Back to School Shopping: The Fair Trade Way

IMG_2403As summer comes to an end, school shopping soon begins! Notebooks and accessories with the latest cartoon characters are all the rage for youngsters, while chic dorm accessories and planners fill the carts of soon to be college students. But do we ever stop to think of how these items are made? It’s almost ironic how the very items designed for educating children, are in fact created by children themselves or parents who can barely afford to send their own children to school.

The Fair Trade Solution

In Vietnam, before education was free, children could only qualify if they had the proper legal documents and could pay tuition. Street children, meeting neither of these requirements, were thus excluded from the very program that would allow them to get off the streets. Mai Vietnamese Handicrafts was founded by social workers who were concerned with this problem and established the organization to provide income generation for marginalized families and access to informal literacy classes for street children. Now that schooling is free, Mai Vietnamese Handicrafts continues to employ older sisters and mothers to improve family income which directly funds clean water, vocational training and teacher subsidies. The artisans also receive health insurance and can apply for scholarships to continue their education.

IMG_2413Continuing Education

In our globalized world, primary education alone doesn’t always ensure young people the opportunities they deserve. To truly compete, children need to attend college as well. This is the thinking behind Sseko Designs, who hire Ugandan women high school graduates and offer them a way to earn an income in order to attend university. These women learn how to make Sseko’s versatile and comfortable ribbon sandals (which are perfect for campus living), as well as learning personal finance skills. So far, Sseko has enabled 60 women to live their dreams. Shopping for college becomes even more of an investment in the future when it means sending someone else to college as well.IMG_2409

Back to school with Ten Thousand Villages

In store right now, we have bags, journals, pencils, key chains and more that will make your back to school shopping people and planet friendly. These handmade items not only teach your children about conscious shopping, but allow them to share the story about how, because of their purchase, someone just like them can attend school as well.

Fair trade continues to inspire change as college students start school with ethically-created dorm accessories and study music that reveals diverse global cultures. By shopping fair trade, you are investing in the education of children and young adults from around the world who can create a better, happier place to live.