Hi Olivia. It’s great to have you share with us. Tell us a bit about yourself and what you do?

I’ve just finished secondary school in N.I. doing Geography, Biology and Religious Studies. I’m passionate about the environment, particularly my responsibility as a Christian. As part of this I’ve been running an eco-club in my school this year to raise awareness alongside fundraising for Tearfund. This year a good friend and I started a small non-profit enterprise making jewellery and other crafts from sea glass we’ve found on our local beaches with 100% of the profits being split between Tearfund and the charity Operation Smile as my friend really loves the work they do.

So what led you to start making jewellery? And why did you decide to use that to raise money for people living in poverty?

A couple years ago at a Christian Youth festival I heard the story of Selena from Malawi at a Tearfund seminar. This really opened my eyes to how my decisions in looking after the environment affect the lives of people I’ve never met. Especially those in poverty-stricken areas.  The injustice of it really impacted me and I knew I couldn’t just do nothing. Initially I did a bake sale with a friend for our youth group, which we really enjoyed.

A year or so later I dropped art after GCSE because of how stressful I knew A-level could be (props to anyone who has done or is currently doing art!) But after that I always missed having that opportunity to be creative. I wanted to try making sea glass necklaces, as I used to make bracelets for fun and really enjoyed it. After making a few I showed them to family and friends, who suggesting buying one for themselves. Remembering Selena’s story I thought it might be a good way to fundraise for those living in poverty like her.  

How useful would you say creative and entrepreneurial skills are to fundraising?

Everyone’s giftings are so unique and valuable in fundraising!

Creativity is so useful in fundraising! Now don’t get me wrong I love a bake sale (I mean what’s not to love about some cake?) but not everyone is a fan of baking. Everyone’s giftings are so unique and valuable in fundraising! Don’t be afraid to come up with something different. I remember chatting to a friend when I first had the idea of the jewellery fundraiser. I was concerned that no one would be interested and the idea would fall flat on its face. But she reminded me that the worst that could happen was that I tried, and it didn’t work out. After all God doesn’t give us our gifts and passions to keep to ourselves. Instead we should make use of and share them to help others.

You’re also a vegan, right? What made you decide to change the way you eat?

I had been researching veganism for over two years, initially to help with my skin. But in the process I found out so much about the impact of animal agriculture on the environment. Still having changed nothing about what I ate, I started sharing my findings with my sister and within only a couple months she’d gone vegan. It was at that point I realised I should probably stop just thinking about it and instead actually do something. And I’ve never looked back since!

Is being a vegan hard?

It’s a change, but honestly I don’t think twice about it now. I recognise it’s been a lot easier for me in some respects. For example, my sister went vegan before me and my family have been really accepting and accommodating. But I’d say with the amount of new vegan friendly products coming out and options appearing on restaurant menus it’s getting increasingly easier to eat more vegan or plant based every day!

What tips would you give to people thinking about going vegan or even vegetarian?

It really depends a lot on how best you adapt to lifestyle changes. I did a few days where I tried eating vegan for the day and eventually moved to try eating vegan for longer periods of time. What eventually caused me to make a definite change was when I was hanging out with my friends and they were offering me non-vegan food and I was turning down their offers. Of course, they wanted to know why (because I’m not one to turn down food!). In the best way it forced me to make a decision, because once I told my friends I was eating vegan, it sparked loads of conversations out of curiosity about why and meant I was being held accountable to my word.

So in short I’d say try it out for a couple days to see how it would work day-to-day; even better if you can find someone to do it with you or someone already eating that way. And then tell the people your close to so you’re held accountable to your decision. It’s more difficult initially, not necessarily because you’re missing out on what you ate before, but because food is a massive part of our lives and often a routine that’s hard to change. But it’s because food is such a huge part of our day to day that such a difference can be made through changing what we eat.

How does your faith play into how you view your role in ending poverty?

It’s Biblical that we look after the beautiful creation around us and not take advantage of it for our own benefit.

My faith is the reason why I’m called to play a part in ending poverty. We’re called to ‘Love your neighbour as yourself’ and I’ve since realised this applies to our global neighbours too. Jesus called people to love with actions and not just words. For me practically, that means doing my bit to fundraise, taking responsibility for the impact I have on the environment and actively raising awareness about the lives of people in extreme poverty. I also believe there’s a real call to stewardship from the Bible. We’re told in the beginning that one of the reasons man was put in the garden of Eden was to take care of it. It’s Biblical that we look after the beautiful creation around us and not take advantage of it for our own benefit.

One of my favourite verses is ‘So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: take your everyday, ordinary life – your sleeping eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life – and place it before God as an offering’ (Romans 12:1). I love it because it not only states that it’s our everyday small actions with which we can praise God (such as using a reusable coffee cup or bag instead of adding plastic to his creation), but also it begins with reminding us that we’re to do all these things with God helping us! As we work towards ending poverty, despite it sometimes seeming an impossible task, God is with us.

Finally, where can people find your jewellery? 

We have an Instagram under the name ‘redeemed.renewal’ where orders are made from. At the minute it’s been quite local with purchases being from friends, family and church family members. But in the new school year I’m taking a gap year and hope to use it to expand our horizons, all of which will be announced on Instagram!