I love buying fair trade products and hearing stories about the farmers, producers and artisans involved in the process.
Over the past few years, I’ve worked with Prosperity Candle, an associate of the World Fair Trade Organization and a B-corp certified company for community and environmental sustainability, by creating custom candle labels for fundraising purposes. The company works with artisans in Iraq and Haiti, and also employs resettled refugees at its U.S. headquarters in Massachusetts. Prosperity and I worked together to create labels for three different charities, which I then sell at fair trade shows under the name A Light of Hope. My mission was to do more good by buying candles that give back and paying the profits forward to charities that help women and children in the United States and throughout the world.
Want to learn more about fair trade? The Ohio Fair Trade Network and John Carroll University are hosting this year’s Teach In & Expo on Oct. 21 in University Heights. Workshops range from the basics of fair trade principles to fair trade certification. Expo guests include the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, called “one of the great human rights success stories of our day” by The Washington Post. Jonathan Rosenthal, executive director of New Economy Coalition, will speak about “Network Weaving: Building Grassroots Power through Collaboration.” Alex Escobar Prado, member of the Guatemalan environmental justice organization Youth Organized in Defense of Life (JODVID), will discuss how he is working to create positive change in his community.
More than 30 vendors from across the state will sell their fair trade goods at the expo, including A Light of Hope Candles. It’s a great time to get a jump-start on socially conscious gift-giving. There will also be door prizes, as well as free coffee and chocolate samples.
Rachel Jewell, Ohio fair trade partner and team leader at Threads Worldwide, recently told me two stories that inspired her to get involved in the fair trade movement.
The first story is about HIV+ women in Ethiopia. They were shunned by the community and encouraged to move to a lake that they thought would cure their illness. Sadly, the lake didn’t cure them, and they had spent all of their money to get there. They had nowhere to turn. A fair trade cooperative took them in and taught them how to make earrings and bracelets out of beads that are made from recycled metals, including spent bullet casings, which are abundant in the area. Sales from these products provide the women with shelter, meals, medication and a community.
The second inspirational story is about three sisters who live in rural Peru. Even though their husbands were opposed to them working, they decided to start a business making belts to sell at the market. They sold some belts and then sold some more. They took that profit and bought some chickens that laid some eggs. The sisters sold the eggs and gave the profit to their husbands. These three sisters now employ 2,000 women. They have improved their community, sent all of their children to school and changed their living conditions.
The women who make fair trade products want their children to have a good education and a better future. They want quality medical care. They want a comfortable place to live. They want to know where the next meal is coming from. When you purchase a fair trade certified item, you know that you are making a difference. The profit from a bracelet or a chocolate bar can feed a family or send a girl to school. Once you know that, how can you turn your back on them?
Fair trade means fair pay and healthy working conditions for farmers and producers. Check out the 10 Principles of Fair Trade according to the World Fair Trade Organization. And be sure to stop by the Expo on Oct. 21.