Local fair trade sale can make global difference

“You Americans are so smart,” said Elizabeth, a lady living in Kenya. “Tell me, what do you know about being hungry?”

Mary’s mind raced. She thought of her cupboards and refrigerator stuffed with food that she and her family could access 24/7 back in Aurora, Ind. She thought of the grocery stores she could quickly drive to when she ran out of something. And she realized she knew nothing about what it meant to be truly hungry. She shared the realization with Elizabeth and asked her what she knew about being hungry.

“I know that warm water is more filling than cold water,” Elizabeth replied.

Elizabeth was Mary’s neighbor in Kenya. (Mary and her family had moved there from Aurora to live for a year in 2007 so they could adopt a little girl.) Elizabeth had grown up so poor that she knew which bark from the trees was edible.

During her time in Kenya, Mary met many others who also knew such abject poverty first-hand.

The type of poverty that forces a mother to sell her daughter to a slave trader because she simply can’t afford to feed and take care of her.

The type of poverty that makes a mother bring her entire family—including her three-year-old son—to the brick fields so they can all work 12 hours every day . . . for just $2.50 per day.

The type of poverty that prevents children from attending school because their parents have no money to buy them clothes and books.

The type of poverty that causes young women to turn to prostitution because they know no other way to make a living.

The type of poverty that robs a woman of her dignity as she begs for just enough to make it through another day because she has no other way to make a living.

And then Mary discovered an organization that brought hope to individuals in such poverty—not through hand-outs or back-breaking child labor—but by providing them with meaningful work for which they were paid a fair wage they could live on.

Just across the street in Kenya from where Mary lived was Amani Ya Juu—a ministry that teaches marginalized women in Africa how to sew and about ethical business practices.

Mary says, “When I first walked in, I saw Rahab [one of the artisans with Amani] with her daughter tied to her back, African style. We looked each other in the eyes and I knew I was looking into the eyes of another mom trying to do the best for her children and that we had much in common. I fell in love right then. We spent the day getting to know Amani and from then on we spent hours upon hours next to the Amani women learning their stories.”

She met Josephine, a pastor’s wife in Congo who fled to Kenya with her four children to avoid persecution.

And Vivian, who survived the genocide in Rwanda and escaped to Kenya. They arrived with nothing and had no way to provide for their families, forcing some to beg or to send their children to beg. Some lived in refugee camps, where they become lost in the thousands of others living there, without privacy, without order, without protection. Horrible, horrific things happen to women in these camps.

When they find the hope offered through organizations such as Amani Ya Juu (which means “Peace from Above”), they find a way escape these conditions by creating beautiful items with their hands and, in exchange, earning a living wage and giving their children the opportunity to attend school.

Mary became a distributor for the products made by the artisans at Amani and brought their work—handbags, placemats, scarves, jewelry, backpacks, tablet carrying cases, ornaments, kitchen utensils—to the U.S. Back at her church in Aurora, she connected with like-minded individuals who were involved in the fair-trade movement and the International Fair Trade Sale was born.

When you come to the International Fair Trade Sale, you’ll have the opportunity to purchase items hand-crafted by individuals like Rahab, Vivian, and Josephine.

You’ll also find gorgeous baskets made by individuals in Ghana, beautiful blankets and scarves made by women escaping the red-light districts in India, stunning jewelry crafted by women who have escaped the human trafficking industry, and delicious coffee grown by farmers in Thailand who no longer need to sell their children but can sell their coffee instead to provide for their families.

All products are guaranteed to be fair trade, with no sweat shops or child labor involved.

And by purchasing these products, you bring the artisans hope that their lives do matter and they can provide for their families in a dignified way. You can make an international difference by an act as simple as purchasing a Christmas gift for your friend right here in Lawrenceburg.

Mark your calendars for 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 4, and Friday, Dec. 5, and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 6, and head to Agner Hall at the Lawrenceburg Fairgrounds to visit the International Fair Trade Sale! And when you come, be sure to say hi to Mary—she’ll be there, too!

Stacia McKeever is a writer and homemaker who lives in Dillsboro with her husband and sons. Stacia has written curriculum, articles for several magazines, and a book for children called Why is Keiko Sick?