This is a picture of Karen with a widow and the widows old house in the background. The blue house is the new home that we were able to fund for her to live in with the money from Grace and Peace Jewelry Designs!
THE GRACE AND PEACE JEWELRY DESIGNS STORY
It’s been one of the funniest, most amazing, and hardest journeys I’ve ever been on. My name is Karen Rumple. My husband, Bill, and I have been serving as directors of a nonprofit located in Barahona, Dominican Republic, full time for 23 years. This might be a little long but the whole story is hilarious and amazing all rolled into one!
When we arrived in Barahona, Dominican Republic with our 3 children in tow on January 27, 2000, we were excited and scared but mostly excited. Upon our arrival, we dug right in and developed several programs. We had a water/well program and a children’s program. One day in early 2000, we were feeding a big ‘ole bunch of Dominican children when I noticed quite a few elderly women come up and ask for a sandwich. We gave them the food and off they went. I asked our team why no men or young adults came asking for help and that’s when I was told, “They are widows and are destitute, some begging, some without any resources whatsoever, and they wanted help.” All the way home I couldn’t get what I just saw out of my head. The next day I went to Bill and said, “I have to do something.” He said, “Then let’s do it.” I looked up as many bible verses as I could find for guidance and there it all was, right in front of me. Scripture after scripture pointing me to “do something”.
Fast forward to 2016. We now have 100 widows and the needs are immense. We had raised money through different events and were able to build small (houses) casitas for those that needed it, bought them beds, stoves, fixed roofs, you name it, we raised the money to do it. Then the needs grew and grew and grew. Our fundraising money would run out and I had to do something to generate enough money to meet those needs. And here’s where it gets interesting and funny - the story about Larimar.
We need to rewind to 2002. That year, I had a major medical emergency situation, so I flew back to the States, got the help I needed and then returned to Barahona. While I was gone, my loving husband called me and said, “Guess what?” I said, “What?” He said, “I just made the most amazing investment since we’ve come here.” Now I was scared. He is a visionary. I ever so quietly said, “Okay. I’m listening,” even though I did NOT want to know. He said, “This town (Barahona) is where one of the rarest gemstones in the world is mined. I took all of our personal budget money for this month and next month and bought a bunch of Larimar. Someone from the neighborhood brought it to me. I couldn’t pass it up.” I was speechless, but being 2000 miles away from him, I had to wait for that lovely spirited conversation that definitely was going to take place upon my return. I just said, “Oh, did you? How will you buy food?” He said, “Oh, I’ll figure it out, meaning he would dip into our meager savings.” Finally, I was released by my doctor and flew back to join him.
Upon my return, he couldn’t wait to show me all of the Larimar he bought. These stones were absolutely stunning. They were dark aqua and blue with white and made you feel like you are looking into Caribbean waters. They were breathtaking but my mind kept taking me to where I wanted to finally have that spirited conversation with him. I curbed it and just said, “Well, now, my wonderful visionary husband, show me your magic wand so we can buy food.” And as you can guess he said, “Well, just take it out of the savings.” From that day forward, those stones were such a source of irritation to me, I stuffed them into his sock drawer and they stayed there for 14 years. Every time I would clean out the dresser, I would see them and sigh. I would shove them back in so I didn’t have to see them.
Now it’s 2016 and even though we had raised money that year for our 100 widows, it was not enough to meet the needs. We had enough for food and a few small projects and that was it. That's when I had a lightbulb moment. I went to the sock drawer, pulled out the Larimar and said to Bill, “Remember this lovely source of our many spirited conversations? Maybe I should study online at nights how to make jewelry out of these.” He said, “Let’s get the Dominicans to put it in silver because then it provides a job for them to feed their families, we will sell it somewhere and then buy what we need for the widows. What a great idea. Seriously.
We made friends with a few people that put some of the Larimar we have in silver. Whenever I had a free moment, I learned online how to purchase sterling components and put them together to make jewelry. During the pandemic shutdown, I found a woman in Australia who taught me how to make custom pieces in silver and gold bronze. I then learned how to heavy dip the gold bronze in 18K gold.
Here we are now, in 2022, launching online with the pieces we pay the Dominicans to create and the things I personally create, knowing we will be able to meet more and more needs.
All profits, every penny, will be given to support those 100 widows. We have roofs to repair, houses to build, stoves to buy and beds. Beds. Interesting subject. I’ve had widows come into the program close to 80 years of age who had NEVER slept on a bed. I still can’t wrap my mind around that. When they were given their very first bed, it was a sight to behold.
Thanks for coming along on this journey with Bill and me. I definitely dragged him into this to help now and then because it was all his bright idea originally, right? He’s a good guy and happy to help.
Best of all, because of Grace and Peace Jewelry Designs, I have the privilege of serving and empowering these poor widows. They gain dignity, security, and comfort when they come into the program. These are things we take for granted. They don’t. I’ll share little snippets and videos as we all go on this journey together. You will be so blessed.