#Style and Substance: Rachel Woodger

Rachel Woodger is the sales and marketing manager for Turquoise Mountain NGO. Originally from England, she has spent the past year living in Kabul, Afghanistan. She serves as a cross-cultural and business development liaison between international design brands and the artisans who create their jewelry for the global marketplace, translating across borders and through diverse cultures.

What does style mean to you?

Style to me is about expressing your individuality and your personality through everything from your fashion to your furniture.

How important is jewelry in your life?

Jewelry is very important to me. I don’t feel dressed until I have my jewelry on. I love the way jewelry can express your mood or make your mood. I love how it can finish an outfit or be the making of an outfit.

How has the experience of living in Afghanistan shaped your vision of the world outside of your home country?

Living in Afghanistan taught me so much about gratitude, patience and everyday victories in the small things. I wasn’t sure what to expect when I first went out there but the people are so incredibly strong, brave as well as welcoming and family-centric. I feel the Afghan people I work with everyday are a part of my extended family now.

What gives you daily strength and inspiration?

The Afghan women (and men) that I work with are my inspiration. They have overcome some incredible difficulties to be where they are today. Most are returnees from Pakistan or Iran having fled during Taliban times. They love their country and want to make it a better place which inspires me to help them achieve that.

Please describe a tough time you faced and how you found your strength?

Living in Afghanistan is definitely the hardest and best thing I have done in my life so far. It was very tough being away from my family and my extremely supportive husband. But being in Kabul, I know every day is a new day and I have the power to create change and make lives of the artisans I work with a tiny bit better through my work.

What woman do you admire most and why?

Violette Szabo was a British Special Operations Executive in the Second World War. On her second mission in occupied France she was captured by the Nazis. She was interrogated, tortured, put in a concentration camp and eventually executed at the age of 23. To me her story is incredible; she was an ordinary young woman who sacrificed everything to fight against the Nazis.

What are your words of wisdom that you use to inspire others?

Life isn’t the same for everyone, you have to make the most of what you have. Find out what your strengths are and play to them. Be grateful for what you have and don’t worry about what you don’t have.

Do your unique experiences leave you with any final thoughts to share?

Change is within us all, we can all make small changes in our lives that can effect big change. For example being aware of where the things we buy comes from. Are you buying from ethical sources? Do you know where your purchases are being made? Are the artisans or local people being paid fairly? These are important questions that we all should be asking ourselves before we buy anything. By buying ethically you make a difference to real people in conflict or developing countries.