The Value of a WARP Membership

Jackie Abrams in Nambia
Jackie Abrams with Frieda Nakanyala, who works on her baskets every day, until it is dark. As a child, she made them to sell so that she could buy clothing. At age 75, she makes baskets for gifts, trade, and for use in the homestead.

When Jackie Abrams stumbled upon the WARP booth at Convergence, the biannual conference of the Handweaver’s Guild of America, she knew she had found her tribe. She joined WARP right away. A contemporary basket weaver, Jackie appreciated the value of working with your hands. “My first trip to Ghana, Africa, was with a Cross Cultural Collaborative. I was entranced, but I wanted to be more than a tourist. My daughter was in the Peace Corps in Nambia. When I visited her, I was delighted to see that Africa was a basket makers paradise.”

It was not long after that that Cheryl Musch, WARP’s administrator at the time, was going through the directory looking for someone to recommend to SERRV to help with project evaluation in Africa. “It doesn’t hurt that my last name starts with ‘A’ “, said Jackie, who was thrilled when Cheryl got in touch.

Janet and Mercy practice their crochet skills
Plastic bags litter the countryside in Pokuase, Ghana, home to the KamiAmi people. Two local women, Janet and Mercy, practice their crochet skills making the most out of the resources they have.

That connection opened an entire world for Jackie. Since that time, she has traveled to Africa many times, mostly in Ghana. Jackie is interested in using reclaimed materials in her own work. In Ghana, plastic bags litter the countryside. Jackie experimented with different craft techniques and found that crochet was an excellent way to use this abundant resource.  “The bags were primarily black, which is unusual in the United States. For one project we created totes made from the uniquely colored bags.”

Through WARP Jackie is able to commune others that share the same kind of passion for working with with women where craft work is a way to provide for their families.  “Not every program works, with each experience I learn a little bit more about what it takes to be successful—strong in-country leadership, connections to markets, and quality control, are all vital.”

Jackie is now on the board of WARP.  “The small amount I pay every year for this extraordinary organization is worth every penny.”

To read more about Jackie’s work as a consultant visit her website.  To purchase your own Ghanian basket and read about one of the projects Jackie worked on with SERRV, click here. To join WARP or renew your membership, visit our website.

#fairtradehandmade for the Holidays

Holiday ornaments made by a cooperative in Kathmandu that uses recycled paper.
Holiday ornaments made by a cooperative in Kathmandu. Using materials such as old cotton rags, corn husks, and banana stems, they transform refuse into wonderment!

Absolutes are like New Year’s resolutions, bound to fail.  We may have good intentions to make everything we wear, grow everything we eat, and exercise every day, but face it—most of the time we don’t.  Small is beautiful, and that includes small steps.

Let’s pledge to buy more gifts that are fair trade and made by hand. Giving one or two fair trade gifts makes a big difference to our hearts and to the hands that made the gift. It also adds to the joy of receiving.

There is another way you can make a difference.  How about sharing your fair trade finds with others?  Huh? This has to do with that symbol in the title.  It represents the power of shared conversation.  In the cyber connectivity of social media, if you use the hashtag(#) with a word it makes social media searchable!  If you find something wonderful—an inspiring story, a unique gift, something that invokes a memory, or perhaps you find a little something you might want yourself—tag it #fairtradehandmade so others can find it, too.

Need an examples?

What a great idea! www.mayanhands.org/shop-our-products/consignment-sales-inquiry #fairtradehandmade

I met some of these weavers at the Folk Art Market, and their work is amazing. I know, I’m weird, but I just love the smell of raw silk www.clothroads.com/product/warm-brown-wild-silk-scarf #fairtradehandmade

Clever, simple, useful, all the things I look for in a bag www.yabalhandicrafts.bigcartel.com/product/sunny-saturday-tote-bag #fairtradehandmade

Fair trade find! www.tenthousandvillages.com/knit-wit-kit #fairtradehandmade

Just imagine, what a wonderful world this would be, #fairtradehandmade

Peace, love, #fairtradehandmade.

Perhaps we will just make the world a better place, one hashtag at a time.

A Conversation with Renee Bowers of the Fair Trade Federation

Fair Trade Federation Logo.jpgOctober is Fair Trade Month. We asked Renee Bowers, Executive Director of the Fair Trade Federation (FTF) and a WARP member to answer a few questions about fair trade, textiles, and the best way to make a difference. 

WARP: How would you describe the FTF in five words? 

Renee Bowers: Strengthen fully fair trade businesses.

What is the biggest challenge in bringing fair trade goods to market?

RB: Fully fair trade businesses like our members are working against unsustainable practices that have become the norm in conventional business. Unfortunately, most shoppers have come to expect certain things from bigger brands, such as lightning-fast production, near constant trend turnover, and impossibly low prices. Fair trade partnerships aren’t always easily understood because we’ve stopped thinking about where the things we eat, wear, and use come from or how they’re made. At the FTF, we believe that if good businesses practices were more celebrated, demand for fair trade goods would really increase.

The fair trade movements has its roots in marketing textiles. What role do textiles play in the movement today?

RB: Textiles still play a huge role in fair trade! Many shoppers want things like rugs, bags, clothes, and other fabrics and artisans around the globe have exceptional skills and talents in making these very items. Although fair trade has expanded over the years to include, coffee, chocolate, food, and personal care items, handmade craft products are still a core area of fair trade—especially in the US and Canada.

Most importantly, fair relationships continue to be an essential means of supporting weavers and garment makers in developing countries.

The majority of WARP members are individuals that make textiles themselves and have a strong affinity for the people that make textiles.  Our members often ponder how to use their skills to help fair trade cooperatives thrive.  Any advise?

RB: One of the best ways to have an impact is to buy products—including textiles—from fully fair trade businesses. While this may not always feel as direct, you can rest assured that the income from your purchase makes a huge difference to the lives of textile artisans.

In terms of sharing expertise, I’d recommend first taking advantage of a fair trade travel/volunteer opportunity. A few opportunities with FTF members include:

Women In Progress, an international volunteer organization

Global Exchange, responsible travel opportunities

Looking for something to do during the holiday season? Mayan Hands, a member of the Fair Trade Federation and WARP is offering a tour, December 4 − 14 of this year.
Looking for something to do during the holiday season? Mayan Hands, a member of the Fair Trade Federation and WARP is offering a tour, December 4 − 14 of this year.

What is the difference between an organization being a member of the Fair Trade Federation and a product being fair trade certified?

RB: Certification is a system that audits worksites—primarily farms—for health, safety, and labor compliance. Certification does not speak to the business practices of the company that sells or markets the product in North America.

The Fair Trade Federation is a membership organization that celebrates the whole business. We believe that fair trade requires a deep commitment to poverty alleviation, including direct trading relationships with small scale artisans and farmers. Businesses in the US and Canada go through a rigorous screening process in order to become members. This screening is a holistic evaluation o the businesess’ fair trade practices.

To find a full list of members, visit the Fair Trade Federation’s website