I had the good fortune of being welcomed to Global Exchange as a sales associate at the San Francisco Fair Trade Store a few weeks before Global Exchange’s 25th Anniversary celebration. I met many new people and felt an inkling my new job would suit me in ways I didn’t know yet.
Since then, I’ve learned more about how Fair Trade works than I imagined I could. While buying Fair Trade products has always been a way for me to support sustainable economic and environmental practices for workers whose livelihood depends on it, it’s now a way to connect with people in a way I didn’t before. I’m beginning to feel the love.
I like things: fashion, texture, beautifully crafted, soulful goods I can wrap around my shoulders, press my cheek to, or bounce thoughtfully in the cup of my palm. But things are things. I thought, Fair Trade products are still things.
That’s the nature of it, but there’s also that feeling you get knowing the story behind each handmade item…the love. For example, when you hold an Andes Gifts alpaca wool hat in all its squish-soft, insulating gorgeousness, and you know it’s making a positive impact on people’s lives and the environment, it becomes more than a thing, it becomes a gift.
Andes Gifts, based in Davis, California, provides free knitting instruction, as well as successful micro-loans to increase earning capacity, to women in rural indigenous communities in Bolivia and Peru. Within some of the most economically impoverished areas in the western hemisphere, Andean communities often unravel due to disjointed childcare, work, and family structure.
Knitters work in their homes or in co-ops where they have access to the resources they need, and work as much as they need to at their own pace. Women can stay close to their children and participate in local traditions. Knitters provide for themselves and their families, and make statements like, “I plan on knitting until I’m a grandmother”. That’s a loving thing for all it’s implications.
We invite you to visit our Fair Trade stores in Berkeley and San Francisco, CA to see for yourself the beauty of Andes Gifts.