Imagine that you live in a small rural town where you get your food from local farmers. You have two neighbors who are both within shouting distance of your house. They are both farmers, and both sell eggs, milk, and cheese.
You are aware that one on the right beats his wife and children. You hear it frequently. He also doesn’t allow them to go to school, and only feeds and clothes them enough to keep them alive and working. He’s overweight and drinks a lot, so there is obviously some extra money to go around.
The neighbor on the left also has a wife and children. His kids work hard and have lots of chores. But he also clothes them well and sends them to school every day. In fact, of everyone in the family, the father is the thinnest and has the most worn-out clothes. On weekends you notice the family going on outings and having a wonderful time together.
The first neighbor—the one who mistreats his children—sells eggs for $2 a dozen, and the second neighbor sells eggs for $3 a dozen. Imagine you always buy eggs from the first neighbor. Why? Because they are cheaper.
Now, this is just a simplified illustration. But don’t get me wrong, this is closer to reality than you think. Children are getting beaten and starved every day. Millions of them. This is the sad state of consumerism: we buy the cheaper product simply because they’re cheaper. If the neighbor who beats his children was in shouting distance while making our product, I don’t think we would buy from them.
But since it’s a neighbor country thousands of miles away and we can’t hear it, we don’t think twice.
Sweatshops are defined by the US Department of Labor as any work environment that violates a minimum of two labor laws—they generally involve low pay with dangerous or unhealthy working conditions or child labor. There are at least 11,000 sweatshops in America alone, and an estimated 158 million children from age 5 to 14 working in sweatshops in developing countries. UNICEF reported that “some work from 6 in the morning until 7 at night for less than 20 cents a day.”
Sweatshops are most commonly used in “fast-fashion” industries that specialize in cheap clothing and large quantities (think H&M, Forever 21, Walmart, Topshop, etc.). Ever seen a label that says, “Made in Bangladesh”? Here’s what that means:
Notice that labor is less than .008% of the total cost to the consumer. You could quadruple all the workers pay and no-one in America would ever even notice the difference.
So, what can we do about this?
Many of us naturally believe that cheaper is better because we are being “good stewards” of our money. But what many people don’t know is that “cheaper” is only possible because of the evil is thousands of miles away.
But there is a way to fight these industries.
There is a way to not only care about the workers making our product. but bring them and their families the Gospel of Jesus Christ? To me, that’s worth $1 more per dozen eggs. Keep reading to learn a little bit more about the fair trade movement, as well as what we do.
What is Fair Trade?
Fairtrade exists to provide an alternative to the abusive treatment found in sweatshops, coffee fields and so many of the workplaces in developing countries.
The World Fair Trade Organization defines Fair Trade as:
“…a trading partnership, based on dialogue, transparency, and respect, that seeks greater equity in international trade. It contributes to sustainable development by offering better trading conditions to and securing the rights of, marginalized producers and workers.”
We believe in fair trade and have made it our mission to provide dignified, well-paying jobs to Christians in developing countries. Specifically, to Christians we know are pursuing Bible education and Gospel ministry.
We are working toward a world in which workers are paid well, children aren’t abused, and the Gospel is spread to the edges of the earth, to every nation.
This seems like an impossibly large task, and we know you’re busy—but you can make a difference for the Gospel and in the lives of real people when you choose to shop from fair trade-committed companies. It can be as easy as buying a new bag.
– Lukas Van Dyke
Founder of Wild & Free Supply
LEARN MORE ABOUT OUR MISSION
Photos from our Honduran workshop