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Ambassador Travel Journey: Impact in Vietnam

An Ambassador takes us along on her Ambassador Trip

My Noonday “why” began 15 years ago, before Noonday Collection began. As a college student, I had the opportunity to travel to Kenya on a service learning trip and experienced a culture very different than my own. It was my first time traveling to a developing country and my first exposure to global poverty. 

There is a moment from the trip imprinted on my heart. Our team was in a bus on the street of Nairobi that had come to a pause in traffic and a number of street vendors flooded around our vehicle with handmade jewelry. They reached through the windows with bracelets on long poles and put necklaces around our necks trying to make a sale that morning. 

Kenya trip in 2003 by Kiersten Heckert

I left Kenya with a deep love for Africa but with a piece of my heart a bit broken for the people an ocean away that needed just a piece of the opportunity I had been born with. 

Fast forward ten years later when I was introduced to Noonday Collection for the first time. I was not a jewelry wearing gal and had zero intention of joining direct sales, but when I learned I had the opportunity to create a marketplace for artisans in vulnerable areas around the world from my own community, I was all in.

Noonday Collection Ambassador Trips

I never could have imagined that in this phase of life as a mom with three young boys, I would be traveling the globe once again. Last spring I traveled to Guatemala, and this April I traveled to Vietnam on Ambassador trips. Both of these trips have been a true gift – experiencing different cultures and food, seeing incredible beauty and marvels of the world, and connecting with other women in our amazing Ambassador community. But most of all, it is a gift to meet our incredible Artisan Business Partners and experience the impact we are a part of first-hand.

Ambassador Travel Journal: Impact in Vietnam

My most recent trip to Vietnam was a beautiful reawakening of my passion for “why I Noonday.”  Hands down, Vietnam is the most different-from-home place I have traveled. Their long, challenging history of war, short history of independence, and impact of communism has created an incredibly hard-working, strong, and resilient people. I was overwhelmed by the kindness and hospitality shown to us, inspired by the work ethic of the people we met and compelled by their yearning for more work and opportunity.

A local woman walks along the streets of Hanoi, Vietnam

Mr. Hoa is an Artisan Business Partner in Vietnam. His workshop produces the incredible marble pieces that we love so much – the Mod Marble Studs, Floating Marble Necklace, and Geo Triangle Necklace, to name a few. He ran the marble workshop near Hanoi for a few years but dreamed of opening a workshop in the rural Vietnam village where he grew up. 

An Artisan holds a slab of marble from which he created this Eclipse Cuff
Marble is used to handcraft the popular Geo Necklace

Like most of the population of rural Vietnam, the people of Mr. Hoa’s village are farmers. Due to challenging weather during the off-season, farmers move far from home for months at a time in search of other work. Furthermore, high cost of city living during these months cut into the income they are sending home.

Last year, Mr. Hoa’s dream came true when he opened a marble workshop in his village. Mrs. Nga, an original employee at the workshop, lived six hours away from her family of three young children for months at a time during the farming off-season. When our group of Ambassadors visited the workshop, Mrs. Nga shared her story with us and I was given the opportunity to speak one-on-one with her as a representative of our group. We mutually shared what Noonday Collection has meant for us and our families. 

Standing with a group of talented Vietnamese Artisans

Just as her job creating marble pieces allows her to be home with her children, my job as an Ambassador allows me to stay home with mine. Just as her job allows her children to attend school, my income from Noonday Collection gives my family the freedom to send our boys to the school of our choice. Just as my job as an Ambassador empowers Mrs. Nga and other women around the world to live meaningful lives, her job empowers me to do the same. With tears running down my face, I was able to thank Mrs. Nga for allowing us to be a part of her story and for so greatly impacting my own.

The piece of my heart that was broken during my time in Kenya continues to fuel me to expand the marketplace in my own community so artisans around the world are not on the streets begging for sales or moving away from family in order to make enough money. Through Noonday Collection, these artisans are empowered to work their craft while being present with their families. I can’t help but dream about 2020 and the Artisan Business Partners I’ll have the opportunity to meet next year. This business of empowerment is a good one.  

Meet Kiersten Heckert

Kiersten lives in Ohio with her husband, Jon, and their three boys. A former high school English teacher, she has been a Noonday Ambassador since the Fall of 2014 and dreams of traveling on all of the Artisan trips with Noonday!