When customers buy something online, the money does three things: pays the artists, supports a community project where they live, and contributes to a U.S. nonprofit the buyer selects at checkout.

“It’s great to want to help these people in these underdeveloped countries, but we also need help right here at home—and I didn’t want to ignore that,” said Horowitz.

Shopping for a Change hasn’t earned huge sums of money just yet, but a little goes a long way.

Horowitz said, “When you empower a woman in a community, it tends to trickle down everywhere. When they make more money, the whole community benefits.”

So for improving the lives of families around the world one gift at a time, this week’s Jefferson Award in the bay area goes to Stacey Horowitz.

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