U.S. Churchgoers Urged to Buy Gifts from Ex-Sex Workers, AIDS Orphans

Former sex workers in Cambodia, AIDS orphans in Rwanda, and marginalized farmers in Palestinian communities are just some of the world's poorest people who are hoping that American churchgoers will buy their Christmas gifts through a fair trade organization this season.

Instead of shopping at the local mall, Christian company Trade As One is urging American believers to consider buying gifts that will make a deep impact on the life of the producers and help fight global poverty.

The company this year is calling on churches to rally behind the idea of "Just One" – that if every churchgoer in America would buy just one fair trade purchase then it would be enough money to lift one million families out of poverty for one whole year.

"What if the money we spent could save a life?" asks the company in a video. "With fair trade, small changes to our spending habits here can transform whole communities there. We get things we need – like coffee, olive oil, chocolate, soap, bags, t-shirt, gifts – all made by the poor who now earn a living wage [that is] made sustainably and made without slavery or child labor."

Through fair trade purchases, those who were abused and oppressed can now have dignified work that end the cycle of dependency and frees them from abuse, Trade As One emphasized.

Trade As One was founded by Nathan and Catherine George, a couple that wanted to help God's children in the developing world who suffer from poverty without any real hope of escaping. During their trips to India, Malawi and Zambia, the husband-wife team saw how businesses allowed people who would otherwise make $1/day actually make a living wage.

The Georges asked how they could help the communities and the response was nearly always, "We need a route to market in America," and "We need you to tell our story."

To honor their request, each of the handmade craft and gift items featured in the Trade As One online shop is accompanied by the story of the producer.

Handmade cards from Africa are shown alongside pictures of orphaned young people in Rwanda who have been directly affected by HIV/AIDS or the genocide. The making and selling of the cards provide income and hope for the orphaned youths who use the money to buy food and clothing for their younger siblings as well as to buy medicine and provide school tuition.

To combat the sex trafficking problem, Trade As One is partnering with the Hagar Project, which provides shelter, food, counseling, medical care, education and more to women rescued from the sex trade in Cambodia. The women are taught skills such as designing and sewing purses and bags and can sell them to support their families.

Some of the fair trade items available for purchase include: a high-quality soccer ball made by sewers and stitchers in Pakistan for $39.99; O Little Town of Bethlehem cards produced by orphaned Rwandans for $17.50 for a set of five; Nabali tree olive oil made by Palestinians caught in the Mideast conflict for $18.50; moon ball earrings by craftswomen in Guatemalan and Ghanian villages for $12; and Arianne silk handbag made by former sex workers in Cambodia for $39.

"I've traveled quite a bit and I can see the difference this makes in their (poor producers') lives," said Trade As One co-founder Catherine George to the Santa Cruz Sentinel, which covered a Trade As One boutique event earlier this month.

"We're giving a hand-up to people rather than a handout," she said.

George said at least half of the proceeds from the Nov. 15 fair trade boutique, hosted by her church, Vintage Faith Church in Santa Cruz, will go back to the 700 producers whose items were being sold at the event. She estimated that figure could be about $7,000.

Other churches who want to get involved in the fair trade effort can do so by showing the Trade As One video to their congregants and handing out "Just One" cards that challenge their congregation to spend less, give more, and give meaningful gifts.

The Trade As One Video is posted on the company's website.

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