There's no greater way to express Thanks than by giving.
During the Christmas season of 2011 we were displaced, still struggling to recover from the 2008 recession. (A really long story for another time.) However, we were blessed to be able to stay with family until we found solid work. With very little money, I decided to do something different that year for my 3 kids, whom at the time were; 21, 19 and 13. I chose to give a gift in their name via World Vision. For (from) my son, I gave a soccer ball, my oldest daughter bed nets to prevent malaria, and on behalf of my youngest daughter, seeds for a family to plant a food garden. It was one of their most memorable Christmas' and giving/getting a give back gift of some sort became a new family tradition.
One year I did the $5 white envelope, [ www.giving101.org/white-envelope-project/ ]. As the kids got older we did more projects together, like gift bags for the homeless that we put together on Christmas Eve and passed them out Christmas morning, and last year we gave to Angel Tree www.prisonfellowship.org/about/angel-tree/ . I now try to make sure that the majority of our gifts are from give back companies or fair trade.
Since starting Wanderful Things I have discovered so many amazing people and businesses doing great things with products they make themselves or by collaborating with local and global artisans. I have met them online and at pop-up shops which I have hosted, sold at or attended. I am still learning and growing in becoming a conscious consumer but I wanted to pass on some of my favorites to you. Most of us know of the pioneers in the give back world, a concept I choose to refer to as justice enterprise, like The Giving Keys, 31 Bits, Krochet Kids, Toms, and Warby Parker but here I want to share with you some of my favorite up and coming organizations/brands you may have never heard of. Please explore their websites, all of their stories are so inspiring.
not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. -2 Corinthians 9:7
This blog is not meant to in any way to entice or manipulate you but rather to encourage and equip you to joyfully plan your giving. May we all excel in the grace of giving during Christmas and everyday.
I have been wanting to get on and write a piece on Fair Trade for anybody who is unsure what exactly that means. When I first learned of the issue of unfair wages and labor conditions I thought everybody should know of these injustices and that there are options. However, I found myself still learning so much and felt a bit inadequate to be the one teaching on this quite yet.
In my journey of wanting to know more I was blessed to meet a wonderful lady who is doing great things bringing awareness to everybody that will listen and desires to live it out. Elisha Chan runs a fair trade online and pop-up shop with the best items from the Haitian people. She also is a leader with the network, Fair Trade LA and works closely with Fair Trade Certified. So, I thought who better to answer the questions many are asking, probably more in their head than out loud.
Elisha, thank you for taking this time! Please explain to us the how and whys of Fair Trade.
Thank you Terry! Yes I would love to.
Growing up, I’ve always wanted to make a positive impact in the world. When I was in middle school, I helped paint houses in the inner city of San Francisco. When I was in high school, I donated to different causes. When I was a freshman at UCLA, I volunteered in the Dominican Republic to build a school (yes, making actual concrete blocks!) and teaching English. When I was a sophomore at UCLA (until now), I serve a small village in Haiti by starting a scholarship program. I grew up learning that in order to make a difference, it takes big gestures like traveling abroad.
It wasn’t until I learned about Fair Trade that I realized we can make a huge impact in ending poverty simply through our everyday purchases. There is a famous quote by Anna Lappe, “Every time you spend money you’re casting a vote for the kind of world you want to live in.” To me, buying fair trade is the way I can create a better world through the way I invest my money. Luckily, we now have more access than ever to Fair Trade products and opportunities to advance the Fair Trade movement.
So what does Fair Trade mean anyways?
Simply put, if you find a product that has a Fair Trade logo on it, it means that it is Fair Trade Certified and is produced under the conditions of the following 10 principles:
1. Create opportunities for economically disadvantaged producers.
2. Be transparent and accountable.
3. Conduct fair trade practices
4. Pay promptly and fairly.
5. Guard against child labor and forced labor.
6. Promote gender equality and non-discrimination.
7. Ensure safe working conditions.
8. Build capacity to help producers grow their businesses.
9. Raise awareness about fair trade.
10. Respect for the environment.
These principles may seem like common sense. Everyone should already be working under these conditions, right? But unfortunately, that is not the case in our world. According to Polaris, “Globally, the International Labor Organization estimates that there are 14.2 million people trapped in forced labor in industries including agriculture, construction, domestic work, and manufacturing.” And this sad reality is driven by our demand for cheap products, where the tradeoff often means people, including children trapped in forced labor around the world.
Here is the good news. We can now take action and fight for social justice wherever we live. There are now over 2000 designated Fair Trade towns over 40 countries in 6 continents. In the year 2000, the UK launched the first Fair Trade campaign to make Garstang a Fair Trade town. Since then, several countries have been designated Fair Trade, including Wales and Sweden. In the United States, we are also growing the Fair Trade movement through nearly 300 Fair Trade Campaigns on campuses and communities.
Fair Trade LA is a nonprofit working towards making Los Angeles the largest Fair Trade town in the United States! Based on our population, we need to identify 96 businesses in the LA area that sells at least two Fair Trade items and 96 locations to serve at least one Fair Trade item. Over the years, we have seen successful campaigns on campuses such as LMU and UCLA, as well as towns, such as Pasadena designated Fair Trade.
So what is your role in this global movement? What can you do to alleviate poverty by creating sustainable jobs in a fair and just way? Buy fair. Live fair. Shop the Fair Trade logos. Learn about the stories of the artisans and producers who made your products. If you want to do more, look for a local Fair Trade Campaign that you can be a part of or you can launch one wherever you are!
You and I have the power to change the world. Start with how you spend your money.
I find it helpful that remembering why we start something, anything really, gets us through the rough spots in the journey and allows us to finish well, whether it be a certain mission or life in general.
So in order for you to come along this journey with me I thought you might want to know why I even started.
In 2009 we transitioned from being full-time church ministry to full-time entertainment industry, which we tend to label 'from pulpit to production' (the WHY of that, will have to make for another blog post). However, without that specific mission coming to an end, the mission of Wanderful Things would not have begun.
After having been a part of leadership in three churches and district leaders over teens and young adults from six states for 20 years, we had many opportunities to serve local and global communities and tap into the congregations for resources, time and money. Now two years into production life I still saw needs all around me, and I realized my heart to do something about meeting them, didn't go away.
With transition being so straining financially, barely surviving ourselves, and no congregation to call on I asked God to show me how I could help with a need in front of me to get school supplies to local kids when I could hardly get some for my own child, I heard God say, "What is in your house?". The same question that the prophet Elisha asked the Shunamite widow in 2 Kings 4:1-38. I looked, and what I found was a new shirt that had shrunk in the wash and made a scarf out of it and put it up on Facebook and took preorders. I then realized that the "congregation" was not a group of people in one church building but spread out everywhere, eager to help when given the opportunity. With the sales of the scarves, we were able to contribute supplies for a dozen backpacks, which I know is not big numbers but it meant everything to those 12 kids and their parents.
After that as needs came my way I would create a product and share it, and the responses kept coming. We collected socks for the homeless, massage gift cards for women fighting breast cancer and much more. Then unexpectedly, we had to hit the road for an unknown amount of time, which caused me to place my product supplies in storage.
To keep momentum going I created a Instagram account to document what I would see on the road, as far as opportunities to give back. I found things like products in shops that gave percentages to certain causes to meter machines that let you give change for the homeless. I also found in my news feed many non-profits and social justice companies and began to see how people everywhere were doing wonderful things as both conscious consumers and creators to meet the needs in front of them and around the world. Yet I also came to discover that others had no idea of the many ways to make an impact, with something as simple as being an informed shopper.
As we wandered, I decided to use my time, voice and social media platforms to bring awareness; first of the needs and then of those meeting them. Focusing on the five people groups that Jesus himself vowed to reach in Luke 4:18-19, the poor, the imprisoned, the sick, the oppressed and those in transition. A wand has five points and reminds me of making wishes come true, and that is the inspiration behind the name. Together we can do Wanderful Things.