Philippines: Fr Shay writes on lives transformed by Fair Trade

 He was a poor man dressed in worn flip-flops and a torn t-shirt and he seemed exhausted as he struggled up the steep incline of our driveway with a heavy sack over his shoulder. I stopped the van and drove him and his load up the hill. He was a happy man, not because he got a lift but because he had a bulging sack of used juice drink pouches to sell to the Preda Fair Trade recycling bag project. He got top prices for his successful collection of the discarded aluminium foil drink pouches. They can be an unsightly environmental hazard, clogging up canals, blocking drains, and allowing mosquitoes to proliferate in stagnant water and spread malaria. Emilio is not so poor anymore and his life as an ever hungry and emancipated scrap scavenger pushing a wooden cart around Olongapo City collecting trash and junk to feed his family has ended. His family transformed and his three children have stopped begging all day on the streets and attend a government elementary school. Thanks to the Fair Trade recycling bag-making project at the People's Recovery, Empowerment and Development Assistance Centre, known as Preda. Here Emilio's recycled drink pouches are examined, counted and stored for later distribution to the women's cooperative and family sewing groups. They take them home and sew the colourful drink pouches into useful, durable and very high quality fashionable back packs, shopping bags, wallets, and hand bags of all kinds. These are sold all over the world to the delight of teenagers, children and adults who love the unique designs and colours. Hardly any two bags are the same, each is unique because of the combination of drink pouches used in each bag. One recycling company in Italy is planning to distribute a set of three large square bags with shoulder straps as household containers for bottles, paper and cans. When full the bags can be picked up and carried to the neighbourhood recycling bins. A supermarket plans to sell them as a replacement for plastic bags. Fair Trade is sweeping the world where people of conscience want to do good when they buy food and other products, and contribute to the well being of the planet. With the menace of climate change coming closer, everyone has to do their share of recycling and help the poorest of the world have a better life by buying Fair Trade products. People of conscience and intelligence know that children, prisoners and exploited people are enslaved to make cheap products and do not want to support such cruel exploitation by buying such products. Take those beautiful exploding fireworks that delight the crowds. If they are made in the Philippines they are likely to be made by minors and children in dangerous and unhealthy conditions. In Central Luzon alone 1,084 children below 17 years are working in the industry mostly around the run-up of festivals according to the Department of Labour and Employment (DOLE) despite laws forbidding it. Thousands more are working in food production and the sex trade and we at Preda are trying to stop it and are supplying Fair Trade dried fruit, drinks and giving fair paid jobs to thousands. So we need fair trade as never before. IFAT stands for International Federation of Alternative Trade and its members, like Preda is a recognized fair trade organization. IFAT is the best judge and guarantor of what is a fairly traded product. Only products with the IFAT mark and no other should be recognized. This is what it says fair trade is. "Fair Trade is a trading partnership based on dialogue, transparency and respect that seeks greater equity in international trade. It contributes to sustainable development by offering better trading conditions to, and securing the rights of marginalized producers and workers especially in the South. Fair Trade organizations (backed by consumers) are actively engaged in supporting producers, awareness raising and in campaigning for changes in the rules and practices of conventional international trade. For more information see:

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