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Lessons from Bangladesh: Building a Brighter Future for Workers

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Hearing stories from the women working at the Fair Trade factory. They want to be able to contribute to the well being of their families, and improve their lives.

It has been one month since a Bangladeshi factory collapsed, leaving 1,127 workers dead on April 24. All of us at Senda have been following the discussion going on at a corporate, grassroots and non profit level. I hope that they serve to make sure that what happened in Bangladesh never happens again, and that workers around the World are not subject to abuse, poor working conditions, and low wages.

I really believe that another production model is possible, and that with some outside-the-box thinking, innovation, and compassion,  brands can genuinely  make progress in improving  the lives of those making their products. There is no reason why poor people in developing countries should be struggling to make ends meet and live a life with dignity, while companies make record profits. This does not have to be a ZERO SUM GAME.

I acknowledge that the problem of poor working conditions in factories is complex, and that mistakes will be made in all honest efforts aimed at changing the current reality. But I also believe that the time is right to construct a new paradigm, and create a system in which brands make quality products, producers make a good living, and consumers feel good about the impact of their purchases. With that vision in mind, last year I embarked in a 10 day trip to Pakistan to meet the workers behind our Fair Trade Soccer balls. I wanted to see first hand the conditions in which our products are made. The trip provided a lot of lessons, and inspired myself and the Senda team to continue working hard to make things better for our producers.

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Learning how our soccer ball panels are screen printed.

Because I actually lived inside the Fair Trade factory  (I stayed at a guest room on the 2nd floor), I was able to see first hand that workers making our soccer balls have access to proper breaks, to subsidized meals or a place to eat their own, that fire extinguishers are all places strategically, that emergency exits are properly labeled. There were some water faucets that were out of service and made it difficult for workers to access water, and we communicated that concern to the factory. They immediately acknowledge it, and took the necessary steps to repair them.

One of the main goals I had while in Pakistan, was to understand what it felt like to work everyday on the making of soccer balls. In order to do that, I asked people involved in the making of soccer balls to teach me about the work they do, and to allow me to participate in the making. I want use that opportunity to understand exactly how our products are made, have other people at Senda experience that, and then work with workers and the factory to find ways to make processes better

We might never become expert soccer ball stitchers, or screen printers, but by understanding better the work they do we can work along with them to make processes better, safer, and more efficient. It also makes us get closer to workers, and show them that we care, and we are willing to put ourselves in their shoes.

There is an opportunity for brands to empower consumers with knowledge about who makes their products, share their stories, and allow them to make a difference in their lives by committing to treating them with the respect that we believe everyone in this country deserves. I hope that more brands will embark in such a journey, and also that more consumers demand that from the companies they buy from.

Playing With the Locals: Can Soccer help you Travel More Sustainably?

Senda Athletics founder Santiago Halty recounts his 10 day journey in Sialkot, Pakistan, where he visited the factory where Senda’s Fair Trade soccer balls are produced. This is his sixh blog post from his trip. 

View the first post [+] | View the second post [+]  | View the third post [+]View the fourth post [+] View the fifth post [+] 

In this last installment of Santiago’s blog posts about his trip to Pakistan, he describes a theme that was very much important to him, interactions with the locals during travel.

I wanted to have some of the typical experience of people’s lives in Pakistan. A lesson I learned from traveling is that sports, especially soccer, has the power to connect people, no matter their differences. And by connecting with locals when we travel we can better understand their way of living, as well as discover unique ways to make a positive impact during our stay. All of these combined will ultimately help us become more responsible travelers, who can learn to respect and embrace the local way of living, and discover ways to positively impact the communities we visit. During my stay, I got to experience and leverage two different sports: a game I was familiar with and a game that the locals grew up playing.

One day after touring Senda’s ball factory, I went back to the neighborhood of some of the factory workers. The locals organized a soccer game on a local field, about two miles away from the factory. I saw all kinds of people playing (some without shoes!) with grass and dirt all over them. Many of the kids thought it was interesting to see a foreigner visit them. We played two 25-minute halves, until it got so dark that no one could see the ball anymore. It was a fun and intense game, and unfortunately, my team ended up losing 0-1 with a goal in the last 10 of the game.

I thought it was only going to be a pick-up game, but somehow someone out of nowhere brought out a trophy for the winning team. This gesture showed how caring the people from Pakistan were to me. I gave the “captain” of the other team a Senda Fair trade soccer ball, so they could remember the game after I was gone. Afterwards, I was invited to the house of one of the people who played in the game. We ended up talking about the game we played, international soccer life in general in the USA and Pakistan. I really enjoyed playing soccer with the locals: it was a great way of  meeting new people and seeing how they live.

One thing that I had never done before was play Pakistan’s national sport, cricket. It was also in a “pick-up” format, in the yard of one of the families I visited while learning how to stitch a Senda ball in a village. It was a bit of a challenge to understand all the rules of the game, but I was able to try my luck at the bat, I even hit a few balls,  and really I tried it. It helped me earn people’s respect, and I got smiles from everyone watching. Overall, I was extremely happy with how my trip went, and having the opportunity to play sports with the locals really allowed me to connect with people in a unique and special way. I highly recommend you try the same next time you are going somewhere new!

How about you? Do you have any personal stories of playing sports with the locals while traveling ? Comment below!

 

Join Our Campaign for Film on Fair Trade in Soccer!

Senda is creating a documentary, “Senda: Soccer’s Path to Fair Trade” to show people the real impact of purchasing a fair trade soccer ball. The film will cover how Santiago started Senda, his recent trip to Pakistan to visit Senda’s factory, and Senda’s non-profit partners.

To make this film possible, we need your help! Senda is raising funds on Indiegogo, where you can pledge any amount for some great perks. We know that not everyone can pledge, but you can also lend us your support through spreading the word ANYONE about the campaign.

Various websites have already helped us spread the word, including Soccer Cleats 101, Triple Pundit, and Designed Good. Help us share the positive impact that fair trade has on the world!

Fair Trade Joint Body Discusses New Community Projects

Attending the Joint Body meeting with the help of my host, Ehsan (left).

Senda Athletics founder Santiago Halty recounts his 10 day journey in Sialkot, Pakistan, where he visited the factory where Senda’s Fair Trade soccer balls are produced. This is his fifth blog post from his trip. 

View the first post [+] | View the second post [+]  | View the third post [+]View the fourth post [+] 

Before arriving in Sialkot, Pakistan, one of the activities I was looking forward to the most, was meeting our ball stitchers’ and workers’ Joint Body. As part of of its commitment to Fair Trade, Senda pays a Fair Trade Premium with every ball, which is used for community projects, like healthcare and education. The Joint Body is a group of workers who are democratically elected by their peers that discuss and decide how those Fair Trade premiums can be used to benefit their coworkers and community. The Joint Body is composed of eight workers, including three factory workers, three ball stitchers, and two people from management.

I was able to participate in a Joint Body meeting and listened to some of the ideas they had to improve community projects and create new ones. There were talks about bringing a doctor at the factory to do medical check-ups, as well as putting together an eye clinic.

In addition, my host Ehsan and I met with people from a microcredit bank, to learn from them about the most successful micro-finance projects, which could potentially be started by workers’ family members.

It is through these projects aimed at improving the lives of the people making Senda’s soccer balls that provide an opportunity to make a difference. We couldn’t do this without the support of coaches, players, and parents who choose Senda whenever they need soccer equipment.

We want to thank everybody who has supported us in the last two years, and invite everyone who loves soccer to join us!

Fair Price Shop: Making Food More Affordable for Workers

We visited the Fair Price Shop, which allows workers to buy basic food products at a wholesale price. Combining their collective power with the Fair Trade Premium they receive, workers can save on food, and do more with their earnings.

Senda Athletics founder Santiago Halty continues recounting his 10 day journey in Sialkot, Pakistan, where he visited the factory where Senda’s Fair Trade soccer balls are produced. This is his fourth blog post from his trip. 

View the first post [+] | View the second post [+]  | View the third post [+] | View the fourth post [+] View the fifth post [+] 

On my recent trip to Pakistan, I visited the Fair Price Shop. Located in the factory, the Fair Price Shop is run and used by the workers to purchase food staples, such as rice, cooking oil, flour, and tea, at a wholesale price.

The Fair Price Shop is run by the Joint Body, a group of workers that decides how the Fair Trade premiums that Senda pays is used to better their community (read Santiago’s blog better explaining the Joint Body here).

The ultimate goal of the Fair Price Shop is to provide accessible, affordable, and quality food to workers at a price they can afford. The workers spend a lot of their income on food staples, and the Joint Body wants them to be able to stretch their purchasing power.

The Fair Trade Shop is extremely accessible to the workers. First, they create a list of items that they want to purchase for the week for them and their families, and bring it with them to work. After work, they go to the Fair Price Shop and purchase the items on their list.

During my time in Pakistan, I asked the workers about what they thought of the Fair Price Shop. One suggestion that was shared by several workers was the need for affordable medicine. We are excited to announce that in about two to three months, the Joint Body will set up Fair Price Medicine Shop , which will make available affordable medication to our factory workers.

We believe that happier people create better products, so we will continue to support our workers with help from the Fair Price Shop and the Joint Body.

Hope you will join us, next time you need a quality soccer ball!

Santiago

Meet Hassan, from the Packing Department

Senda Athletics Founder Santiago Halty continues his 10 day journey in Sialkot, Pakistan visiting the factory where Senda’s Fair Trade soccer balls are produced. This is his third blog post from his trip. 

View the first post [+] | View the second post [+]  | View the third post [+] | View the fourth post [+] View the fifth post [+] 

This week I learned a great deal about the process of making a Senda Fair Trade soccer ball. I saw all the dedication and attention to detail behind each product. Once our soccer balls have been made, they are inspected at quality control, washed, deflated and packed to be sent to our warehouse in Oakland, California.

Before coming to visit, we received pictures of people involved in making and sending us the balls. One of those pictures was of the packing department, and it included a smiley person who captured our attention,

Hassan.

Meeting Hassan was a bit like meeting someone I already knew as he is famous at Senda’s office. I was even asked by our PR manager Alessandro to look for him when I arrived at the factory and get a picture together.

I am bringing some photos of Hassan signed by himself back home, one for Alessandro, one for me, and one for our office!

I had a chance to meet and talk with Hassan, and learned about his life and hopes for the future.

Soon we will be making videos with the stories of Hassan and other people behind Senda’s soccer balls, so that you can see first hand the importance of supporting Fair Trade, and the dedication of the people working to get you the best soccer ball possible.

Thanks for joining us in changing the world through soccer, and see you on the field!

Santiago

The Human Connection: Fair Trade Producers and Consumers

With the help of my host in Pakistan, Mr. Ehsan, I talked to the women workers about the different people who use Senda soccer balls.

Senda Athletics Founder Santiago Halty continues his 10 day journey in Sialkot, Pakistan visiting the place where Senda’s Fair Trade soccer balls are produced. This is his second blog post from his trip. View the first post here.

View the first post [+] | View the second post [+]  | View the third post [+] | View the fourth post [+] View the fifth post [+] 

What a great day I had at the Fair Trade factory today! I can already recognize the faces of some of the people working in the different areas of Senda’s soccer ball production. People are beginning to feel comfortable seeing a foreigner around and simply chatting with me.

When I was in Berkeley preparing for my trip to visit our Fair Trade soccer ball producers, I wanted to come with something to give to the workers, and help break the ice. Bringing a physical gift for everyone was out of the question, as I did not have enough room in my luggage to do so! I started to ask for advice to people close to me and Senda.

My mother, who has been an amazing supporter of Senda from day one, always talks about Fair Trade as a way to bring dignity and pride to people through their work.

Following her advice, my team and I worked hard on making a video where players who purchased a Senda product directly thank the workers for the quality soccer balls they produce.

I was able to show that video to the workers today and it was a fantastic feeling to see their smiles and expressions when they saw people of all ages enjoying the Senda soccer balls.

Senda’s rock-star videographer intern (you know it’s you Abby!), made the video just in time for my trip. She included the word “Shukriya”, which means thank you in Urdu.

Check it out below.

Everyone should take pride in their work and feel they are making a difference. Often times, workers at factories are seen simply as labor inputs. It is tough for them to take pride in their work or find out what happens with the product after it has shipped from the factory.

As part of my trip to Pakistan, I want to start changing that paradigm, one person at a time.

As simple as it might seem, showing our factory workers the fruit of their labor can put a smile on their face. This simple act makes a big impact in how that person perceives their work.

A soccer ball brings so much happiness to those who use it. So, we wanted to make sure some of that joy went back to its source – the makers of the ball.

We know its a small gesture, but we are convinced that its well worth it.

Workers from the packing department got a kick out of hearing players of all ages saying “Thank You” in their language.

 

Senda Arrives in Pakistan to Hear Stories Behind Fair Trade

Senda Fair Trade Soccer Balls in Pakistan

After a long 14 hour journey and a bit of jetlag, I arrived in the city of Sialkot, Pakistan to visit the place where Senda’s Fair Trade soccer balls are produced. I couldn’t be more excited to be here and have the opportunity to meet the people behind each Senda soccer ball. I will be staying here for 10 days, and will be uploading posts and stories of my experience.

I am lucky to have a great host, Ehsan, who picked me up at the airport this morning. He has been educating me on local culture and also helps me communicate with workers.

My first impression was that people take a great amount of pride in their work, and that they enjoy meeting someone who came from so far away to see them.

A smile and kindness can do wonders and are universal communication tools that can span language barriers. I am looking forward to visiting the homes of some of the workers, learning how to stitch a ball from them, and hearing personal stories of how people’s lives have been improved thanks to Fair Trade.

Tomorrow, I will learn more about the entire production process of a Senda ball. We will look at a quality control process that guarantees Senda’s soccer balls match or surpass the quality of competitors across the board.

Remember, there is a face behind every Senda soccer ball you purchase. Help us support the factory workers and their right to make a fair wage. 

Senda stitchers in Pakistan