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Fair Trade: The Multi-cultural Shopping Experience That Confronts Poverty and Connects You With the World.
The Plain Truth About Worldwide Poverty
Poverty has been with us since the beginning of history. We’ve all seen its faces at one time or another: Television beams images of African children, bellies swollen from the effects of malnutrition, beggars in India with twisted legs, dressed in rags, live on the streets, families crowd into cardboard shacks the size of our bathrooms.
I’ve been to places like that. As a missionary, I have met those beggars on the sidewalks of India, held orphans in Guatemala in my arms and talked to a single mother in the poor, south end of Bogota, Columbia. She lived with her children in a three-sided tin structure with a few wooden boards over the sleeping area to serve as a roof. It was bone chilling and damp that day but she had no warm clothes and wore flip-flops on her bare feet.
A Few Revealing Statistics
On their website, “The Hunger Project,” (see link at end of this hub) an initiative that works to address global hunger, statistics reveal that:
-60% of the hungry in the world are women.
-1 out of 6 children born in developing nations have a low birth weight.
-one-third of all deaths of children in sub-Saharan Africa are caused by hunger.
-One child dies every five seconds from hunger-related diseases.
And hunger is only part of the issue. Lack of opportunity, loss of dignity, homelessness, few if any opportunities for adequate education, and much more, are ingredients of the poverty picture. The horrific results also include families knowingly or unknowingly, selling their young daughters into prostitution to bring in extra income. Survival becomes paramount to dignity and personal value.
There have been numerous efforts over the centuries to alleviate poverty, to give the victims a hand up and not just a handout. Fair trade initiatives are one lasting and effective way to do this.
How does fair trade work?
Green America, a social justice and environmental nonprofit, explains that fair trade items are produced by small business owners worldwide who would otherwise live in poverty at the “bottom rung of the economic ladder.” These individuals enter into a cooperative arrangement with retailers who are members of the Fair Trade Federation. The retailers agree to sell the products according the guidelines established by the Fair Trade Labeling Organization.
Profits from sales go back to the producer or craftsman and provide for needs such as housing, basic medical care, food, education, etc.
Recipients also commit to invest their profits into the development of their community so that everyone profits. In addition, farmers who grow fair trade crops, are also trained in eco-friendly agricultural techniques.
So fair trade is much more then the coffee and chocolate you can find at most supermarkets these days?
Fair trade stores and web sites are readily available. They sell a wide variety of items including clothing, jewelry, all natural soaps, musical instruments, greeting cards, decorative items, furniture, Christmas ornaments and sculptures made of wood, onyx, brass and more! You can purchase a colorful handbag from Guatemala, or an onyx jewelry box from India or Shea butter soap from a woman’s cooperative in Uganda.
What types of people benefit from Fair trade?
A Columbian coffee farmer develops a plantation that provides dependable support for his family. Former prostitutes in India find hope and a legitimate living through their sales of homemade jewelry and herbal soaps. A widow in Africa educates her children by selling her beautiful hand woven placemats and towels to fair trade vendors around the world.
Ten Thousand Villages – Network of Hope
The Mennonite Central Committee has a long history of bringing relief to the hurting and impoverished in many nations. According to MCC, the beginning of its Ten Thousand Villages chain of stores is a humble one.
“The global fair trade movement began with the founding of Ten Thousand Villages more than 60 years ago through the visionary work of Edna Ruth Byler, a pioneering businesswoman,” reads one account if its history.
Byler purchased crafts from third world artisans and sold them to friends and family out of the trunk of her car. Her actions were the result of a trip to Puerto Rico in 1946 where she witnessed terrible poverty first-hand. “Byler believed that she could provide sustainable economic opportunities for artisans in developing countries by creating a viable marketplace for their products in North America.” The project eventually expanded and became known as the Overseas Needlepoint and Crafts Project.
In 1962, MCC took over the work and today, over seventy Ten Thousand Village stores exist in the U.S. alone. They carry a wide and fascinating array of items and provide a true cross-cultural experience without ever leaving America!
Your purchase from a Ten Thousand Villages store helps young mothers like Rosa Periona, of Lima, Peru.
 Used by permission form TTV’ “Our Story” on their web-site
Ten Thousand Villages continues to change more and more lives like Rosa’s. In fact, they have been so successful that for six consecutive years, (2008-2013), TTV it was voted one of the, "World's Most Ethical Companies" by the Ethisphere Institute and Forbes Magazine.
To shop with TTV on-line or find a store near you, click the link at the bottom of this article.
Rosa’s husband vanished in the fighting between the Sendero Luminosa (Shining Path Maoists) and the Peruvian army. She fled to nearby Huaycan, seeking safety and a job to feed herself and her nine children. Desperate, she resorted to begging. Then she learned to make small toy vicunas, the wild cousins to llamas and alpacas.
She was able to export the toys and Ten Thousand Villages was her first customer. She now sells her vicunas to twelve countries and also offers them through her own retail shop in Huaycan. She has been able to educate her family and now employs more than twenty people in her workshop and retail store in the three-story brick building that also houses her and a dozen family members.
 Used by permission of TTV
Bead For Life – New Life for Women in Uganda
Women in Northern Uganda make beautiful jewelry and accessories out of colorful rolled paper beads as well as Shea butter soap and lip balm out of Shea nuts found in their country. Through proceeds of the sale of these products in the United States and beyond, they have been able to rise out of debilitating poverty and fulfill their dreams.
How Bead for Life Began
BFL accounts relate that the program began when founders Torkin Wakefield, Ginny Jordan, and Devin Hibbard visited Uganda. They met Millie, who earned a dollar a day crushing stones in the hot sun in a rock quarry.
However, the lovely paper beads she made in her spare time, caught the eyes of her visitors who learned there was no market for her craft. Torkin, Ginny and Devin teamed up to find a way to not only find buyers for Millie’s products, but to teach many more Ugandan women the same skills, providing greater income and a new lease on life.
A New Life For Joan
One of the hundreds of individuals who have achieved new lives through BFL is Joan Ahimbisibwe. When Joan’s husband died in 1997, she escaped to Kampala with her three children to escape a forced marriage to her brother-in-law.
The only work she could find was breaking bricks in the scorching sun. With the help of BFL, she saved enough money from bead making to open her own store. Eventually, with income from the beads and the store, she was able to send her daughter to boarding school and build her own brick home.
Today, Joan also rents land on which she grows vegetables for sale. She is always on the lookout for new business ventures.
Factsheet Used by permission from “Meet the Beaders” BeadforLife Press Factsheet 2011
Mary Naiga contracted AIDS from her husband who died and left her with four young children. She lived in a tiny hut, able to afford only one meal a day which she often gave to her children.
Than Mary became an employee of BFL. Her bead making provided her with a steady income enabling her to begin taking AIDS drugs that have greatly improved her health. She developed a business selling to other beaders and was been able to purchase her own home.
To shop with BeadforLife, go to, http://www.beadforlife.org/. A unique feature of BFL, gives shoppers opportunity to schedule a jewelry party at their home or church and selling these wonderful handmade items to friends and family.
BeadforLife was featured on the Today Show and in articles in Good Housekeeping and Guideposts magazines.
 Used by permission from “Meet the Beaders” BeadforLife Press Factsheet 2011
You Play a Vital Role
As we’ve seen, fair trade shopping is a simple, fun and exciting way of connecting us to other cultures around the world. In this win/win situation, we purchase something that delights and benefits us and small business owners in developing nations experience empowerment as they provide for themselves and their families.
More Great Products
The photo selection below show many of the top quality items that can be purchased via Fair Trade. Products like the ones pictured, can be found at the Ten Thousand Village chain of stores mentioned earlier in the hub. These shots are not necessarily to promote TTV, but to generate interest in Fair Trade purchasing and what is available.
- Green America: Fair Trade: What is Fair Trade?
Green America's Fair Trade program promotes economic action to create a just global economy for suppliers and artisans.
- Fair Trade Handmade Gifts & Crafts from International Artisans - Ten Thousand Villages
Shop for unique, handmade gifts from around the world including fair trade baskets, jewelry, crafts and other items from international artisans.
- Fairtrade International (FLO)
Fairtrade International (FLO) works to secure a better deal for farmers and workers. FLO sets global Fairtrade Standards, provides producer support and licenses the FAIRTRADE Mark. Over 27,000 products carry the international Fairtrade Mark and are s
- Fair Trade Wedding Registry and Fair Trade Gift Registry | Seven Hopes United
Fair Trade Gift Registry for weddings, baby showers, and more! Find fair trade gifts you'll love and help provide health care and education to entire communities.
- Fair Trade Shops-Coffee-Chocolate-Clothing-Gifts and More!
Online Fair Trade Shops lists fair trade organizations that sell products online including chocolate, coffee, clothing, gifts and much more.