By FATHER DAVID GARCIA, Commentary | Published December 6, 2012
Images of people breaking down the doors of popular big box stores are starting to be standard fare during the holiday season. This year the sales began even before the turkey on the dinner table was barely cold.
This kind of crazed rush to shop for bargains is at odds with the true meaning of Christmas and nature of giving. Gifts are meant to be thoughtful expressions of the people and values we care about. We give our friends and family who love animals or art or cooking, things that will make them smile.
In this season of giving and sharing, it makes all the sense in the world to think about both the person who will receive the gifts and the person who made the gift. It’s not that hard. As Catholics, we can bring smiles to the people we care about and promote economic justice for the people who produce the gift items when we buy Fair Trade.
A few years ago I met Atule Nyaba and the women of Bolgo, Ghana, in West Africa while on a trip with Catholic Relief Services, the official international relief and development agency of the United States Catholic Bishops. They showed us the technique of weaving beautiful straw baskets and hats that she and the others sell through the Fair Trade program of SERRV, one of the partners of CRS.
Fair Trade means that the person in the developing country that produced the product, whether baskets, coffee, jewelry, chocolate or many other items, receives a fair wage for their work according to the standards of their country. Often, people who produce these items outside of Fair Trade receive tiny percentages for their work. You never know when you buy something from one of these countries how much goes to the original person and what is for all the middle people.
Atule’s group gets as much as 85 percent of the sale price. Instead of 25 cents, which they used to get, they now receive $5 per basket, a huge boost to their fragile income. They work in the fields for part of the year and the baskets provide necessary funds to help supplement the meager income from farming.
I have seen Fair Trade coffee, chocolate and other products in some groceries and other stores. Starbucks will sell it if you ask. Some Catholic parishes have Fair Trade Work of Human Hands sales during the holiday season and at other times. Maybe your parish can do the same this year. Order online at crsfairtrade.org and CRS will get a contribution with each purchase. Jewelry, scarves, articles for the home, food items and of course, beautiful baskets make great gifts.