By Sheri Hink-Wagner
The Wauneta Breeze
Linda Egle, a Wauneta High School alum, is using her affinity to rural life to make a difference in the lives of women and girls around the globe.
She had the vision for what would become Eternal Threads in 1988. While in India on a mission trip with her church she saw what extreme poverty looked like for women living in rural south India. She also saw their desire and initiative to make better lives for themselves and their children.
In 2000, she officially founded Eternal Threads when living in Palisade while on medical leave from her long-time employment as a flight attendant for United Airlines.
In 2003 she retired from United Airlines and devoted her time into growing the non profit. She now makes her home in Abilene, Texas.
Egle’s belief in the power of what Eternal Threads can accomplish is rooted in her faith. According to the organization’s website, “Eternal Threads is dedicated to improving the lives of women and children most at risk of extreme poverty, trafficking and other forms of exploitation by providing sustainable livelihoods through income generating projects.”
Eternal Threads accomplishes its goals by purchasing handmade crafts from women in 13 countries. After paying a fair trade wage, the crafts are then sold in the United States.
One hundred percent of the profits from the sales have been returned to hundreds of women around the world.
The first project of the organization began with the Sofi tote project in a rural village in south India. The project was intended to provide income to industrious and hard-working women who wanted to help their families but had limited opportunities to do so. The rural Indian women crocheted beautiful tote bags from colorful twine.
Egle credits her roots in southwest Nebraska for her drive to help the women impacted by Eternal Threads.
“I had such an affinity for those women, it’s the Nebraska farm girl in me,” she said.
Since the Sofi tote project has been in existence it has grown from helping the 20 women it initially intended to help to providing 250 women with full time work and educating dozens of rural girls with the income derived from the project.
Her goal was to give rural women in developing countries sustainable income and skills development training. Today, she and others at Eternal Threads are accomplishing that and much more.
Eternal Threads has grown. The organization now works with women in 13 countries–Afghanistan, Bulgaria, Cambodia, Ghana, India, Madagascar, Mongolia, Nepal, Nigeria, Peru, Philippines, Thailand and Uganda.
The organization completes its work by following five core principles:
• Alleviating poverty
• Empowering women
• Productive partnership
• Material and spiritual transformation
• Sustainable development
Egle said she has been amazed by what the women her organization has helped can do with very little.
“I believe very strongly in helping people who help themselves,” she said. “It’s what they do with the help we give that inspires me and keeps me going.”
Through her work, Egle has found that women who live in extreme poverty will do anything to learn a skill.
In Afghanistan, Eternal Threads has begun offering tailoring training. Each six-month training session helps 10 women learn the skills they need to open a home business. At the end of the training session the sewing machines the women use during the course are given to them along with a $120 loan to launch their new business.
“The ability to have a home business is crucial to Afghan women who are restricted by their culture to work outside the home or have any other means of income,” says Egle.
The entire six-month course costs around $11,000. It costs $150 to sponsor a woman in the course. In addition to tailoring skills, the women are also given training in small business skills and literacy training.
Egle first learned about the problem of sex trafficking in 2008 and wanted to get involved in the solution.
She soon met Ramesh Spkota, who had begun an anti-trafficking organization in Nepal. He was working to stop girls from being trafficked into brothels in India and provide them with a safe place to live and heal. Spkota and Egle partnered together to put an end to trafficking of Nepalese girls.
According to the Eternal Threads website, over 12,000 girls are trafficked across the Nepal border each year.
In 2010 a student volunteer at Eternal Threads, Brittany Partridge, approached Egle with an idea to help the girls being trafficked out of Nepal and the Red Thread Movement was born.
The idea was simple. The girls living in the anti-trafficking safehouse would make red woven bracelets and by doing so accomplish three goals: 1) making the bracelets provides employment for the girls rescued from sex trafficking; 2) the sale of bracelets helps fund the safe houses and anti-trafficking border units; and 3) those who purchase and wear the red bracelets help create awareness of sex trafficking.
Egle’s anti-trafficking work has expanded to include Mongolia, where women are rescued out of prostitution and to Ecuador, where women are given a skill to earn an income which protects them from trafficking.
Eternal Threads and its partners help rescue girls, house them, counsel and educate them so they can live a better life.
In 2013, Egle was honored for her work when she received the 2012 Norman Borlaug Humanitarian Award along with Jamie and Ali McMutrie.
“Linda, Jamie and Ali each represent the spirit of the Norman Borlaug Humanitarian Award, and we celebrate the impact that their life’s work is making for women, children and families in need,” said MedAssets CEO John Bardis.
“Linda is empowering women around the world with an income source to avoid exploitation,” he said. “These amazing women are making the world a better place, one person at a time.”
Those who would like to learn more about Eternal Threads, purchase a product or make a donation may do so at eternalthreads.org or by calling 1-888-487-4549.
Roots and education
Egle grew up on Wauneta’s south divide and went to the Eden Country School through the eighth grade. She graduated from Wauneta High School in 1968.
She holds a Bachelor of Arts in home economics and a Bachelor of Science in biblical studies. She has also studied theology at Oriel College in Oxford, United Kingdom.