October is Fair Trade Month! What’s that? Fair Trade is a system of exchange that honors producers, communities, consumers, and the environment. It is a model for the global economy rooted in people-to-people connections, justice, and sustainability. When you make Fair Trade purchases you are supporting fair prices, investment in people and communities, environmental sustainability, economic empowerment for small producers, direct trade and fair labor conditions. Fair Trade is more than just trading, it’s a better way to live… and shop.
So next time you go shopping online, check out the Gifts With Humanity Fair Trade retail store, which sells a range of products from clothing to coffee, including jewelry, toys, home décor items, stationary, and instruments. Each item is hand-made by local artisans in Africa, the Americas, and Asia who directly benefit from the sale of their items.
At the Jacaranda Workshop in Nairobi, students from the Jacaranda School For the Mentally Disabled have learned to make jewelry, entirely handcrafted from brass and hand-made beads, most of which are ceramic and are glazed and fired at the workshop. The workshop provides employment for thirty mentally-challenged adults.
In Kenya, thousands of discarded flip-flops wash up on the African shoreline everyday. This indestructible rubber creates an environmental disaster for the marine eco-system as it spoils the natural beauty of the beaches, is mistakenly swallowed by marine feeders, and prevents hatching turtles reaching the safety of the sea. Realizing that this flotsam brings a limitless resource to coastal communities in Kenya, UniquEco works with locals to collect and re-cycle discarded waste. The product range is diverse, from unique accessories and jewelry to one-off sculptures of amazing ingenuity, humor and beauty. UniquEco provides a sustainable wage for unskilled beachcombers and bead-makers, to artisans and sculptors, allowing local people to maintain their way of life yet also provide for a better future for themselves and their families.
In India, Noah’s Ark was established to provide integrity, welfare and better living conditions for very poor artisans in the villages of Moradabad. In addition to fair wages and business support, the organization provides an opportunity to acquire life insurance, medical care and a facility for the education of their children. There are 28 small artisan groups whose lives have been significantly impacted by improved living conditions and increased market opportunities for their craft. Products include bags, notebooks, sculptures and jewelry. A portion of the profits is allocated for building a school to provide free education for children who have been working in the fields of Moradabad. These children will then grow up with the skills to provide for themselves.
There are many other similar projects supported by Gifts With Humanity throughout Asia and South America. Vietnamese artisans are making toy bugs out of Coke cans and, in Honduras, purses are woven from discarded chip packets. Browsing through the website is like shopping for puppies at the pound… you want to help them all. Kevin Ward and Renice Jones, who met as volunteer computer teachers in Kenya, founded the parent company, Global Crafts, in 2002. They quickly recognized the capacity of the web to help individual artisans and founded a small retail store in their garage back home. Global Crafts is now a $1 million a year outlet for fair trade artisan handicrafts. Since 2000, fair trade sales and consumer awareness have increased tremendously, as the range of products has also expanded. And in 2002, the first World Fair Trade Day was celebrated to heighten consumer awareness and to strengthen connections among fair traders and interested citizens around the globe. Today, fair trade practices continue to grow across the globe, because of the efforts of consumers, entrepreneurs, non-governmental organizations, and other communities. So remember that old adage “…it is in the giving that we receive,” and do your bit for humanity and support these entrepreneurial communities with your next purchase.