My day job is founder of Ethical Trade Co. which is a company that sells fair trade products from developing countries, including Nepal, Haiti and Cambodia.
Around the world, more than 35 million people are trapped in modern slavery—human trafficking—because of some combination of poverty and instability, both economic and political. We started our company as a way to end human trafficking through job creation.
I saw the reality of trafficking firsthand when I was working with different populations in Nepal—including runaway children and subsistence farmers. My wife and I were there with Youth with a Mission, (YWAM or WHY-wham), an interdenominational, international group that focuses on evangelism, mercy missions and training.
There were a number of occasions when we bought products being made by the people we met overseas and brought them to the U.S. to sell as a fundraiser. We saw there was a market for these products and thought we could have an impact on trafficking by creating jobs in villages and towns where people lived. These vulnerable people would no longer have to travel to a bigger city—where they were more likely to be exploited—to find a job. They could stay in their home area and earn an income.
We work with partners on the ground, in the country we’re buying from. They understand the language and the culture. We choose our suppliers in one of two ways: personal relationships or fair-trade certification.
Much of what drives my desire to do this work is my relationship with God and my understanding of scriptures. Look at the example of Jesus, hanging out with the poor and the needy, removing people from bondage.
There’s a passage from Isaiah 58 that really speaks to me regarding the “true fast” that Jesus is calling us to:
“Is not this the kind of fasting I have
to loose the chains of injustice
and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
and break every yoke?
Is it not to share your food with the hungry
and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
when you see the naked, to clothe them,
and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
8Then your light will break forth like the dawn,
and your healing will quickly appear;
There are so many examples of modern-day slavery around the world today, and as Westerners we have a strong indirect impact on much of the problem. We want things quickly and cheaply—whether that’s clothing, food or sex. And we don’t want to worry about the consequences. My Judeo-Christian background demands I do something about it. And that’s what Ethical Trading Co. is about.
I encourage people to investigate the products they’re buying: If a company is ethical, they’ll be happy to tell you. One great place to look is Fashion Revolution, which is a website that uses an ethical scale to capture the transparency in a company’s supply chain. You may or may not be surprised to know Amazon doesn’t do very well on their metrics.
Shop locally and shop small, as those companies usually know who their suppliers are. Consider shopping at thrift or resale stores; that’s a great way to buy ethically.
My most memorable caffeine is always tea. I’m from England where everything is solved with tea. Having a bad day? Have a cup of tea. You fell off your bike and you’re bleeding? Have a cup of tea. It’s such a stereotypical thing—tea and biscuits—but it’s also incredibly accurate.
The English way to make tea is typically loose tea (rather than a tea bag) in a teapot. You add boiling water that you heated on a plug-in kettle—which heats four times more quickly than the stove top. You pour the water over the tea, wait three or four minutes for it to steep and pour yourself a cup.
If you’re using a tea pot, you put the milk in your cup and then the tea. If you’re using an individual cup, steep the tea first and then add the milk. Otherwise the water is too chilly for proper steeping.
Ideally, you’ll warm the teapot up before you start, then cover it with a teacozy once you’ve added the tea and water to keep it nice and toasty.
If you’d like to try true English tea for yourself, I’d recommend Legacy House Imports on the east side of town. It’s in a house by the Target and looks like a quilt shop in the front. Go to the back and you’ll find a proper cup of tea.
My current caffeine of choice depends on where I am. Starbucks actually has a decent English breakfast tea—and every Starbucks has it. An independent coffee shop won’t necessarily have the right kind. Then I tend to have a chai latte.
The people I’d love to share a cup of caffeine with are the friends and family I left behind in the UK and the many good friends I’ve made in my travels around the world. It would be great to gather up everyone who’s not here in Madison.
World problem that could be solved with the right amount of caffeine: Helping make people more aware of the small choices they make that have a massive and profound effect overseas. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed and that you can’t make an impact—but you can. The money we spend and where and how we buy things can have a huge impact.