A Passion Born at Bethel, Realized in Asia
Becca Bunch ’13 is currently living in Asia where she serves as the fundraising and operations coordinator for Starfish Project, a fair trade jewelry business that seeks to transform the lives of exploited women through the sale of handcrafted jewelry. The sociology and psychology double major first visited Starfish Project when she was on a semester abroad to the Pacific Rim with Bethel College. She later returned as a summer intern and decided to pursue a career at Starfish Project following graduation.
Starfish Project volunteer Jennifer Leach sat down with Bunch to discuss her time at Bethel , her journey to Starfish Project and her current role with the organization.
How did Bethel help prepare you for what you are doing today?
The professors had high standards; they taught me how to research and write well, and how essential it is to give my best no matter how big or small an assignment. Living at Bethel showed me what it looks like to live in a community and what it looks like to serve others. These skills and lessons were transferable for my work at Starfish Project, as I do a lot of reporting and writing. But more than that, I have the motivation to do my best in all circumstances and have a heart to serve those in my community.
How did you end up in East Asia and at Starfish Project?
The moment I first heard of Starfish Project during my freshmen year of college, I knew that I wanted to work for this organization. I was not sure how it was going to happen but with every cell in my body, I wanted it. Since that moment I have gotten involved however I could, visiting the Asia office during my semester abroad to the Pacific Rim, volunteering in the U.S. office (in Goshen, Ind.), interning with them, and now working with the organization in Asia.
What is your role at Starfish Project?
I am the fundraising and operations coordinator. This means that I do all of the reporting for our grants, research for new grant opportunities, organize our events and write all of our newsletters that go to the general public and wholesalers, along with our internal newsletter.
What do you value most about working at Starfish Project?
I have come to really value the team atmosphere. We are a group of people with one cause, to see every woman valued, and every person’s role is just as important as another’s. Without production, finances, human resources, holistic care programs, sales and marketing, fundraising, graphic design, administration, etc. working together, this organization would not be able to thrive.
What does Starfish mean to you and why do you want others to know about the organization?
I fully believe in everything Starfish Project does as an organization to bring hope to women who were caught in exploitation. My hope is that as more people learn about the organization they will be burdened for this issue, whether it is for the women or the people who exploited them, and do whatever they can with the gifts that they have to do something about it.
What inspires you about Starfish Project?
I am inspired by the heart of the organization to act as a launching pad for every woman that works for Starfish. There are people who say that it is unique that we not only offer alternative employment, a safe shelter, and counseling but we also offer educational and vocational training opportunities. I am encouraged that there are so many opportunities for women to take on more responsibility and leadership within this organization that are transferable outside as well. I love that we are not just giving women jobs but we are providing them with the tools and skills they need to empower themselves, and be successful no matter where they decide to work in the future.
What advice would you offer someone looking to serve overseas?
Get involved with organizations working in issues you are passionate about now, go to conferences and events about the topic, get advice from people who are older and wiser than you that can give you insight into your field of interest, get plugged into some communities, churches, networks that will support and encourage you, find out as much as you can, and pray. One thing I have learned this year is that I know nothing, and if I am going to not only survive but thrive in this work, then I am going to need to learn as much as I can from people who have gone before me. They have so much to offer.
At Starfish Project, women are provided services such as counseling, vocational training, language classes, family education grants, health care and housing at the project’s shelter. They are employed through the project’s business, where they create a range of high quality, hypoallergenic jewelry that carries the message of empowerment and renewal. Since 2013, more than 50 women in three cities in Asia have been supported through Starfish Project. To purchase jewelry and learn more about how you can help, visit starfish-project.com.