If you purchase a garment sewn in Haiti from a U.S. retailer for $10, the seamstress may only earn 10 cents for her work, according to the National Labor Committee. If you purchase a pound of Colombian coffee for seven bucks at the grocery store, there's a good chance the grower may have only received 80 cents from the North American distributor.
In free-trade markets, the cost of production can exceed the amount the producers are paid, but some socially conscious shoppers are finding solutions through the "fair trade" movement that's sweeping the United States and Europe. On November 15th and 16th, from noon to 4 p.m., an assortment of fairly traded crafts and coffee will be available at Trinity United Methodist Church's Fifth Annual Alternative Christmas Market.
The buyer is assured that the producer will receive a significantly higher percentage of the profit because items are shipped directly from craft cooperatives in Third World countries rather than delivered to retailers via middlemen. For example, if that pound of Colombian coffee is sold at a fair-trade market, the producer could earn up to $1.26 per pound.
"We are so tied up in ourselves that we don't realize what we're doing sometimes," says Kay Jordan, co-organizer of the Alternative Christmas Market. "A person in Bangladesh may only end up with one cent from a garment that I may pay $15 to $20 for at Target. When I buy that garment, I'm really supporting keeping a person in poverty. But if I can shift some of my shopping to fair trade, I'm doing something about that."
The two-day market at Trinity United Methodist will feature a wide range of craft items from Pakistan, Guatemala, Kenya, Sri Lanka, and other developing countries. Items include handmade jewelry, tribal drums, onyx bookends, woven baskets, picture frames, hand-carved musical instruments, as well as seasonal crafts such as nativity sets and Christmas ornaments.
The stock comes from Ten Thousand Villages, an agency of the Mennonite Central Committee and the largest fair-trade organization in the U.S. According to the Fair Trade Federation, Ten Thousand Villages has created about 12,500 full-time jobs for disadvantaged artisans and farmers since 1985.
They'll be shipping about $14,000 worth of merchandise to the church. All profits will be sent back to the agency and distributed to the craftspeople.
"A lot of these craftspeople are women trying to support their family, and for various reasons, the man is not there," explains Jordan. "We've all heard about how in Africa there are so many sad deaths due to AIDS, which leaves families struggling. The fact that they're able to market these items in a country that has more money is really important."
In addition to the crafts, the market will have a children's gift room where youngsters can make candles, Christmas decorations, and cards. They'll also have booths set up where donations can be made in the name of the person who already has everything.
Jordan says there will be several charities available, and the most popular each year is Heifer International, which allows donors to choose livestock to be sent to families in Third World countries. Shoppers can also make donations to help send Christmas packages to soldiers serving overseas, or they can allot funds for an upcoming housing project the United Methodist Church has planned for North Memphis.
Two other Memphis churches have jumped on the fair-trade bandwagon in the past couple of years. Both First Congregational Church in Midtown and Prescott Memorial Baptist Church in the U of M area offer year-round fair-trade shops. Global Goods at First Congo offers a variety of coffee, chocolate, crafts, and garments handmade with natural fibers. Global Goods is open Friday from 6 to 9 p.m. and Saturday-Sunday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
The International Artisans Market at Prescott carries coffees, teas, and craft items and is open Wednesdays from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 5 to 6 p.m., Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., and Sundays from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. The market also delivers items to assisted-living facilities.
Says Jordan, "This kind of socially conscious shopping is a blast. It really reflects the spirit of the Christmas season."
The Fifth Annual Alternative Christmas Market at Trinity United Methodist Church is located at 1738 Galloway. For more information, call 274-6895 or 278-1517.
Global Goods at First Congregational Church is located at 1000 S. Cooper. For more information, call 278-6786 or 725-4990.
The International Artisans Market at Prescott Memorial Baptist Church is located at 499 Patterson. For more information, call 327-8479.