Tribe Alive: Elevating Women out of Poverty

Carly Burson always knew she wanted to adopt. When the opportunity arose for Carly and her husband to bring home a beautiful baby girl from Ethiopia, they jumped at the chance. They started creating to-do lists and packing lists; they bought plane tickets and cleared their schedules. They were ready.

Upon arriving in Ethiopia, Carly was inspired by the country and its people. She instantly fell in love with the little girl who was soon going to be part of her family. But when most of us (Carly included) think of adoption, we imagine that we are saving a child from a trafficking or destitution or life as an orphan—and while that’s certainly true in so many cases, there is another side. There are millions of children who have loving families who live in poverty, war zones, or oppression, forcing their parents to choose whether to feed their families or seek other ways to provide care for their beloved children.

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While in Ethiopia, Carly learned that the orphanage where her daughter lived offered visiting hours. She witnessed birth parents arriving at designated times on a daily basis to spend time with their children, the children they love so dearly but selflessly released because they couldn’t provide for them.

“The entire scene broke my heart and forever changed the way I would view adoption,” Carly said. “So what I decided after we left Ethiopia and brought our daughter home was that adoption is a tragedy as much as it’s a gift. I could not honor my daughter without honoring her birth mother.”

Carly went on to explain that poverty is the root cause of child relinquishment: “No person should be stripped of their right to parent simply because they are poor. I view the ability to provide for your family as the most basic human rights, and instead of making the choice to raise other women’s children, I wanted to be a part of giving them the opportunity to raise their own.”

With the adoption finalized and a new passion ignited within Carly, a movement began back at home in Fort Worth, Texas. Carly felt a stirring to create tangible action that would reflect her newfound beliefs. She started planting the seeds for a business, one that was inspired by her daughter’s birth mother, and after toying with several options, Tribe Alive was born. 

Tribe Alive is a worldwide artistic collaboration that features beautifully sourced and made apparel, accessories, and home goods. Carly’s goal of elevating women out of poverty led her to the idea of employing them in their home countries, linking them to products that could sell successfully in the United States. She started identifying artisans to work with all over the world, and her reach expanded to Guatemala, India, Haiti, and Honduras. Most recently, Tribe Alive employed refugee women right here in D/FW to join the efforts of the women working internationally.

One of Tribe Alive's Artisans in India.

One of Tribe Alive’s Artisans in India.

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“I am constantly surrounded by strong and inspiring women, from our team here in Texas to our artisan partners to our female-founded non-profit partnerships,” Carly said. “The women that make our day-to-day activities possible are the reason I’m excited to go to work every day.”

Tribe Alive has had major success in marketplaces, boutiques, and online, and the very first Tribe Alive storefront is set to open in Fort Worth in 2018. And while Carly is so pleased with the way consumers have responded to Tribe Alive’s mission and products, she wants to do more.

“We’ve spent three years focusing on opportunity and employment for the women we serve,” Carly said. “Though those efforts have had an impact on the lives of our makers, it just hasn’t been good enough. We are giving people an opportunity to survive, but I want to see people thrive.”

Carly and her team have dreams of implementing savings match programs, youth education funds, and incentive bonuses for their partners in the coming years, with the goal of providing the women on their team with ways to do more to set their families up for success.

Though Carly is from the Northeast and she loves her hometown, she is grateful for the way the D/FW area has celebrated and supported Tribe Alive.

“Since moving to Texas, I have been so grateful for the community of people who have embraced us and taken us in as their own,” Carly said.

To support Tribe Alive this holiday season, visit their beautiful website.


If you know someone who is Doing Good in Dallas, we’d love to hear about it! Share their story with us.

Story by Rachel Brown. Photos courtesy of Tribe Alive.