I think a lot about intentional parenting. Maybe sometimes too much. But there are many things I want my kids to learn that took me too long to learn, or things we can know so much about now that we didn’t twenty years ago.
One of those things is the idea of fair trade products.
Without going into arguments about the benefits or negatives from living in a capitalist, commerce-focused society, we live in one. And because we live in one, how and where we spend our money matters.
But how do we explain that to young kids? How much should they know? How much can teaching them about fair trade make a difference?
Of course, I feel like making fair trade a part of normal discussion along with learning about money goes hand-in-hand. Where we spend our money is like voting; our money shows what we support.
I’m still learning how to approach this topic as I learn more and more about fair trade, but here are four ways I’ve come across so far. I’d love to hear your thoughts and strategies.
4 Ways to Teach Kids about Fair Trade
Discuss with Books – Books always make great learning tools, particularly if written well and with personal perspective. Here are just two books that discuss aspects of fair trade.
One Hen: How One Small Loan Made a Big Difference by Katie Smith Milway, illustrated by Eugenie Fernandes (Kids Can Press, 2008)
No Monkeys, No Chocolate by Melissa Stewart and Allen Young, illustrated by Nicole Wong (Charlesbridge, 2013)
Make it Tangible – Start with something kids can relate to and hold in their hands. Chocolate is a great example. (See the related book above.) As are clothes, jewelry, tote bags, soaps, and other physical items. Talk about how the product was made. Then talk about how buying that fair trade product over another product allows the person who made it to support their family in safer working conditions, with more money directly to the artisan, and with access to education, health resources, and more. When you learn about where a product was created, learn about that country and those cultures. It’s all real.
Talk about the People Behind the Products – We, as people, respond to other people’s stories. That’s why movies, books, and songs make us cry and laugh, think and explore, and feel hope and inspiration. Someone made the product you’re wearing, using, eating. That someone could have been in terrible working conditions or forced into a slave trade. Or that person may be working with fair trade companies who purposefully seek out ways to help those in need with meaningful, skilled work. Most fair trade partnerships allow more money to go directly to the artisans themselves, rather than through a company/middleman. We can share with our kids how buying something fairly traded allows a family to have food, pursue education, secure safety, and grow. Buying fair trade items is one way to serve and love other people.
Incorporate Fair Trade Gifts – When we give gifts, we can give fair trade items and be able to tell someone’s story along with those gifts. Kids can help share these stories. Many fair trade companies share real stories of real artisans to connect buyers with the artisans and make these purchases more meaningful. You can find a list of certified fair trade companies here, as well as read about one of my favorites below.
About Fair Trade Friday
Fair Trade Friday is one of my favorite online shops that supports fair trade artisans around the world and one of my favorite organizations, Mercy House Kenya. Here is Fair Trade Friday’s mission statement:
“Fair Trade Friday (FTF) exists as an avenue for women to empower women. We are tackling poverty through job opportunity and empowerment rather than enablement. 100% of the proceeds support the artisans, more than 500 women and their children from all over the world. FTF is a ministry of Mercy House Kenya, a non-profit organization.”
Fair Trade Friday recently sent me a sample box with fair trade items so I could learn more and share with you. I’m impressed with everything I read from Fair Trade Friday. They currently partner with 27 faith-based organizations in 18 different countries to help empower women and keep women out of dangerous situations. Fair Trade Friday alone helps provide steady jobs for more than 1,000 women. These jobs don’t just help the women, but also their families, and, in turn, their communities.
Fair Trade Friday works as a monthly membership club, where you pay a monthly fee and receive a new box of unique fair trade items each month. (You can sign up here, and if there’s a waitlist, you can join it!) I’ve heard from many folks that they save some of the items for gifts at Christmas, year-end teacher gifts, giveaways, and more. Fair Trade Friday also recently began offering an option for the Earring of the Month club. You can also purchase individual items at the online shop, which are great for gifts, as well.
As I look through my pieces, I can’t help but be in awe of the craftsmanship, as well as pray for these women who made these items with their own hands.
This soap (which smells amazing) helps women in Zambia through organic farming techniques.
This bag was made by three women in India. Three! Fair Trade Friday works with the organization JOYN for these bags. A representative for JOYN says this about the partnership:
“Our items are made by some of the most marginalized and oppressed people in the world – individuals with leprosy, disability, those who have grown up begging on the streets, former prostitutes, former addicts. Just one month of Fair Trade Friday’s purchases employed at least 70 of our artisans for over a month. We need more partners like Fair Trade Friday in order for this work to continue to be sustainable. We pray that this partnership grows.”
Our purchases matter. These lives matter. Read more on the Fair Trade Friday website about the companies they work with, as well as on Mercy House Kenya’s website about ways you – and your kids – can help.
How have you discussed fair trade with your kids? How does your family get involved? What questions do you have about fair trade?
Disclosure: I was given one free sample box of fair trade items from Fair Trade Friday in exchange for my participation on the Fair Trade Friday Blogging Team. All opinions expressed are my own.
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