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How to Change the World One Foot at a Time

An extraordinary terra-cotta tool called the Foot Scrubber, distributed by Gilden Tree, Omaha, Nebraska, is changing the lives of women and children twelve thousand miles away.

This unusual terra-cotta pumice stone is hand-made by women artisans in Pakistan, giving them unprecedented economic independence and some pretty unusual benefits. As a newlywed in Pakistan, Ann Thariani (tar-ee-ah-nee) discovered the Footscrubber, loved how it worked, and when she and husband Kumy (coo-me) returned to the U.S. in 1990, founded Gilden Tree to distribute it.

“Through a friend, we began working with two families of Pakistani women to make a consistent, sophisticated version of a traditional tool,” explained Ann Thariani, Gilden Tree president. “These women were from families of laborers, so they had no experience preparing products for export, or even working as a team. It was pretty challenging in the beginning.” All persevered and soon the Footscrubber was a success.

“Since my husband is Pakistani, and I lived there for five years, we knew that nothing would impact these families’ lives more than education. In countries like Pakistan, education is almost non-existent in poorer families, especially for girls,” explains Ann Thariani. “We realized we could give something back to these families.” So, starting in 1993, Gilden Tree has paid for the education of the women's children, both boys and girls, and later for the women themselves. Gilden Tree pays for tuition, books, uniforms and fees, “even shoes and socks,” adds Thariani.

“Every time we fill an order, I think about the changes we’re helping bring about,” Kumy Thariani, Gilden Tree CEO said. “I think everyone at Gilden Tree realizes it’s something pretty special.”

The Foot Scrubber, hand-formed, sun-dried and fired in a kiln, is one of the best-selling items for Gilden Tree, whose unique corporate philosophy made news recently. In December, 2005 Time Magazine ran a two-page article applauding Gilden Tree’s corporate values and Readers’ Digest selected Gilden Tree products for one of the holiday’s “best gifts under $50.”

With an all female staff (except Kumy), Gilden Tree has expanded its line to include products for foot, hand and body care, both for personal and professional spa use. True to its corporate philosophy, the products contain natural, traditional, healing ingredients from cultures around the world including wild-crafted Shea Butter, Certified Organic Aloe Vera, Jojoba Oil and Comfrey Extract, helping protect consumers and the environment.

More information: gildentree.com.