The world is filled with highly skilled men and women. People who excel in making beautiful handmade crafts, sweet tasting coffees and teas, and warm cozy blankets. It might surprise you that many of these skilled individuals live in low-income villages and poverty-stricken countries of the Third World. Regions that are filled with violence and war, uncertainty, and hopelessness. These talented entrepreneurs are held down becoming victims of social and economic injustice. Living on less than a dollar a day, most struggle to survive. This week we learned about and served with an organization that has been empowering people of the Third World to overcome poverty through the participation in fair trade for forty years.
Friends of the Third World is a non-profit organization that has worked for economic justice for millions of impoverished people through ongoing fair trade development of crafts, teas, coffees, chocolates, and other products. So what is fair trade? It is a question that we asked ourselves prior to our volunteer experience. Fair trade, simply put, is doing business in ways which provide a dignified income for low-income artisans, farmers, and food producers. It is small-scale business done largely by individuals and co-ops instead of large groups and sweatshops. The fair trade market has instilled hope and provided benefits to the working poor all over the world by giving back a fair share of the selling price. They receive what is rightfully theirs.
Friends of the Third World has a shoppe in Fort Wayne that sells products from more than 30 countries. Puppets and bobble heads from El Salvador, figurines from the West Bank, and jewelry from Guatemala and India are just a few items that can be purchased. Approximately 80% of the sale price goes directly back to the original producer in a fair trade payment. By purchasing these items here in Indiana, we help those struggling in other parts of the world. Our job this week was to volunteer in the store and help by doing inventory and cleaning shelves. It was awesome to see the wide array of cultural items from the different countries. Each piece gave us insight to the people and the beliefs of places that we will never visit. Conversation was created amongst the family as we worked through and handled each item. The handcrafted bobbleheads and puppets were our favorites. We had a lot fun volunteering at the shoppe. It allowed us to stretch our knowledge, our understanding, and our perceptions of other cultures.
I had heard of this organization prior to contacting them about volunteering, but I will admit I was not sure of what they did. I had no idea that our community was blessed with a place that offered so many items from other countries. Items that open a gateway and give us a small glimpse of the world in which we live. It is also awesome to know that each item sold directly benefits those who fight daily to survive. I encourage everyone in Fort Wayne to make a stop at the Third World Shoppe on West Wayne Street. Make a purchase while you are there and make a difference in the lives of others around the world. If you do not live in Fort Wayne find a fair trade market in your area. Just imagine if you had to live on less than one dollar a day. Could you survive? Support fair trade today and support the Third World.