LAKELAND, Fla. — Two Lakeland women run a handcrafted jewelry and art shop in downtown Lakeland that helps people in impoverished countries. 

  • "Take Heart" on Kentucky Ave. sells "fair trade" merchandise
  • Much of what shop sells comes from Kenya
  • Both owners quit full-time jobs to help impoverished communities

At "Take Heart," located on Kentucky Avenue, owners Michelle Johnson and Delta Ryan sell what is called “fair trade” merchandise.

That means the items are produced in a safe manner and the workers are paid fairly for their products.

In many cases, the name of the artisan and where they are from is part of the item's appeal. Much of what they sell comes from Kenya in east Africa. 

“I love it because it’s hand made. It’s artisan made," said Johnson, showing off an item of jewelry. "Anthony works very hard."

Both Ryan and Johnson quit their full-time jobs so they could help widows and orphans in Kenya.

Ryan in particular quit her job as an emergency room nurse after she visited an Kenyan orphanage and a desperate widow in the same village hung herself. 

“I looked into the eyes of her five children and could never shake that," she explained. "I made a promise to them that day that I was going to do something."

Johnson got involved after Ryan took her on a trip to Kenya. She was an assistant principal at the time, and saw school children with no school supplies, as well as teachers with no textbooks to give them.

“I feel like I had blinders on most of my life, in my comfortable home, and so it wrecked my world,” Johnson told us.

Helping the orphans has been a life-changing experience for Johnson. 

“But I look at them as my children," she said. "I have a lot of children to keep up with now.”

“Occasionally we do miss our jobs, but we know we are at peace because we know we are exactly where we are supposed to be,” said Ryan.