Seeing the Need for Fair Trade
I have just returned from an amazing three week trip to Ecuador in South America. My daughter has been volunteering this year at Cenit.org, a small charity founded by some nuns which works with working children and their families and tries to get them back into education, health care and inspire them to a more promising future than selling low value goods on the street (which is illegal anyway). Many poorer families in the city of Quito (the capital) live on $2 a day. Intestinal parasites are endemic. May children have missed out on some schooling or simply never went. They work with their families on the streets. Drugs are a problem. The big markets where Cenit works are dangerous places- don't go there as a tourist, your camera, phone and wallet are at great risk, as are you personally if you don't hand them over. Cenit seeks to get children off the streets and back into regular school. It wants to provide them with a vision for their futures- they could be trained for better jobs, secure jobs, jobs that pay a decent wage.
Fair Trade has that same vision. In supporting Fair Trade we make it possible for people working at the very bottom of the producer ladder to live in dignity and to support their families. Kids can go to school, there's enough money for more than one meal per day, they have a say in the production and sales of goods, and the practices used are sustainable- both for the families involved in terms of secure employment, but also for the environment so that future generations will still have that industry to work in.
In our churches and faith groups we can champion Fair Trade and make an impact. We may feel that our street stalls and awareness campaigns in the community are small fry, but they are a valuable way to connect with the wider community and to ask people to think carefully about the way they support businesses. It's about voting with your feet- putting your money where your mouth is, and creating thought around our tiny everyday decisions: Where did my coffee come from? Who made this dress? Does this company use cocoa beans from farms which use unpaid child labour?
Visiting a place like Ecuador drives home the importance of creating a new business model- not aid, but trade, and Fair trade. Let's explore how we can do that and put our faith into action.