I’m an anthropologist who has worked in development for decades, and my husband and I’s greatest desire in life is to see an end to poverty. After I worked with many different projects around the world, I was not being satisfied with the results, especially considering all the money spent (i.e. like with USAID, etc.).I was curious about the Fair Trade model (this is in the early 1990s when Fair Trade was called Alternative Trade). Marco and I walked into a Pueblo to People store in Houston (Marco, a Latin America folk musician, was looking for zampoñas and someone recommended this shop), and we read that the artisans were getting paid and treated fairly.I was writing a book on migration at the time, so while doing research, we decided to visit some villages in Guatemala where the women sold handicrafts to Fair Trade marketers. The results were impressive to say the least: kids didn’t have swollen bellies from malnutrition, but rather had on school uniforms; women had respect and hope for the future.Marco and I knew we had to get involved in this movement directly. We went to several NAATO conferences (North American Alternative Trade Organization) and helped form the Fair Trade Federation from which the new term Fair Trade was born. Marco and I analyzed what was needed most in Fair Trade and the answer was obvious, more 100% Fair Trade retail outlets, so in 1996 we opened Made By Hand.Seventeen years later, Made By Hand has grown tremendously. We work with artisans in 36 countries. We visit producers each year and have been able to give small grants from money leftover after we pay our bills to different groups helping with infrastructural needs. We also give every year to SERRV‘s development program for artisans. Myself and several others created the Fair Trade Resource Network, a non-profit educational organization, because back in the 1990s not many people knew about Fair Trade and we knew we needed an organization to get the word out.Most of all, Marco and I feel we are the ones who are blessed by working in Fair Trade. People say, “Oh, how great to help people.” No, it’s really the other way around. We get to go to work everyday knowing that what we do is making the world a better place. How lucky we are! And since we love to travel we can step off a plane in any country and have friends there — we may not have met each other yet, but we are already united by our mutual respect and love for each other.
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