Last year, we shared the inspiring story of Rachel Grace Pinniger;...
(How & Why a 73 Yr Old Expat Spent Her Life Savings in China)
...the 74-year-old British woman who has selflessly dedicated her life to helping underprivileged communities in China and the world. Coming from a background in medicine, as well as battling with cancer herself, Rachel is all too familiar with the hardships of illnesses.
As a result, she has spent the majority of her life (more than 40 years) with one goal in mind; finding ways of helping those suffering from medical conditions, and who may be unable to afford and receive proper care.
Spending almost half a century in various remote regions across the world (15 countries, mainly in Asia), Rachel has finally settled in China. Her time spent in these countries was devoted to educating (as well as learning) about proper medical care, and emphasizing the importance of seeking timely treatment, especially in areas where lack of medical equipment and underdeveloped transportation systems are the norm. The heartbreaking experiences she witnessed unfolding as a result of these problems, only made her more adamant to stay on this path of philanthropy.
In 2013, Rachel set up a one-of-a-kind establishment in Chengdu city, where she had been living for a couple of years. At first glance, Blue Sheep Handicrafts and Gift Shop may appear to be just a nicely decorated coffeeshop.
But in fact, it holds a purpose much deeper and bigger than coffee. During her time in Chengdu (and its surrounding areas), Rachel has discovered that there is an abundance of particularly beautiful handmade crafts made by local communities.
Many of these items, she later found out, were made by skilled individuals from impoverished ethnic minorities (such as Yi, Miao, or Qiangethnicities), many of whom suffer from some form of physical disability or illness. In an effort to not only give exposure to these beautifully-crafted items, but also to help support these communities, Rachel set up Blue Sheep.
This brave initiative was not easy, to say the least, and required Rachel to spend almost all of her life savings (and even sell her house), in order to put her plan in action. It also meant sacrificing her general lifestyle to a much more simplistic one, in order to accommodate to the high expenses of running the shop.
Even at her old age, Rachel travels long distances daily on her electric bike, back and forth from work, and deep into the remote communities where she obtains the unique treasures she displays in her shop.
None of these obstacles, however, stand in the way of her compassion, as she knows that her compromises in turn help a much greater cause. This social enterprise, as Rachel describes it, was not established with the intent to make money, and in fact has been struggling financially. Instead, it is a channel for connecting and promoting struggling individuals and communities with the rest of the world, helping them receive the dignity they deserve.
The upward of 700 craftsmen and women (and children), representing more than 8 countries and more than 10 ethnic groups, now have the opportunity to benefit from Rachels aid, and use it as a tool to support their families, cover medical expenses, and ultimately set out on the path to escape poverty. In order to expand the outreach of her operation, Rachel also teaches craft on location in her shop, so that even unskilled individuals are given the chance to learn and participate.
Her story is an unmatchable example of good-will, and of putting the needs of others before self. The profit that comes from doing something small to lend out a hand to other in need, is invaluable. As Rachel famously said: One person may not change the world, but we can all change the world for one person.