At the beginning of February, I was given the opportunity to sell grandmother baskets for The Nyaka AIDS Orphans Project at a Fair Trade Shop during the Faith and International Development Conference at Calvin College. The hustle of a small nonprofit office does not usually allow me the time to participate in outside events but with the help of other staff members, I was able to make the time. I hoisted a large suitcase of beautiful handmade baskets into my minivan and headed off to the campus in Grand Rapids.
When I arrived there were several of tables lined up with goods from all over the world. Kind faced woman all stood behind them armed with stories of why and where. I quickly laid my Ugandan table cloth over the large table and started to set out our display. Baskets, paper bead necklaces and brochures about our various programs were all laid out for participants and passersby. When groups of people started to gather, I started sharing about the many HIV/AIDS orphans we serve and how a holistic approach is changing the lives of people living in devastating poverty.
I encouraged those around me to grab a flyer for more information and to sign up for our e-newsletter. Many seemed focused on how on earth I was lucky enough to have this career. They seemed shocked when I told them that I applied for the job and I was hired. As the day went on, the foot traffic nearly disappeared as people began to join the different conference sessions. I left my table and wandered through booths where organizations challenged military governments with peace, fed the hungry with farms, supplied the overpopulated with information on fertility and helped the thirsty find clean, safe drinking water.
I left with arms full of brochures and encouraged by so many, doing so much good. My favorite was another organization working in Uganda. The inside of the Come Let’s Dance* brochure contained these words,
“Love Hard is not just a statement, it’s a challenge. Love Hard means loving people who are too hard to love in places where it is too hard to love and in situations where it seems impossible to love. Love Hard is outstretching our arms and touching the sick, whether we are comfortable doing it or not.”
When I was finally able to pull myself away from the booths of organizations, I sat back down at my table and shared what I had found with the women working the booth next to me. We started to talk and I asked about a basket that I had overheard that they had purchased at a market in Ghana. She explained to me that they volunteer for an organization that attempts to rehabilitate women that are rescued from human trafficking.
Apparently, when a family commits some type of crime or is dishonored, they are required to give up their youngest daughter to a priest. During the day, she works the fields and then she is made available at night. I stopped her in mid-story and expressed my sadness for how disposable women and children are in so many places. She agreed and we discussed how it is a global problem.Even in the midst of a conference full of those seeking justice and honor for those deemed disposable, there was continued sadness for those just out of reach.
My good friend Wendy has just become a representative for A Better Way Imports. Think Tupperware meets fair trade and social justice. A Better Way Imports gathers goods made by women and children rehabilitating after being rescued from different human trafficking scenarios. The catalog is filled with jewelry, handbags, messenger bags and wallets supplied by reputable organizations like Radiant Hope, Nightlight* and Freeset*. I agreed to host a party and I am excited to extend an invitation to you all.
Please join me at A Better Way Brunch on February 25th, 2012 from 11pm – 2pm at Gone Wired Café on Michigan Ave.
Of all of the slaves in this world, roughly 80% of them are women.
As a woman living with all of the rights, privileges I have been given, I feel a need to reach out for those not so fortunate. This is event is not only for the buyer, it is for the curious. Also, this event is not only for women. Men are encouraged to attend too. This event is about information and empowerment. I look forward to seeing you all there.
* I didn’t go through the trouble of hyperlinking all of those fabulous Facebook pages for my health. Add some substance to your feed by watching the good work that these organizations are doing. Enjoy the deep good!