An artisan from Manos Amigas in Lima, Peru, creates an ornament that will be sold through fair trade retailer Ten Thousand Villages. Photo by Jonathan Bowman

This Christmas, shop fair trade

  • December 23, 2014

In Pope Benedict’s 2009 encyclical Caritas in Veritate, he wrote, “It is good for people to realize that purchasing is always a moral — and not simply economic — act. Hence the consumer has a specific social responsibility, which goes hand-in-hand with the social responsibility of the enterprise.”

As we spend more than usual at Christmas, it’s important for Catholics to heed the Pope emeritus’ words and consider where their money is going and what they are supporting through their hard-earned dollars. Shopping fair trade is one way of having a global impact this Christmas.

“Fair trade is a direct trading relationship where not only is fair pay the standard, but also safe working environments, equality for women, sustainable orders and a commitment to long-term relationships,” said Holly deGraaf,director of retail operations and public relations for Ten Thousand Villages, a retailer that sells fair trade products ranging from jewellery and furniture to coffee and toys.

By working with marginalized communities around the world and paying them a fair wage for their work, workers are able to have a good quality of life, foodfor their kids and education, said deGraaf.

One of the 29 countries with whom the company has established working relationships is Peru. Based in Lima, the artisan group Manos Amigas, which translates to hands joined in friendship, creates ornaments made from gourds for Ten Thousand Villages depicting the Nativity, sleeping owls and other designs. They’re big sellers during the holidays.

“They were originally formed to generate funds for a breakfast program for disadvantaged children because in their community there were so many kids who were not being fed,” said deGraaf.

“So, their group of artisans gets fair pay but they also go that much further. Fair trade impacts not only the artisans who work for them but the community around them as they donate 20 per cent of their annual surplus to feed 400 children each week and help pay for their school uniforms and supplies.”

According to Fairtrade International, in 2010, global retail sales involved more than 900 producer organizations in more than 63 countries to benefit more than one million farmers and workers.

“In Canada, there are more and more retailers that are starting to work directly with artisan groups,” said deGraaf.

“In terms of the overall fair trade market, I think that as awareness builds and as demand builds from customers, you’ll see more and more of it.”

(Santilli is a freelance writer in Toronto.)

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