Friday, December 31, 2010

El Asunto Moral

If you have been following the news, you are probably aware that Bread for the World President David Beckmann and Bread for the World have received a lot of good publicity this year. The cherry on the sundae, of course, was the news around the awarding of The World Food Prize in October.

David has been interviewed by Newsweek and The Huffington Post.  He has also written opinion pieces for local newspapers like The Birmingham News.

Did you know that David also wrote an opinion piece in the Spanish-language newspaper La Opinión, which is based in Los Angeles?  Here is an excerpt: 
"...El asunto moral más urgente es si mantendrán el reembolso impositivo a los bajos ingresos (EITC) que beneficia a familias trabajadoras que viven en la línea de la pobreza. Si el Congreso no extiende el nivel actual de créditos tributarios para trabajadores de bajos ingresos, casi 1 millón o más de niños caerán en la pobreza." Read full piece 
David wrote the piece before Congress voted to maintain the EITC and Child Tax Credit earlier this month. 

As we go into 2011, we hope that the Congress will continue to take the "moral path" that David addressed and keep a high priority on the needs of low-income families in our country and overseas.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Contemplatives in the Heart of the World

Kyra-Ellis Moore, October 2010 (Read about her trip)

"We are all called to be contemplatives in the heart of the world -- by seeking the face of God in everything, everyone, everywhere, all the time, and [God's] hand in every happening; seeing and adoring the presence of Jesus, especially in the lowly appearance of bread, and in the distressing disguise of the poor." -Mother Teresa

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

A Vigil of Remembrance and a Call to Action

Photo by Karen Navarro

On Tuesday, Dec. 21, the local community gathered to remember men and women who passed away while experiencing homelessness.  The commemoration began with a short ceremony at Albuquerque Health Care for the Homeless, followed by a procession to First United Methodist Church, where a memorial vigil was held.
"Be it of accidents, natural causes, homicide, suicide or poor heath conditions, at least 53 people without homes died in Albuquerque during 2010, as of mid-December. The number announced last year was 66, 48 the year before" wrote Lloyd Jojola in The Albuquerque Journal.
 "And as is done around this time each year, advocates for the homeless, community members and others mourned those lives lost and hoped to raise awareness about homelessness."
Even though the focus of the memorial is on remembrance, Lisa Huval of the New Mexico Coalition to End Homelessness says this is also a call to action.
"Every night in Albuquerque, at least 3,200 men, women and children will be without homes, but we know how to end homelessness. The Memorial Vigil is a time to honor those who have passed away during the year, but it is also a call to action to our community to invest in the housing and services that people need to exit homelessness."
Read full article in Albuquerque Journal.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Merry Christmas from Bread New Mexico

The Inn of Loretto in Santa Fe  (Photo by Carlos Navarro)

Love is our true destiny. We do not find the meaning of life by ourselves alone-we find it with another.   -Thomas Merton

The Gift of Christmas Presence

Here is an excerpt from a thought-provoking piece from Jennifer Halling in NCR online, entitled The Gift of Christmas Presence: Mindfulness Exercises for the 12 Days of Christmas.  
Christmas may seem like an odd time to contemplate poverty of spirit, but didn’t Jesus say, “Blessed are the poor in Spirit, for they shall see God”? And what is Christmas all about, if not seeing God’s presence in the world as reflected in the person of Christ?

The phrase “poor in Spirit” is puzzling, but a key to understanding it can be found in the Rule of Taizé, which says, “The spirit of poverty is to live in the gladness of today.” Thus the spirit of poverty is not about how much we have but how we respond to whatever is present to us, right now, today, because tomorrow it may be gone. For that matter, our life as a physical being may be gone.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Celebrating the Good Provisions in the Recently Approved Tax Bill

Regardless of what you think of the compromise tax legislation that Congress approved last week, we want to take the "glass is half full" approach.

There were some legitimate objections to giving tax credits to folks who don't need them, especially when the there so much talk about budget deficits.

Conversely, there are some very good things in the bill that provide tax relief to low-income families, who really do need the breaks. 

That's why Bread members in New Mexico and elsewhere celebrate the passage of this legislation, which maintains the Earned Income Tax (EITC) and Child Tax Credits (CTC).

Here's what Bread for the World President David Beckmann says about the passage of the bill, which President Barack Obama signed into law last Friday (Dec. 17).
People of faith may not agree with all of the provisions of the bill, but these low-income tax credits are a huge victory for working families.  The EITC and CTC, along with the payroll tax deduction, will prevent 2.4 million people, including 1.2 million children, from falling into poverty.”
          Read full statement from Bread for the World.

It's called The Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization, and Job Creation Act of 2010.  Remember that title when you tell your friends about it at the next church supper.  (Okay, you don't have to remember the title!)

But we can't help but think that our letters and the calls to Congress on the week of the congressional votes had something to do with keeping tax credits for low-income families as part of the equation.

It's fair to point out that our New Mexico legislators were caught in the tax dilemma. Reps. Martin Heinrich and Ben Ray Lujan voted against HR4853, not because they oppose the tax credits for the poor.  Far from it.  In the end, their strong opposition to extending tax breaks for the wealthy, implemented under former President George W. Bush, won out.  Rep. Harry Teague voted for HR4853.  Click here to see how all House members voted.

In an earlier vote in the Senate, the measure to extend the tax credits (S.Amdt. 4753) was approved by a vote of 81-19, with both Sens. Jeff Bingaman and Tom Udall voting nay (again, for the same reasons as Reps. Heinrich and Lujan).  Click here to see how all Senate members voted.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

A U.S. Regulation that Hurts Foreign Aid

Jeffrey Sachs often harped about this.

Now Nicholas Kristoff pointed it out in his blog Global Food for Thought, alluding to an article in The Washington Post.  Our foreign assistance has a major string attached that makes it less effective.  Under regulations that were set up in the 1950s, a large share of shipments of US government aid must be sent on US flagships.

Here's an excerpt of the Post article explaining why this hampers our aid efforts.
Cargo preference was launched in 1954 alongside modern American food aid programs. By requiring the U.S. government to ship three-quarters of its international food aid on U.S. flag vessels, the policy was intended to maintain essential sealift capacity in wartime, safeguard maritime jobs for American sailors and avoid foreign domination of U.S. ocean commerce. But in a comprehensive - and, to date, the only peer-reviewed - analysis of available shipping data and shipping vessel ownership records, we found that cargo preference falls well short of these objectives. Our study of the shipping data and the fiscal 2006 food-aid shipment records - the only full year records were available - from the U.S. Agency for International Development found that by restricting competition, the policy costs U.S. taxpayers a 46 percent markup on the market cost of ocean freight.  Read full article 
It's not likely that this issue will be part of the foreign aid reform that we will consider next year as part of the Bread for the World Offering of Letters.  But it's one of those issues that needs to be part of the conversation.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Great Article on Women and Homelessness

Women have become the fastest-growing subset of the nation's estimated 672,000 homeless, and that statistical shift is ushering in more holistic approaches to deal with and end homelessness.
The Christian Science Monitor addresses this issue in an article published online on Dec. 20.  The piece, entitled Homelessness besets more women.  How to respond?, examines the extent of the problem and how a community like Los Angeles is dealing with the situation. 

Here is another excerpt.
The reason for the rise in women's homelessness – women now account for 33 percent of homeless people – are many, say experts: the global economic downturn that added to the loss of manufacturing jobs, erosion of the safety net with welfare cutbacks, and ongoing gentrification in many US cities that has gobbled up affordable housing.
The Downtown Women's Center (DWC) is a great resource for homeless women in L.A.
"It's important that most people understand that the face of homelessness is changing," says Lisa Watson, chief executive officer of DWC. "It's no longer the drunk older man living on the streets, which has been the typical media image for decades." She adds the rise in domestic violence to the equation. Although more than 98 percent of her residents stay housed permanently if they want, Ms. Watson says the idea of DWC is to help women gain skills so they will be prepared for jobs once California's unemployment rate drops from its current 12.4 percent.
It's a very interesting article.  Read full piece.

Fourth Week of Advent: Thoughts of Justice

I've always thought of Advent and Christmas as a feel-good time.

And I'm not just talking about the wonderful sensual experiences that come with the season; the carols and songs and hymns; the explosion of colors and bright lights everywhere; the convergence of warm smells of baking and cooking and spiced potpourri with the cool air outside; reconnecting with family and friends.

I'm also talking about those time when we're able pull ourselves out of the "must-do" mode to spend some time with God, it's always with the expectation that our encounter with God is going to make us feel good.  And often it does.

Our good feelings during the season often lead us, individually and as a society, to make charity a part of the season.  What is the scene that is portrayed most often in the holiday movies?  Two things: Taking time to collect presents (or food baskets) or helping with a Christmas meal for the homeless. All good.

But there is an aspect to Advent that is also much like Lent. We must also view the season as an opportunity to step back and look at justice in addition to charity. I want to share some wonderful quotes.

This one came via an attachment that came with a JustFaith e-mail.  The piece was written by Dr. Maryann Cusimano Love
What is there to celebrate in this darkness?  Emmanuel means “God is with us,” not that heaven appears on earth and peace and justice instantly in our time.  Instead, the promise of the Incarnation is that God is with us through it all, in illness, poverty, homelessness, repression, war, in the middle of the night in the most lowly circumstances.  God is in all things.  
Father Richard Rohr, a Franciscan, expressed the same sentiment in a different way in a recent homily:
We're not especially known in our culture for giving good news to the poor. We'd much more be happy if tax breaks are given to the rich. That's what makes our country happy. We're not happy...when the lepers, the unworthy ones on the edge are reentered into the society. In fact, we'd prefer to keep them on the edge.

Jesus is not concerned about the top. He's always healing the bottom.He's not concerned about the center.  He's always pulling in the edge. And we have to ask, "Is that what we're concerned with? Listen to Dec. 11 homily Don't Make Jesus into Santa Claus  (Based on Matthew 11:2-11)
And still another voice is found in the December 2010 edition of  the Bread newsletter, in a piece authored by theologian Marva Dawn
Our Savior entered the world in poverty. Can you imagine being laid as an infant in scratchy, smelly straw?

Too often we romanticize Christ’s birth in making our Christmas Eve sentimental, instead of recognizing the reality of the wretched stable, with its aroma of manure and inhospitality to the young mother and her child. Even as we cringe to acknowledge that reality for our beloved Lord, so Advent calls us to recoil similarly from the horrible conditions in which some of our fellow human beings barely survive. Our wanting the surroundings to have been different for our adored ChristChild fills us with eager desire to make things better for the needy in our world.
In the end, it is not what we do, but what God leads us to do.  Consider this quote:
Contemplation is not vision because it sees “without seeing” and knows “without knowing.’ It is a more profound depth of faith; a knowledge too deep to be grasped in images, in words or even in clear concepts. -Thomas Merton
Blessings on this Fourth Week of Advent

Sunday, December 19, 2010

NOAAHH Fundraiser: 'Do You Know What it Means to Miss New Orleans'

A few weeks ago, I blogged about the fundraiser for New Orleans Artists Against Hunger and Homelessness (NOAAHH).  The fundraiser, which took place at the Generations Theater in New Orleans was called  Backstage.  Guess who is in this video performing this well-known song about New Orleans.  

Friday, December 17, 2010

Flour: The Perfect Christmas Gift

This photo, taken at Diaz Farms in Deming, shows part of a 4,600 pound wheat and white flour donation orchestrated through Catholic Charities for La Luz de La Esperanza Palomas Outreach, who will distribute the flour to those families in need during the winter holidays in Palomas, Chihuahua.  Read more.  

Dear friends:

La Luz de La Esperanza Palomas Outreach, operating inside the border town of Palomas on Buenaventura Street for the past seven years, is collecting food donations to spread joy in Palomas during this Christmas holiday season, which in Mexico lasts until January 6th, El Dia de los Reyes.

We invite Albuquerque, Santa Fe, and all of northern New Mexico to help us aid New Mexico's border town of Palomas, Chihuahua. Please help us in collecting food in northern New Mexico.

We especially hope for the essential non-perishable ingredients for the traditional Christmas tamales, posole, bizcochos and pinatas: masa harina (flour for tamales), dried corn husks, lard or shortening, canned hominy, garlic, and whole or powdered mild or medium red chile, sugar, cinnamon, hot chocolate mix and cornmeal for atole. We also need empty piñatas, which are traditionally filled with candy and broken open by the children on Christmas Eve, and we need bags of candy to fill them.

Call me at 575-536-9726, or email at,  for more information about holiday food donations. Checks or other monetary donations may be made out to: La Luz de La Esperanza, P.O. Box 38, Columbus, NM 88029.

Best wishes for a bright December!
Victoria Tester,
U.S. coordinator for the Palomas Outreach

You can also help the community in Palomas by purchasing beautiful oilcloths from local artisans.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Discover the Relationship between Food and Spirituality

The Center for Action and Contemplation invites you to a class on Mindful Eating.  Explore the relationship between food and spirituality and discover a variety of practices for eating more sustainably, as well as the barriers we face in doing so. 

The class will be held on Thursday, January 6, 2011, 6:30-8:30 p.m. at the Albuquerque Mennonite Church, 1300 Girard Ave. NE (between Indian School Rd. and Lomas)  Suggested Donation $10 

Call (505) 242-9588 ext. 134 or e-mail to reserve a spot.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Ted Danson and Mary Steenburgen Love Heifer International

Maria Franco Tapia, New Mexico representative for Heifer International, recommended that we watch the CBS Show The Talk on Wednesday, Dec. 15, to watch two very special guests speak about the organization.  Unfortunately, we were not anywhere close to a TV at 2:00 p.m.  But we found it on YouTube.  Enjoy!

Buy Beautiful Oilcloth Designs from Just Across the Border

On several occasions we have written about La Luz de La Esperanza Palomas Outreach, which was formed in 2004 to assist the community and surrounding areas of Puerto Palomas, Chihuahua, just across the border from Columbus, N.M.   The organization is in the midst of a food drive, and I hope you can help.

Now, I would like to tell you about a separate effort to support the community in Puerto Palomas, sponsored by an organization called Border Partners, a nonprofit organization that, among other things, promotes and supports the creation of small business opportunities along the New Mexico-Chihuahua border.

The goals of the group are to:
  • Helps foster new business development so that people in need can increase their income.
  • Promote the use of low cost, sustainable technologies to make best use of natural resources. By using solar energy, water-saving technologies and home gardens, people can save money and improve their standard of living.
  • Helps people help themselves

Buy the Oilcloth Products Online
One of the businesses that Border Partners is supporting is Palomas Oilcloth Designs, a business developed by seven women from Palomas.  The name of the company speaks for itself.  The women sew beautiful oilcloth designs in their homes and sell them through Etsy, an organization that provides an online site for people around the world to sell crafts, jewelry, apparel.  The women--Ludy, Chayo, Juana, Juliana, Maria, Martha and Socorro--are very professional in their approach, coordinating their designs and participating in other marketing functions. By the way, they are also on Facebook.

Here's a promo: 
Our beautiful tote bags and aprons are colorful, durable and waterproof!  Each bag we make gives us hope that life will be better!
So how can you purchase one of these bags, aprons or other items produced by Palomas Oilcloth Designs?  It's easy,  Just click on this link, which will lead you to their Etsy online catalog.  If you haven't completed your Christmas shopping, this gives you the opportunity to acquire presents and help the community of Palomas.  But your purchases should not be confined to Christmas.  These products are available year-round for birthday and other special occasions.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Eight Facts on Child Reauthorization from FRAC

The Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) offered a very positive reaction to President Barack Obama's signing of the The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act into law this morning (Dec. 13). FRAC also applauded President Obama's commitment to fix the cuts in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program that came with the passage of the Act. Read the full remarks that Obama and the First Lady made about hunger, obesity and nutrition.

Here's what FRAC had to say:
The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act has many important and excellent provisions for child nutrition programs, including many FRAC has been working toward for a long time. While many of these provisions will take time to implement, there are many that you can start working on right now.
FRAC also offers eight relevant facts about the Act:
  1. Every state will be able to participate in the Afterschool Meal Program, allowing afterschool programs in low-income areas in all states to receive federal funding to serve a full meal, and retroactive funding may be available. 
  2. Federally-funded jobs in state child nutrition and WIC agencies must now be excluded from state lay-offs and furloughs. 
  3. Nonprofits will be able to serve Summer Food at more sites and to more low-income children. 
  4. New paperless options for universal meal service will mean that more schools with high percentages of low-income students will be able to feed all children at no charge. 
  5. Children may now be certified to receive WIC benefits for a full year at a time, rather than six months. 
  6. Less paperwork will make it easier for parents and family child care providers to enroll in the child care food programs, and so assure that more children have healthy food in child care. 
  7. Nutrition education resources may be made available at no cost for parents and child care providers participating in the child care food program. 
  8. USDA is required to make significant nutrition improvements in school meals and eliminate junk food from vending machines. 
Click here to download the full details and steps you can take today.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Third Week of Advent: God of Hope, Come!

Photo by Elaine VanCleave
God of hope, come! Enter into this Advent season with the grace of joy and laughter. Fill faces with smiles of delight and voices with sounds of pleasure.  Let this gift come from deep within.  Replenish all with joyful blessing that only your peace can bring.

God of hope, come! Be the Morning Star in our midst, the Light that can never go out, the Beacon of Hope guiding our way to you.  Come into our midst and make our lives a home, where your everlasting goodness resonates with assuring love and vigorous hope.   

-Joyce Rupp

Sunday, December 12, 2010

A Penny More Per Pound of Tomato

Remember how we told you about the Fair Trade Initiative's informational protest in support of tomato pickers in Florida?  The UNM students were taking part in a campaign sponsored by The Coalition of Immokalee Workers to increase the pay and improve conditions for the pickers.

Virginia Pitts and Ellen Buelow, Bread members who belong to the Social Justice Committee at Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary Catholic Parish in Albuquerque, wanted to share a related editorial from The New York Times published on Dec. 3.
Fair trade is finally coming to the tomato fields of Florida, where farmworkers have won a remarkable victory in a 15-year struggle for better pay and working conditions. Last month, they struck a deal with growers to raise workers’ pay and to create an industry code of conduct, a health and safety program and a system to resolve worker complaints.   Read full editorial
Good News Indeed!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

A Global Recipe for Old-Fashioned Gold Cake with Chocolate Frosting

Too often we think locally and not globally with our consumer decisions. Fair Trade USA's blog offers us a very clever post using a cake recipe recognizing cooperatives in The Dominican Republic and Paraguay, which contributed (fair-trade certified) ingredients to the cake.

Click here to see the recipe and read about the Confederación Nacional de Cacaocultores Dominicanos, Inc., CONACADO, cocoa cooperatve in the Dominican Republic and Cañeros Orgánicos Asociados, CORA, (scroll down)  sugar cooperative in Paraguay.

According to Fair Trade USA, CONACADO used fair trade earnings to build a new school, repair an old school, and provide scholarships and school supplies for children in need. Read a Fair Trade USA report on CONACADO.

Merry Fair Trade Christmas!

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Christmas in Palomas (You Can Help Make it Merry!)

By Victoria Tester 

La Luz de La Esperanza Palomas Outreach, operating inside the border town of Palomas on Buenaventura street for the past seven years, is collecting food donations to spread joy in Palomas during this Christmas holiday season.

We especially hope for the essential non-perishable ingredients for the traditional Christmas tamales and for posole: masa harina (flour for tamales), dried corn husks, lard or shortening, canned hominy, garlic, and whole or powdered mild or medium red chile.

We also need empty piñatas, which are traditionally filled with candy and broken open by the children on Christmas Eve, and we need bags of candy to fill them. 

The Palomas Outreach works closely, without discrimination, with a large number of families with proven need, and we find that need athis winter mong families in Palomas during Mexico’s humanitarian crisis remains dire.

During the 2010 summer, with New Mexico’s and El Paso’s generous donations, the work of the Palomas Outreach made a real difference in the lives of suffering families in Palomas, as we operated a summer lunch program for 1,000-1,500 children, continued our daily meal program for seniors and the disabled, distributed thousands of pounds of food weekly to destitute families with no other resources during these hard times in Mexico, and extended the Palomas Child Education Project.

But winter food donations are now at a low. Please do come forward to share non-perishable food in whatever way you can this holiday season. Over 350 Palomas families of demonstrated need are registered with the Outreach.

Where to Drop Off Donations

The Palomas Outreach bright red barrels are at both Food Baskets in Silver City and Bayard, and at Snappy Mart on Pine in Deming, and also at Diaz Farms, or call 575-536-9726 to schedule pickup of a larger non-perishable food donation.

Larger donations of non-perishable food can also be dropped off for the Palomas Outreach at Diaz Farms in Deming.
La Luz de la Esperanza Palomas Outreach, founded and directed by Esperanza Lozoya, operates under the umbrella of the Andrew Sanchez Youth Center in Columbus, New Mexico, whose director Guadalupe Otero, Lozoya’s sister, won a 2003 Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Award.  The Andrew Sanchez Youth Center is named for Lozoya and Otero’s father, an inspired Mexican-American social worker whose ideas and example profoundly influenced his daughters’ lives

(The author is a U.S. coordinator for the Palomas Outreach.  For more information about the holiday food drive or if you would like to help, call her at 575-536-9726, or email at,.  Checks or other monetary donations may be made out to: La Luz de La Esperanza, P.O. Box 38, Columbus, NM 88029)

Monday, December 06, 2010

Advent Resources from Bread for the World

The Second Week of Advent is the right time to give you a list of resources for the season.  Right?   Yes and No.  Ideally, I would have passed on these resources a couple of weeks before Advent, so that they can be used fully.   But these can be used at any time to enrich our prayers and reflections during the season. 

Here is a great list of Advent Resources available on the Bread for the World Web site:

Advent Activity: The Face of a child
A Mother's Choice at Christmas
Christmas Cards to Members of Congress

Bulletin Announcements:
A Mother's Choice at Christmas
Advent and Christmas Thoughts
Christmas, Not Just Once a Year

Worship Resources:
Advent Service of Healing for a Hurting World

Sunday, December 05, 2010

The Most Complete Fair Trade Catalog I've Ever Seen

When you make that decision to buy all or most of your holiday gifts from fair-trade sources, the first question is "Where do I turn?"

You'll be surprised how many options you have out there!  I found a fabulous list at the back of my 2010 Fair Trade Calendar, which I am offering to you via this blog.

I added four other links, including two Albuquerque-based sources.  (By the way, the illustration at left is from The Fair Trade Trunk, an event that Peacecraft from Albuquerque held to showcase fair-trade suppliers)

You can either be overwhelmed by this list or more likely, you'll be surprised  and pleased by how many choices you have.  Simply click on each source to enter their Web site.
A Fair World Designs
Recycled paper bead jewelry and handbags
Benefits women artisans in Uganda, South Africa, Burma, Thailand and Bhutan

Asante Network
Clothing, batiks, place mats and other crafts
Benefits women artisans in Tanzania and Uganda

Creative Women
Handwoven accessories and textiles
Benefits women artisans in Ethiopia, Swaziland and Afghanistan

Dunitz and Company
Glass seed bead jewelry, ranging from Victorian to ethnic.
Benefits women artisans in Guatemala.

Fair Trade Sports
Balls and sports apparel. (See blog post)
Benefits families in Pakistan, India and Sri Lanka

Global Exchange Store
A wide range of fair trade products, crafts, music and books.
Benefits families in Latin America, Africa, Asia and even the U.S. (see list)

Global Fayre
Gourmet foods and traditionally crafted artisan products. Gift baskets available.
Benefits familes in Mexico, Nepal, Palestine, South Africa and many other countries around the world.

Global Goods Partners
Bags, jewelry, home decor and other gifts.
Benefits families in Africa, Asia and Latin America (see list).

HandCrafting Justice
Pottery, toys, bags and other gifts.
Benefits women in Africa, Asia and Latin America (see list).

Indego Africa
Handicrafts, textiles and other gifts.
Benefits women in Rwanda.

MacroSun International
Global jewelry, international fashions, gifts, exotic home decor, sacred arts
Benefits families in India, Indonesia, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Vietnam.  Works closely Afghani, Burmese and Tibetan refugees.

Marigold Fair Trade Clothing
Clothing, fashions, accessories, housewares
Benefits women from slums of Mumbai, India.

Mayan Hands
Handcrafted textiles, handbags, clothing, baskets
Benefits artisan groups primarily in Guatemala

One World Flowers
Roses, mixed bouquets, lillies, carnations (see blog 1, blog 2)
Albuquerque-based company.
Benefits flower growers in Ecuador and Colombia.

Jewelry and accents
Benefits artisans in India, Thailand, Bolivia, Peru and Mexico.

Partners for Just Trade
Alpaca apparel, accessories, baby products (including organic!), jewelry, food items
Benefits artisans in Cameroon, Nicaragua and Peru

Albuquerque based fair-trade store offers a wide range of fair-trade products
Works with suppliers from 14 countries

Offers hundreds of crafts and foods.  A partner with Catholic Relief Services.
Benefits families Africa, Asia and Latin America (see list)

Swaziland Arts for Education
Offers handmade batiks and handicrafts.  Proceeds help fund education efforts in Swaziland (see blog)

Ten Thousand Villages
National network of fair trade stores. Shop online or find a retail location or alliance store near you.  Offers wide range of artisan-crafted jewelry, home decor, textiles and other products from Asia, Latin America, Africa and the Middle East. (see list)

Third World Shoppe/Friends of the Third World
Offers a  wide range of crafts and foods, inclding African carvings, Palestinian olivewood oil from 35 countries.

Traditions Cafe and World Folk Art
Fair trade store and cafe in Olympia, Wa.  Offers fair-trade shoes and footwear.

Two Hands Worldshop
Arts and handcrafts.
Benefits wide range of artists and cooperatives from around the world.  (See list)

Unity Fair Trade Marketplace
Home decor, crafts, music and much more from Latin America, Asia and Africa (See list)

Upavim Crafts
Arts and crafts
Benefits women artists in Guatemala

Women's Work
Baskets and ostrich eggshell jewelry.
Benefits women artists in Botsawana
Work of Human Hands
Catholic Relief Services offers opportunities to sell fair trade items in your parish.

World Finds
Jewelry, handbags, knitwear

Saturday, December 04, 2010

A Fair Trade Three-Point Shot (or is it a Touchdown or a GOOOL?)

There are plenty of opportunities to acquire certain types of fair-trade gifts for the holidays, including arts and crafts, jewelry, coffee and chocolate and some types of clothing and footwear.  (Heck, I found a totally awesome and comprehensive listing of fair-trade merchants in the back of my fair trade calendar.  More on that later)

But what if you decided to follow the advice of health experts to promote an active lifestyle for the children and adults in your life.  So the wheels start turning and you think you might want to buy a baskeball or a soccer ball (fútbol) or a football for your loved one. 

Our tendency would be to go to the local box store or sports-equipment retailer to purchase a ball so we can shoot hoops or play a game of touch football or a soccer match with our buddies at the park.  Kickball anyone?

Still, the socially conscious part of you starts to think that fair trade, labor rights and the environment should also factor into your decision.

Can your purchases involve both sports equipment and fair trade?  For Seattle-based Fair Trade Sports, the answer is Absolutely!  

Fair Trade and Eco-Friendly
The company offers balls and apparel that is fair trade/sweatshop-free and produced in an environmentally friendly manner.  And if you're a coach and need a lot of balls, you can also purchase these items in bulk.

Here's a description from their Web site.
Fair Trade Sports, Inc is the first sports equipment company in the US to launch a full line of Eco-Certified Fair Trade sports balls, ensuring Fair Trade Certified wages and healthy working conditions for our adult workers. Be sure to also check out our sweatshop-free apparel.

We are committed to donate all profits after taxes to children’s charities, both domestic and international. Sound familiar? It’s a similar idea to the one behind the Newman’s Own brand you see in the grocery store.
And Scott James, a staff member at Fair Trade Sports, adds:
Our products are hand-stitched by adults in Pakistan, with the eco-certified rubber coming from India and Sri Lanka.
Check out this list of certifications.. Among these is Fair Trade USA (formerly TransFair USA) and IMAC (which certifies that products are not made with child labor). 
And you might be interested in knowing that the list of certifiers includes  the international soccer federation FIFA.  (Wouldn't it be great if products from the company were used in the 2014 World Cup in Brazil?)  
The company is so committed to fair trade that it offers the opportunity for dialogue via  its blog.

Reasonable Prices
Sometimes products that are fair trade are a little more expensive than similar goods found in retail stores.  This is understandable because we do want make sure that the producers get their just payment, and the company needs to make some profit to stay in business.

But you will be surprised by the products offered by Fair Trade Sports.  The items they offer are not expensive at all and are at least comparable to the costs of similar non-fair-trade items found in stores. Check out their retail and the wholesale price lists.

This seems like a great alternative during the Christmas shopping season!

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

World AIDS Day is Also a Day of Celebration. Here's Why....

The global community observes World AIDS Day today, Dec. 1, to raise awareness of the global HIV/AIDS pandemic.  While we don't want to dwell on statistics, there is one figure that is important.   According to a new report by the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV and AIDS, or UNAIDS, almost 63 million people have been infected with the HIV since 1981.  And at the end of 2009, some 33.3 million people were living with HIV, including 2.5 million children.

But in addition to awareness and action, today should also be a day for hope.  We should be celebrating all the efforts, small and large, to address this problem.

I would like to especially highlight the work of Kristin Wetzler of Leawood, Kansas.  Kristin, a Bread for the World Hunger Justice Leader in 2007, served in the Peace Corps for three-plus years in Swaziland, where she worked in AIDS education and other community work.  The rate of HIV/AIDS infections has been very high in Swaziland (as it has been in much southern Africa).   So the problem might have seem overwhelming at times.  But Kristin kept a very positive attitude.  When she came back to United States, she decided that her ministry would be to find ways to assist the people in the communities in Swaziland with whom she bonded.  So she set up a non-profit organization called Swaziland Arts for Education (S.A.F.E.) and even held a fundraiser in New York City, with the help of her family.

The concept of S.A.F.E. is very simple.  The organization provides a vehicle for women of Swaziland to sell their art in the U.S.

At left is a sample of one of the pieces of art.  See a couple of others.

All proceeds go to the artists and the communities to devote toward education for orphans and other children affected by HIV/AIDS.

"It is our hope and belief that through donations and by selling beautiful, handmade art and home accents from Swaziland to you, we can help keep Swazi orphans and vulnerable children who otherwise could not continue their education in school," says the S.A.F.E. Web site.

Here is what Kristin says about her vision.
Long before the idea of S.A.F.E. surfaced, it was impossible for me not to be aware of the suffering around me in Swaziland on a daily, even hourly basis through my service with the Peace Corps. Students would come to my door pleading for assistance; I had nothing to give them. I was friends with people who weren’t in school and should have been. I was friends with mothers who had no means to provide for their children.
Everyone asked me for things; food, money, school fees, candy, literally the clothes off my back sometimes. Much of the time I felt helpless to do anything. I could only offer them myself, and that could not appease a hungry stomach, pay the annual school fees, provide much needed medicine or give whatever else was needed. I worked a lot in the school and it seemed in many ways kids left behind their sorrow when they came to school.
They laughed and spent time with their friends. They played sports. They dreamed. They know education is the gateway to a better life. Business, education and the news are all conducted in English in Swaziland. Without an education, children don’t learn English. Without learning English they cannot fully participate in their own society.
The per capita income in Swaziland is US$2,280 and school fees range from $150 to $350 per child a year. I began to comprehend the mountain these families must climb and I desperately wanted all children in school.  Read more
As part of her outreach, Kristin puts together a newsletter entitled Silapiya, which means "We're Alive" in SiSwati, the language of Swaziland. 

So today, on World AIDS Day, we celebrate Kristin Wetzler of Leawood, Kansas.