February 27, 2012

Helping Street Children Take a Step Forward

The UN estimates that 18 million children live and work in the streets of India. It is believed that more than 250,000 of them are in the nation's capital city of Delhi. Thousands of immigrant families move to Delhi each year in search of employment and find themselves living in the streets. Their children grow up on the street having to fend for themselves, sometimes being abandoned or running away. Many of them make the platforms of the New Delhi and Old Delhi railway stations their home as it may be the place where they came into the city, or the constant comings and goings of people provide the opportunity for illegal activities. Few jobs are available to these children and many turn to a life of crime as the easiest way to sustain themselves during a time in their lives when they should be playing and going to school.

Ramesh Gupta was a runaway fending for himself in the streets of New Delhi when the law caught up to him. Luckily he was removed from police custody and admitted into the Salaam Baalak Trust where he was fed, educated, and sheltered to help prepare him for a productive adulthood. The Salaam Baalak Trust provides street children with a holistic network of services that help guide their physical, creative, cognitive and social development through schooling and various rehabilitation programs. In 2004, Ramesh partnered with a friend and started the Lakshya - Badte Kadam community initiative, or Goal - Step Forward, hoping to take what he learned and share it with his old community.

The primary goal of Lakshya is to rescue street children from the dark life of the railway stations and then to provide them with shelter, food, the opportunity of an education, and vocational training. They also administer social reform campaigns to help those children that for one reason or another continue to live in the streets. By playing games with them, teaching them to become productive members of society, and providing them with counseling services, the Lakshya community has grown to support more than 100 street children. Lakshya is creating a nurturing and safe environment for children filled with promising opportunities and a life of dignity.

Lakshya is a registered NGO, funded by the production of colorful and eco-friendly textiles. Rag-pickers are employed to collect pieces of recycled-cloth, newspapers, and chip bags from the streets while the older youth, and women in the surrounding community sew them into various apparel and fashion accessories. Our line of Lakshya products will include a courier-style shoulder bag, a gym bag, back pack, wallets, clutches, handmade paper journals, neem wood pencils, and more. We are happy to be a link in the chain of support for these children in need who find themselves struggling and alone on the streets of Delhi. This new line of products will be available for the spring season.


September 14, 2010

Afghan Entrepreneur Enjoys 1st Trip to US

On July 16-19, the California Gift Show played host to respected social entrepreneur and leader in the Afghan Fair Trade Industry Dr. Ghulam Ullah Muradi.  An entrepreneur who works with Afghanistan's most under served and remote ethnic minorities, Dr. Muradi is a new kind of soldier fighting the war in Afghanistan - an individual who has bravely chosen to return home to a country still torn by violence to provide Afghanistan's poorest citizens with an opportunity for an education and economic opportunity.

Check Out TWARA Rugs
OWP got the chance to sit down and talk with Dr. Muradi during his time in the States.

OWP: Is this your first trip to the US?
Dr. Muradi: Yes, this is my first time in the US. It is also my first flight and my first time outside of the Middle East. The travel time to get here was 24 hours in total: Dubai to London, London to Dallas, and Dallas to L.A.

OWP: How has your trip been so far?
Dr. Muradi: So far the trip has been wonderful. At the exhibition we had good sales of Afghan traditional jewelry. We sold almost all of the product I brought. Next year, I am going to bring my wife, if we can get sponsorship. That would be the first time that my wife will have traveled outside of the Middle East, and also the first time she will fly on a plane.

OWP: Tell us a little bit about your career...
 Dr. Muradi: I am the first Turkman doctor in Afghan History. Out of 3 million Turkman in Afghanistan, I am the first doctor. I started my medical education in Kabul, Pakistan, then moved to Islamabad, where I met my wife. We married, and finished our last year of medical school together.

August 20, 2010

Answers For the Socially Responsible Shopper: Organic

One World Projects Organic Chocolate
If you're anything like most people, you love the idea of organic food, but don't actually have any idea what... it... means...  You know it has something to do with reducing pesticides and that it's good for the environment, but the details of organic certification are not something you can rattle off at a moment's notice.

So, to clear up the confusion, let's take a look at the story of organic foods, and how the word "organic" is defined in the marketplace.

For modern food stores, organic food is hot, hot, hot.  Sales of organic foods and beverages in the US alone have grown 250% over the past 20 years, from $1 billion in 1990 to $24.8 billion in 2009.  Sales in 2009 grew 5.1 percent over 2008, and that was with the "Great Recession."  Fruits and Vegetables experienced the highest rate of grown at 11.4% from 2008 to 2009.  And, as of 2008, 4.8 million acres of US land were certified organic.

So what makes food "organic"?

July 20, 2010

Carved from the Mine

For most of us, coal is nothing more than a (sometimes controversial) form of fuel, mined under questionable conditions and guilty of producing chemical by-products that environmentalists tell us are melting glaciers at an alarming rate.  A group of young entrepreneurs in the small mining town of Morca in Columbia (four hours south of Bogota) saw an opportunity in this homely mineral, however, and have started a small business carving coal into beautiful fair trade jewelry pieces that are then sold abroad to international consumers.

Young Entrepreneurs Carve Fair Trade Jewelry
Constant mining in the small town of Morca has made farming the land impossible, but inadequate safety supports and unsafe conditions make professional mining a dangerous alternative for young boys that need incremental income to support large families. Thanks to their budding fair trade jewelry enterprise, the boys of Morca are able to spend mornings at school, and afternoons working on the jewelry pieces.

Government support has been key in the development of this business.  Starting in 1995, the Columbian government began pouring resources into this sort of enterprise in the hopes that it would keep young boys out of the mines and reduce mining-related incidents.  The market for these elegant pieces is still expanding, and students with the National Pedagogical University Bogota are getting in on the project, to offer consulting and ideas for increasing demand!

Coal is nothing less then a young diamond, waiting for the rush of pressure and heat to crystallize.  Although it may not have a diamond's fire (or price tag!), carved and polish coal boasts a luminescence and mystery all it's own.  Either way, the rich coloring, organic shape, and fair trade label make these pieces a fit for the warm colors and textures of this fall's trendiest looks.

Learn more about Columbian Jewelry here.

July 2, 2010

Answers for the Socially Responsible Shopper: Bio-Degradable

Plastic is Evil.

That, at least, is the message we get when, as impressionable 6-year-olds, we are shown a variation on the following tramatizing image:

Thank you to Save Our Seabirds

In addition to shocking images of animal's being mauled by plastic, young minds are taught that plastic takes about a thousand years to decompose in land fills, where 93% of it ends up (Please see "How Long Does Our Garbage Last" for more details).  These delightful nougats of information, and others like them, turn plastic into a menacing predator with its sights set on world domination.

To try and skirt the bad taste plastic has left in the mouths of consumers, major corporations have begun using bio-degradable packaging in their products, and then stamping it all over with "green" messaging. 

What does "Bio-Degradable" mean? It is any substance made of plant or animal origins, which can be broken down by living organisms. This is great for the environment because it means the waste won't sit in a landfill for the next 1,000 years.  Natural processes can get rid of the materials!  Love, Peace, Hope for everyone!

Thanks to the Huffington Post
Unfortunately, if bio-degradable materials end up inside large plastic bags, it has no access to those organisms and therefore will not break down until the plastic does.  Soooo, approximately July 2, 3010 for the garbage you took out this morning.

June 6, 2010

Answers for the Socially Responsible Shopper: Fair Trade

So, you want to save the environment (and bring World Peace) one organic, fair trade t-shirt at a time.  Good for you! But if you're spending $25 bucks on a t-shirt, instead of the 5 for $5 Wal-Mart variety, then you want to know that your extra dollars are DEFINITELY bringing World Peace.

Sustainable Salad Servers from One World Projects
The profits from "socially responsible" products are mostly used as advertised (to build schools/supply medical aid/pay fair wages/etc.), but sometimes they just get funneled off to pay for fancy marketing campaigns and PR ("Greenwashing").

A recent study found that 60% of consumers fail to purchase green products because they can't find what they want or are unaware of where to find those products while only 11% think green products are too expensive ("Capturing the Green Consumer" See Below).  You want to make the right choice, but you just haven't heard the right information.

That thought inspired the first installment of our new series:

"What does that mean?  Answers for the Socially Responsible Shopper"  
First up: Fair Trade

Fair Trade labels are based on a set of standards that require companies to pay producers their fair share of the profits from their goods and forbids social injustices, like child labor, in the production process.  For agricultural products, fair trade wages must also cover the cost of environmentally sustainable practice.

June 2, 2009

Return to Afghanistan

Sometimes when you depart a country you have a feeling that you will return; Afghanistan was not one of them when I left my first visit a year and a half ago. It is a nation deeply troubled, immersed in war, torn apart by forces from without as well within, deeply divided by religious and tribal ideologies, and racked by poverty. It was for these reasons that I had doubts of ever setting foot on its soil again, and it is precisely for these reasons that we are returning.