Author: Noah Wotring, Community Engagement Intern at Global Gifts Short North
The Philippines is home to over 500,000 women  who, either by force or desperate necessity, are operating as prostitutes within the country. This number is even more jarring when compared to the Philippines’ total population of approximately 98 million. Due to overwhelmingly high poverty levels in the Philippines (roughly 30% of the population) and the illegal and illicit sex trade market that thrives virtually unchallenged in Southeast Asia, Filipino women find themselves without a choice when faced with either destitution or prostitution
In the face of such adversity, one company has found an answer to the plight of these Filipino women in perhaps the most unlikely of places.
A greeting card can be many things. It can be a congratulatory message from a relative, a heartfelt “Thank You” from a close friend, or simply a much needed reminder that yes, you are loved. In fact, the symbolic gesture of giving a greeting card has been so deeply ingrained in our social consciousness that a term based around a popular greeting card brand, “Hallmark Moment,” has come to describe any emotionally rich and positive moment in one’s life.
Sanctuary Springs is a Filipino-based card-making company that’s part of the massive 13 billion dollar greeting card market. Part of the growing worldwide Fair Trade movement, Sanctuary Springs employs Filipino women seeking to escape the sex trade, providing training and jobs and designing greeting cards that capture the implicit humor in mundane and everyday life (as well as hilarious wordplay). The funds Sanctuary Springs garners from card sales sustain programs that help the women provide food and education for their families.
The cards themselves are crafted from a handmade, locally recycled paper. Once the blank card is in hand, the designated card designer then cuts out multi-colored shapes from the paper and pastes those onto the cards to create a desired picture or image. A hand letterpress machine is operated to print out more specific designs and text onto the cards. Once the whole operation is complete, each woman who designed the card makes sure to put her signature on the card- another little touch of personality that these cards engender.
Though they’re handmade in the Philippines, the witty puns and endearing art manage to transcend the paper and ink that they are crafted from. From the box of macaroni reminding that “You’re the Mac to my Cheese” or a jar of sauce with the bold statement that “You Are Awesome Sauce,” it becomes exceedingly more difficult not to break into a smile while looking at each of these well-designed cards.
 The Philippine Statistics Authority, Official Poverty Statistics