Fair Trade Goods – Local Businesses Make Global Impact in our own Backyard
With compassionate hearts, Center Grove-area business owners have become creative in investing their resources and establishing partnerships to help the poor develop the means to support themselves. The catalyst for this involves the Center for Global Impact (CGI), located in Fairview Place across from LA Fitness. According to CGI President Chris Alexander, “Starving people need more than one bag of rice. They need sustainability and training.”
Alexander’s experiences as an agricultural field missionary in Zambia and then later in the Ukraine cultivated his heart for those living in extreme poverty. “The poor that CGI works with are just one crisis away from making a bad decision. That decision can result in the sale of a child.”
While there are no easy answers to extreme poverty and human trafficking, fair trade, along with development and training, helps. Bill and Sally Kerchner, owners of Tree of Life Christian Store, share this passion. Sally’s recent trip to Kenya stirred her heart to provide a market for items like purses and jewelry that widows and orphans create. Sally understands that when people purchase fair trade items, they double the impact of their money by helping the impoverished afford food, education, and shelter. She will be traveling to Cambodia later this year to see how she can further help.
Fair trade is a growing market-based movement to help producers in developing countries make money above the poverty level so they can support their families. Non-government organizations (NGOs) like Center for Global Impact often come alongside to offer training, development, and a market to encourage fair trade. The goal is to help the extreme poor avoid being exploited by below-poverty-level wages and inhumane work hours. The ultimate goal with fair trade is to provide a better life for those struggling to survive.
Empowering the Poor
Two years ago, local dentist and CGHS graduate Dr. Doug Harty encouraged his family and co-workers to purchase beehives for families in Kosova rather than to exchange Christmas presents.
“With the donated money, we were able to provide training and give four hives to a Muslim woman who lost her husband and four sons during the Balkan War of the 1990s as well as five hives to a man who was thrown out of his father’s house along with his wife and three children when they became Christians. These little gifts changed two families’ lives,” said Harty.
Another sustainable enterprise, byTavi, was launched after Alexander led a trip to Cambodia in 2009 where the vision team met Tavi, an HIV-positive widow who had just lost her husband and daughter to AIDS. She lived in a simple house without electricity, void of running water. Tavi tried to care for her two remaining children even though the cost of food, transportation, school uniforms, and medicine extended well beyond what she earned.
CGI helped Tavi by providing professional seamstress training, which quickly grew into a microenterprise. Currently, 27 women are enrolled in the byTavi program (www.byTavi.com). Their quilted items are marketed through local businesses and salons (Sage Salon Indy and TLC in Greenwood), trunk shows, conferences/retreats, and at the CGI office. According to Whitney Vance, byTavi’s marketing coordinator, sales in 2011 fully funded the program.
Preventing Human Trafficking
“When there is not enough money to buy food, even a child can be considered an economic resource,” said Alexander. As an example, he cites a 15-year-old girl sold by her father to a brothel owner to pay off a $500 debt.“But more often children are trafficked as a way for families to afford food, medicine, and other basic necessities.”
After Andrea Reed, owner of Sophia’s Bridal, Tux & Prom, visited Cambodia during a CGI Vision Trip, she realized the impact her store could provide for young women at risk for trafficking. Soon CGIDaughters (www.cgidaughters.com) emerged. A two-year vocational program near Phnom Penh, Cambodia, it includes seamstress training and housing, food, transportation, care for parents, and a stipend. Supported through sponsorships, these young women learn to sew formal dresses marketed through Reed’s store south of Southport Road on U.S. 31. “Bringing the Daughters prom gowns to Sophia’s helps us educate our customers on the global issue of trafficking and participate in their redemption,” said Reed.
Training also involves developing businesses “in-country.” Local chef and Ivy Tech Community College culinary instructor Paul Vida helped plan and then open the Culinary Training Center’s (CTC) restaurant, Green Mango Café & Bakery, in Battambang, Cambodia.
A year ago a partner NGO, Asian Hope, contacted CGI to help place one of their graduates into higher education. Through Vida’s influence, Makaria Heng currently studies and works in Ivy Tech’s culinary/hospitality program with the goal of managing the Green Mango Café in late 2013. Later this fall a cookbook will be available that features recipes from the café (www.acouplecooks.com).
Vida’s involvement simply began by asking his friend, Chris Alexander, a simple
question: “What can I do to help the poor?” After a vision trip to Cambodia and much prayer, the answer came quickly: “Use your gifts and resources.”
Fair trade begins with people like you and me who use what they’ve been given and then give back. cg
Joyce Long, Greenwood Middle School language arts teacher from 1992-2000, has called Center Grove home for the past 25 years. Currently Joyce works as the communications coordinator for Center for Global Impact and is passionate about engaging people to empower the poor.
Photo Credits: Cambodian photos by Jocelyn Post. All other fair trade photos by Aimee Davis.