Tell us a little bit about yourself: Growing up in a small town in Southern Ohio taught me a great deal about community. My small farm background gave me the platform to truly see the importance of helping others. I learned at a young age the concept of being a global citizen and always knew I would do some kind of international work. I started off working in higher education and now happily work in fair trade.
How did you hear about fair trade? It was not until college, when I was finishing my graduate degree that I learned about fair trade. It made so much sense to me. I saw the first hand connection to creating real change in some of the poorest places on the globe. I wondered, why is this not taught in public schools? Why are not more people promoting fair trade? It helps create a middle class where there is none, it gives women the chance to earn fair wages, and in most cases it allows the artisans children the opportunity to go to school. That in itself is priceless.
When did you first get involved with fair trade? I started as a volunteer at Ten Thousand Villages and now I am the CEO of my own fair trade company. Yes, TTV-Pasadena was where I got my start. From volunteer to assistant manager of the store, to starting The Peace Exchange. I am still highly connected to the store and love the people there, so many great supporters.
What is The Peace Exchange? The Peace Exchange is a fair trade company that works in the Democratic Republic of Congo. We currently have two sewing centers in the Kivu region of Eastern Congo with our third center in the planning phases. With a monthly payroll of almost 40 artisans, we have a direct connection with the women, their families, and their overall well-being. Our goal is to empower women through fair trade and in return the women have a commitment to us to keep their children in school. Empowering women and educating children, that is our ethos. We work hands on with our seamstresses and are very committed to their growth as well as the growth of the Peace Exchange. Currently we are expanding to Nepal and will have artisans programs in the near future working in creating jewelry.
What do you enjoy the most about working in fair trade? For me it is all about the women. I visit them every year and spend time sitting with them, sometimes laughing, sometimes crying, but living life with them in a genuine way. When their kids are sick or if a crisis strikes their families, I know. We have an amazing On-Site Director that keeps us connected on a weekly and sometimes daily basis. In time, these women have become like sisters. To see their lives being transformed, being respected within their families and communities, as well as to see them empowered and rising as leaders, that is what fair trade is all about. It’s more than the bag they make, I truly see fair trade changing artisan lives for the better.
What is your favorite Peace Exchange product? My favorite product is the yoga bag. When not working in fair trade, I teach yoga and never leave home without my yoga bag!
Currently the Peace Exchange offers over 20 handmade products from the Congo. Items such as wine bags, aprons, napkins, table cloths, yoga bags, pj pants, headbands, bowties and much more. For a current list of our products, visit: http://www.thepeaceexchange.com/shop-all/
Do you have any upcoming events or ways for people to get involved or learn more? We currently work along side Fair Trade LA and do a variety of pop-up shops. Our annual fundraiser is a Fair Trade Fashion Show with our partner Bead & Reel. Save the date for July 16, 2016 or reserve your tickets at www.FairTradeFashionShow.com. This is our annual big event to raise awareness about Congo, fair trade, and support for our artisans. Would love to see you at the fashion show!
We are always looking for volunteers and interns. If interested in working with The Peace Exchange email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit us at www.ThePeaceExchange.com