The holiday season is known for its overwhelming generosity and spirit of giving which pervades homes in the run up to Christmas Day. But it’s not just during the holidays that disadvantaged people need help and support. Here are a few ways you can make giving a priority all through the year.
Education is the best way out of poverty, but millions of children in developing countries only attend school for a few years before leaving to start work and provide supplementary income for their family. You can help by sponsoring a student so they can attend school from Kindergarten to University. Your student will receive things like school enrollment fees, clothing and new shoes, backpacks and school supplies for the year, Bibles, transportation to school, and food. You can establish a lasting friendship with your student as they send you letters with their progress, knowing that you are helping them have a better future.
Buy Something, Give Something Away
Every time you are shopping for something new for yourself or your home, think how you can give to someone who may need the same. For example, if you need a new pair of shoes, think how you can donate a pair to someone in a developing country. If you need a new kitchen table, donate your old one to a thrift store that provides funds for educational programs overseas. If you’re upgrading your old computer or laptop, think how you can provide appropriate technology for the disadvantaged to succeed in school or work. When you make this a habit, the possibilities are endless for giving to those in need all through the year.
Fair Trade Gifts
Sometimes it seems as if a family member, friend, or co-worker’s birthday is around every corner, and ideas for unique and great birthday gifts don’t ever quite catch up! If you think Fair Trade when shopping, you’ll always have a one-of-a-kind gift, specific to the area from which it comes. You can shop all around the world for handwoven scarves, purses, towels, jewelry, home decor, baskets, and even unique wedding gifts, without stepping foot outside. In turn, you help alleviate poverty by ensuring producers are getting the money they deserve for the products they make. This creates opportunities to help bring them out of poverty, transform harsh working conditions and invest back into their families and communities to provide much needed health and education programs. And with fair trade you know natural materials and ethical farming methods are used, so you can give these gifts knowing you are not harming the environment.
So remember that giving in not just for Christmas but with a little thought you will be able to give to the less fortunate throughout the year.
Fair Trade, ethically made products have interesting journeys from the sketch pad to the customer. Let's delve into the intricacies of the journey of our Fair Trade handwoven scarves.
the sketch pad……...
Fundamental to new handwoven scarves is drafting the design while bearing in mind the primitive tools that will be used in weaving but also considering the global market. Size of scarf and weaving pattern must be thought out before patterns are drawn because of the limitations of the backstrap loom. Then patterns are drawn of the scarf along with detailed instructions for the new design. Samples of yarn color are attached to the instructions to make sure just the right shades are used.
discussion with the artisan producers…….
A meeting then takes place with the artisans to go over the instructions, designs and costs. Through discussions with the artisans on the hours involved for weaving, the cost of yarns, etc., the price they will be paid for the work on these scarves is decided upon. The artisans typically set the price for their work during this meeting.
If the weaving design is unique or involves a totally new technique we ask the artisans to weave a sample so that any needed adjustments can be made to the design before the order is placed.
After all corrections and adjustments are finished an order is written up and given to artisans for the scarves along with advance payment for materials. Advance payment is a must for the artisans and they are given as much as they need to be able to purchase the needed yarn and materials. Yarn is purchased locally after they have calculated the amount needed for the entire order.
the work begins………
The artisan group purchases the yarn and the work begins on the order. First the yarn is readied by winding it onto the warping board in the exact pattern needed for our scarf design. The warped yarns are then carefully transferred to the backstrap loom and the weaving begins. Because a backstrap loom is portable the women can roll it up and lay it aside when they have work to do in the home. Most artisans do not need to leave home but are able to work at their looms in their home while caring for their families. This is very important for the ladies!
labeling and packaging……….
When the scarves are finished they checked for quality, labeled and packaged for shipment. Products that are imported into the United States have stringent labeling requirements that must be followed.
The artisan group receives payment for their work when the order is finished and ready to ship. This is very important to the groups because they depend on their income for basic necessities. At times a group will need money in advance of this for emergency expenses and will be given interest free advances on their income.
The scarves are now ready to be taken to the shipping company to be shipped to the States. A customs broker is hired in the United States to handle the complicated paperwork of importing.
final steps of the journey…………
After arrival at our offices in the U.S. they are checked once again. They are folded, hang tags attached and are now ready for orders through the website or at Fair Trade sales around the country. Each new design, color or product is also made ready to be professionally photographed.
As you can see Fair Trade scarves have quite a journey before reaching you! Learn more about the work involved during the weaving process.
The fair income that the artisans receive for their work in weaving scarves is life changing for them and their families.
Have you ever considered how ethical consumerism such as shopping for Fair Trade products can benefit the least of these? As Matthew 25:40 tells us ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ So how can ethical Fair Trade products help us benefit the poor as Jesus asks of us?
In this Bible verse, Jesus is talking about those with a variety of needs such as being hungry, thirsty, in prison, or impoverished or being sick. When we talk about helping the needy it is easy to see why Fair Trade can help.
First, there are no sweatshops in Fair Trade businesses. Artisans are paid a fair wage for their work so that they are able to help care for their families with medical care when they are sick and provide food when their families are hungry. Fair wages helps them to step out of poverty. Each time you purchase an ethically sourced Fair Trade product you are helping a mother or father take care of their family. You are helping those in need.
Have you ever been one of the least of these that Jesus is talking about? Have you ever been in distress, in need or sick? Has anyone come alongside you to give you a hand, a hug, or an encouraging word. Sometimes that is what is needed - to show others that you care. Through long term relationships, Fair Trade organizations and businesses show the artisans, the producers or growers that they care. They show they care with the extra benefits that are given to artisans and their families such as micro-credit loans, grants to help them with their handcrafts businesses, schooling for new skills to increase their income and so much more.
Fair Trade organizations help the artisans, the producers and growers through relationships that are built on mutual trust and respect. When working with artisans in the long term, organizations help them develop skills in their handcraft businesses, give technical assistance as well as financial help. Giving a helping hand in the many aspects of the artisans lives and businesses is a priority!
Isaiah 25:4 For you have been a stronghold to the poor, a stronghold to the needy in his distress, a shelter from the storm and a shade from the heat; for the breath of the ruthless is like a storm against a wall.
You can be a stronghold for the poor through Fair Trade whether you are buying products yourself or encouraging others to help the poor with their Fair Trade purchases.
We all can benefit the least of these through our shopping habits.
You have heard that purchasing Fair Trade makes a difference in the world, a difference in the lives of disadvantaged people, but do you really understand Fair Trade and why it matters?
Consider this information:
Earning a Fair Wage - The first tenet of Fair Trade to understand is that the artisan or producer of the product earns a fair income for their work and they do not work in sweatshops. Workers and especially women often are able to do their work in their homes so that they can care for their families and home without traveling to a factory to work.
Advance Payment - Since artisans cannot afford to purchase materials to craft the orders it is necessary to give advance payment for materials needed for crafting the products. In addition, advance wages are paid when artisans have an emergency need for their wages.
No Child Labor - The UN states over 215 million children are engaged in child labor around the world. Under Fair Trade guidelines children are not allowed to work on products.
Respect The Culture of the Artisan - One of the practices of Fair Trade is to respect the culture of the artisans. Many organizations do this through the designs and types of handcrafts that they ask the artisan to produce. For example, a weaving group may weave fabric that is a design style that is indicative of their culture and it is then sewn into a purse or other accessories for sale to the world market.
Protect The Environment - As a Fair Trade organization, you must consider how your work with the artisans impacts the environment. The use of natural materials, recycling and upcycling, low impact tools in the production of handcrafts and responsible use of chemicals in food products are all ways that help protect the environment.
Safe Working Conditions - Concern for the safety and welfare of the artisan is a priority with Fair Trade companies and organizations. Something as simple as a stool for backstrap weavers can reduce strain on their legs or a new lamp for correct lighting to sew or make jewelry will be very beneficial for the workers.
Transparent Long Term Relationships - When working with artisans it is important to develop ethical, trusting relationships through long term work along with transparency in the wages and pricing of the handcrafts.
As you can see when Fair Trade guidelines are followed, products can then be ethically sourced, ethically made, eco friendly with many benefits for the artisans. When claims are made that a product is Fair Trade it is imperative to verify that the company is a member of a Fair Trade certifying organization so you can be assured they are following the guidelines of Fair Trade..
Fair Trade really does matter with each and every purchase.
In this busy, busy world it is easy to find ourselves wondering how we can live the way our faith calls us to live. Young parents are especially busy with family, work and children but whether old or young we all have many demands tugging on us each day. So how do we live out our faith in our everyday world? Fair Trade can help you!
According to the United Nations 215 million children are in the labor force and more than half of them are working in the worst types of child labor - forced labor, hazardous jobs, slavery, drug trafficking and prostitution. One of the principals of Fair Trade is no child exploitation in the making of products. When we look to follow God’s call to us to care for the little children we need remember our everyday purchases should be ethically sourced with no child labor involved. Children should be nourished, cared for and allowed to be children.
Matthew 10:42 ‘And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is my disciple, I tell you the truth, he will certainly not lose his reward."
When we purchase products that come from factories that use unethical labor practices we are not helping workers earn a fair wage. A little research online will help us learn what countries have unfair labor practices and remember the oppression that workers are under in those conditions. Conversely when we purchase from Fair Trade companies we can be assured of the ethical and fair labor practices that the artisans receive. Our faith calls us to help the poor and not oppress them. Live your faith everyday by searching for Fair Trade ethical products. Every purchase matters to the artisans that earn a fair living through Fair Trade.
Proverbs 14:31 Whoever oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors God.
Preserving and caring for the environment is caring for God’s creation. Respecting the environment is a tenet of Fair Trade and organizations use many environmentally sustainable practices. Products are not crafted in large factories but are typically crafted by hand using simple methods and tools. When products are purchased you are making the statement that you care for God’s world and all that is in it.
Psalms 24:1-2 The earth is the LORD's, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it; for he founded it on the seas and established it on the waters.
To love our neighbors means to find ways to help them and do what is best for them whether they are neighbors next door or around the world. A principal of Fair Trade is developing long term, caring relationships with the producer artisan groups. Respectful, caring and helping in all aspects of working with the artisans is what Fair Trade organizations strive for, so you can be assured when you buy Fair Trade articles the welfare of the artisan is first and foremost.
Galatians 5:14 For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: "Love your neighbor as yourself."
Fair Trade helps you share your faith through daily interactions with friends, family, co-workers simply by sharing Fair Trade products in all your gifting and including a note about the Fair Trade aspects or ask the company to include information about the artisans with your gift. By sharing Fair Trade gifts with friends and family and using Fair Trade products in your own home you will be showing the people around you a faith that is lived everyday.
Taking a stand against sweatshops, against the oppression of people in developing countries, against child labor, respecting the environment and loving your neighbor are actions you take when you purchase Fair Trade products.
There are many products produced under Fair Trade guidelines such as: tea, jewelry, clothing, home decor, kitchen and home linens, bananas, many food products, coffee, purses, women’s accessories, clothing and so much more! Do a little investigating before your next purchase.