Reduce. Reuse. Recycle. Restore!
As part of Fair Trade Awareness Month in October, we are featuring articles by some amazing advocates in the Fair Trade movement. Our second installment is from Caroline Sakanashi, the director of merchandising for Heavenly Treasures, a micro enterprise network that fights poverty in 17 countries around the world and seeks to see people find hope and self sufficiency through the sale of handicraft projects.
Yesterday I was offered a “well made and durable” reusable shopping bag offered for 99 cents at my local grocery store. The checker said “why don’t you help save a tree!” I looked at the bag and it was well made. But then I realized that the reusable shopping bag for 99 cents or others like it at $2 – $5 is most likely made by slave labor. It just didn’t make sense to me to buy it. I’ve been taught that sometimes when things are “too cheap” it usually comes at a high cost – slave labor.
When I got home, I thought about the people in the Laboret sewing project in Kenya.
When I went to Kenya in 2012, I was able to visit Pastor Japhet and the laboret sewing project. There are about 10 people being employed there. They welcomed us with a cake and singing. They fed us and I got to see my first cow up close in its natural habitat! Japhet was so excited to show us their church which is on his property – walls made of dung, and a dirt floor with wood logs as benches to hold about 60 people (I thought “No way! This place only holds 25 people!” Oh me, of little faith).
But the most exciting thing he was able to show us is that they were able to buy a door for their church since they now could provide for their families and had an income!
The people in Laboret have been making drawstring bags for us for a few years now. They graduated to making other items – reusable shopping totes and lunch bags! We sell them for $10-15. Sure, you pay more for the bags but at the same time, we are able to save trees, fight poverty, abolish slavery and have a stylish shopping bag at the same time!
Fast forward to this year. . . Pastor Japhet said that they have removed the benches and now have chairs for their church. They are employing more people and God has taken them through experiences that have brought more people out of poverty and into a relationship with Christ!
Heavenly Treasures gives the artisan a 50% deposit upon the order so they can have materials to make the product and feed their families. Once they make the product and we receive it here in the US, we are able to wire them the remaining balance. We then sell it at Shop with a Mission and once the product is sold down 40%, we reinvest 100% of the proceeds back into the project! Then the cycle starts all over again and artisans are able to grow their small businesses.
We have a huge selection of the reusable shopping bags in our store. Will you come and support their project? If you’re far away in the US, you can call us at (626)963-7717 and we can ship them to you.
Save a tree!
I have decided to replace any reusable shopping bag with a laboret bag. These bags will not only save trees, but save people. Every Product Represents a Changed Life!
Article written by Caroline Sakanashi
Director of Merchandising at Heavenly Treasures
Shop with a Mission, a Fair Trade Marketplace
Heavenly Treasures is a member of the Fair Trade Federation, World Fair Trade Organization, and KEFAT.