by Fr Shay Cullen
There are hundreds of thousands of good people around the world trying to make a difference in the lives of the poor and exploited people of this planet. They are working to see that the poor rise above subsistence living and have a dignified human and prosperous life. These good people are deeply concerned about the lives of the poor, of exploited and trafficked children, and they want to save the environment from poisonous chemicals and destruction and reverse the damaging effects of climate change.
These are the enlightened customers of Fair Trade who use their shopping money to make a positive and meaningful difference in the lives of thousands of poor villagers in Africa and Asia. These are the customers of Fair Trade products and by using their consumer power and choosing to buy a Fair Trade product they can bring about justice, respect and happiness in the lives of those who have less in life.
This time of the year, we celebrate these life-enhancing values and the good people who make it happen. We recently celebrated Fair Trade Week and now in May, World Fair Trade Day. What we are celebrating is the fact that millions of people around the world are involved one way or the other in producing, trading and consuming foods and products that are produced under strict rules and criteria so that only good comes from it.
I can tell you a lot about the benefits of Fair Trade in the lives of the poor because I have made Preda Fair Trade an important part of my missionary work in the Philippines for the past forty years. Juanito was a trained bag maker in a local commercial factory but was fired after he asked for higher pay for his high skills. He then had to live with his poor family scavenging on a smokey mountain of garbage, eating throwaway food until the social workers of Preda Fair Trade found him and offered to set him up in a small bag-sewing enterprise. He got a Preda sewing machine and orders for school back packs. He got a good pay and benefits, medical insurance and help to build a house from the Preda development assistance fund.
At Preda Fair Trade for example, fair and just payments are made on time to the producers, and social benefits such as educational assistance, medical insurance and profit sharing bonus payments are made. Then customers andWorldshops (Fair Trade Shops) get high quality Preda products like healthy chemical free dried mangos and drinks and other fairly traded products.
The customers and Worldshop managers and volunteers selling fairly traded products are happy to be getting great quality food. Preda dried mangos are produced in a way that gives the customers the satisfaction of a right conscience. They are happy in the knowledge that they are doing the right thing and glad to pay a few more pence or cents knowing that the exploitation of women and children is totally banned and eliminated in the production of the goods that they purchase.
They are part of the Preda social action that saves women and children from evil forms of trade such as sex slavery and human trafficking. When they ask for and buy Preda products, they help to free children from subhuman prisons.
In the Philippines, I set out to implement, through Fair Trade, the spiritual and social teaching of Jesus of Nazareth to help bring about a more just society. In the past few years, a strong nationwide band of dedicated Filipinos have worked ceaselessly, many risking and losing their lives, to change it. Positive economic change and social improvement has come slowly. Too slowly and much more has yet to come.
Fair Trade has been one of the ways that has greatly lessened the dire hunger and want in many homes and villages. But poverty and injustice are not over. The rich are getting richer. Yet for all those hundreds of small mango farmers and producers in Preda Fair Trade, I have seen the joy and happiness of the small mango farmers when they get paid a higher price for the mango fruits from Preda Fair Trade and get a bonus after harvest. You can see it in their smiles and shining eyes. Then some pay debts, others use the higher earnings and bonuses to start a small piggery, a village store or a chicken-raising project. Fair Trade is a realistic way to help people to help themselves grow out of poverty. There is much to celebrate and much more to do.
Contact firstname.lastname@example.org, PO Box 68, 2200 Olongapo City, Philippines.
(Fr Shay’s columns are published in The Manila Times, in publications in Ireland, the UK, Hong Kong, and online.)
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