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NZ urged: Put people before profit - shop with your heart

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

New Zealand shoppers are being encouraged to learn more about where the products they use come from. On the eve of World Fair Trade Day - Saturday, May 11 - Trade Aid hopes hopes Kiwis will make a conscious decision to support social enterprises, putting humanitarian values above financial savings.

Melanie Burke has experienced first-hand how small producer communities around the globe can benefit from New Zealanders shopping with a conscience.

The Christchurch woman has recently returned from a trip to India and Sri Lanka to visit social enterprises who employ artisans and producers, many with traditional handcraft knowledge and skills, who make products sold in Trade Aid shops throughout New Zealand.

She was part of an 11-strong group of Trade Aid staff and volunteers who wanted to experience not only the work that goes into products sold in stores around the country, but to witness how fair trade can transform lives and bring change for communities. "Social enterprises like ours can make the world a better place," Melanie, Trade Aid Importers national retail manager, says. "We went to experience the cultural and socio-economic situations of the producers, and understand how selling their products in New Zealand impacts them.

"The trip wasn’t an audit exercise - Trade Aid undertakes this as part of a different programme. This was a chance to meet the people and experience fair trade first hand."

"I will never forget Silence, a self-help movement for people who can neither speak nor hear. They make candles and cards, and through this enterprise they have achieved their aspirations to be self-sufficient and contribute to society."

It was Donna Stowell’s second overseas education trip. "I love that you actually know that someone made all these things, and that it does make a difference in their life," Stonnell, Trade Aid’s New Plymouth store manager says. "It gives them purpose and meaning, they are lovingly made, not just manufactured." Kapiti shop volunteer Vicki Black agrees: "The pride shown in their work - which is gorgeous - is wonderful. There was one older gentleman who adds a hand-painted touch to every greeting card and he has been doing that for the past 30 years. It was absolutely humbling.

"I believe in helping people to help themselves in a sustainable, respectful way."

The group, paid staff, and volunteers who financed their own way, spent the 16-day field trip visiting three of Trade Aid’s partners in Kolkata, India, and two Sri Lankan partners, toy maker Gospel House in Madampe and the spice producers of PODIE in Negombo.

They saw producers hand-rolling each individual incense stick, witnessed the artisans’ pride as they hand-stamped prints on cotton, watched the meticulous effort that went into hand-painting toys, and women recycling saris into traditional batik cloth.

"In these organisations artisans are treated with respect - and isn’t that the story New Zealanders want behind their purchases?," Melanie asks.

Saturday, May 11, is World Fair Trade Day, and Trade Aid stores throughout the country will be holding a range of events and activities to celebrate.

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