In University, I learned about the fair trade business model. Then, when I joined the Ten Thousand Villages marketing team almost 3 years ago, I learned about fair trade principles and benefits, and how our artisan partners value this type of trade. I heard stories and saw pictures detailing the huge impact this movement has on people’s lives. But it wasn’t until a trip to Nepal and Bangladesh in November that the impact of fair trade really hit home for me. It changed from an abstract concept to an undeniable reality.
It’s one thing to read the stories about everyday challenges from our artisan partners, it’s another to witness it for yourself. The amazing people behind EVERY product we carry rely on the fair trade model to send their kids to school, to employ hundreds of women who have no other place to turn, to sustain centuries-old craft-making techniques, and to empower all kinds of people to be community leaders.
One day we were in Dhaka visiting Prokritee. I was able to spend some time with Prokritee’s newest designer, Golam, who, like me, comes from a conventional business background.
We spoke about the differences between business models and why people who discover fair trade are enamored with it. His response was perfect; “Commercial business is not from your heart, it is from your head. Fair trade is from your heart.” During our 15 day trip, I met several people who, like Golam, saw the benefits of fair trade and are doing amazing things with this newfound philosophy motivating them to help others.
My hope is that not everyone is like me, and needs a trip half way around the world to understand that fair trade is crucial to the livelihood of the poorest communities in the world. My hope is that you believe in the impact and positive results. Once you grasp this reality, it changes your life. You will no longer question the difference in fair trade vs conventional pricing. You’ll begin to make better choices and purchase things that have real impact. Most importantly, you’ll realize that there are people in need, and you have the power to change their lives.