What will you do with the poor?

Today’s Proverb vitamin is a sobering one, taken from Proverbs 21:13

“Whoever closes his ear to the cry of the poor

Will himself call out and not be answered”

Throughout the Scriptures the heart of God is revealed for the poor and needy.  Caring for the poor is considered true religion in God’s sight, it is an act of justice and worship.  Often times our hearts are filled with good intentions, but we make gross oversights in putting those intentions to action.

The statistics of hunger in our own communities unveil the poverty crisis.  In my state of California, there are 6,053,473 individuals who are considered food-insecure.  To consider our national statistics, and those of starving people around the world, it is both devastating and overwhelming.  (You can learn about your local state’s statistics at www.feedingamerica.org)

I have shared many opportunities shoulder to shoulder with youth; feeding and serving those in poverty in local cities throughout California.   But, I will never forget the day my eyes opened to a new face of poverty.  Working together with beautiful high school students in a soup kitchen; we were seating and greeting people as they came to Loaves and Fishes for a good hot lunch.  These weren’t the homeless folks I had rubbed shoulders with before, instead they were working people.  Construction workers, builders, many others who were in their work clothes, coming to eat for their lunch break.  They are the working-poor.  This is sobering to me.  In fact, the 2010  U.S. Census Bureau states there are 21 million people who live in working-poor families.

The face of poverty includes the working poor, Senior Citizens, and children.  Feeding America  explains new findings on child hunger:

“Child hunger hampers a young person’s ability to learn and becomes more likely to suffer from poverty as an adult.  Scientific evidence suggests that hungry children are less likely to become productive citizens.”

Wait, don’t turn the channel!  Instead, consider how to turn your grief and good intentions into action.  You can easily incorporate these actions into your lifestyle:

  • Check out Food for the Hungry or Feeding America.org.  Both organizations can lead you to local opportunities to assist the poor in your community.
  • Make a Google Search for Food Bank’s in your city.  Find out where the nearest food collection truck is in your neighborhood.  If there isn’t one, ask what you can do to help them out.
  • Put your heads together with your children, their school or church, and organize a food, coat, or blanket drive.
  • Make Fair Trade purchases at your local store to help assist global poverty and keep those most vulnerable to selling themselves into the slave trade, working!  Check out Free2Work.org for a smart phone app which helps you identify Fair Trade items in your stores.
  • Make a simple plan to buy 5 extra cans of food or baby formula every time you grocery shop.  Let your kids pick the food and help deliver it.  This will instill a lifestyle for your children of serving others in need.
  • Call your local soup kitchen and schedule a date with your family, Bible Study group, or friends.  (Note: soup kitchen’s get a lot of volunteers during the Thanksgiving and Christmas season; so plan ahead or schedule your day for the new year).

You may be a little nervous at first, but I guarantee, it will be one of the best things you’ve done all year!  Because you  are created to do good works (Ephesians 2:10), I know you will feel blessed in your practical act of worship.  You may even hear your kids ask, “When are we going to do that again?”

Serving the poor is serving Jesus Himself.  In the words of Jesus:

“For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me,  I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me,I was in prison and you came to me. Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you? And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers,you did it to me.”  Matthew 25:35-40

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Modern-day abolotionist: What can I do today?

“Never doubt that a small group of committed people can change the world.  Indeed it is the only thing that ever has”.  Margaret Mead

The more I learn about the local and international realities of modern-day slavery, the more I discover modern-day revolutionaries.  Ordinary people are using their careers, talents, and voices to creatively spread the word about Human Trafficking.  Regardless of age or status, you too can become an abolitionist in your realm of influence.As we are made aware of more agencies and individuals who are taking an active role to abolish modern-day slavery, we can join them in their efforts.  Below are just a handful of movements worthy of our attention.  As you read about these organizations or people, consider how you too can play an active role today.

Educating the masses

CNN has committed a year of airtime to spotlight modern-day slavery.  Their goal is to amplify the voice of victims, and share success stories of organizations and local groups who are making a difference in the abolitionist movement.

This project began in March 2011 and the newscasts are available to view on:

The CNN Freedom Project: Ending Modern-Day Slavery – CNN.com Blogs.

Interfering with the import and export of victims

Flight attendants have the unique ability to identify victims of Human Trafficking in the midst of transport.  The Airline Ambassadors International (AAI) has collaborated with the anti-slavery group “Innocents at Risk” to bring airlines into the anti-slavery movement.  Flight attendants are trained to identify signs of victims who are being trafficked, and they call hotlines who immediately connect them with officials who recognize the urgency to investigate and arrest individuals.

Delta Airlines is the first U.S. airline to sign an International Anti-Slavery Code of Conduct.  You know what that means, right?  We need to do our part to support Delta Airlines!

Read about this incredible movement at:

2011 June 02 | Free the Slaves BLOG.

Fair-Trade Coffee Shop

A few months ago I enjoyed a cup of coffee with a friend.  Not only did I enjoy the conversation, but I enjoyed the energy and atmosphere of this contemporary cafe.  Located in a family community and just down the street from William Jessup University, this place was hopping!  The tables are filled with students playing cards, families playing games, and folks conversing as they drink their Fair-Trade coffees or teas.

I quickly learned this is no ordinary coffee shop.  Origins Coffee located in Rocklin, CA does not hire its employees.  Local citizens volunteer their time and work shifts in order for all income to go toward the anti-sex trafficking movement.  Although Origins Coffee is officially a not-for-profit business, they prefer to be referred to as a “for-benefit” business.  Beyond the usual overhead costs, all profit goes directly to those fighting the sex trade.

Origins is continuing the conversation about the sex-trafficking epidemic and providing ways for common folk to get involved.  As long as places like this exist in our communities, it becomes our privilege to actively purchase coffee beans, offer our time, and meet for conversation for the cause!  You can read more about this innovative way to be an abolitionist at:

Origin Coffee Tea / Home.

Reaching her circle of influence

In the Spring I had a conversation with an awesome woman.  She is a dynamic woman with a creative career.  She influences people with her design, her personality, and her diligent work ethic.  Recently she has been convicted about the leaders she rubs shoulders with on a regular basis and she began asking herself what her role should be in the positions God has placed her in.  When her eyes and heart were opened to the realities of Human Trafficking and Slavery she knew right away she needed to be a voice.

This woman bought great bags from Trade as One and gave them away as gifts.  These bags began the conversation.  One 14-year-old who received a bag bought more bags for her friends while explaining these products help provide work to individuals vulnerable to Human Trafficking..  (You can read more about these bags in my previous post: “Start the conversation: Modern-day slavery and Fair Trade shopping”)

This is where it begins for each of us.  Hopefully we are so unsettled by the realities of injustice that we can’t rest until we take action.  Become familiar with different organizations whose mission it is to abolish modern-day slavery.  Keep asking yourself, “What can I do today, in my realm of life and influence, to put an end to Human Trafficking?”

Leave a comment to let us know how you are beginning to take steps.  Are you already using your purchase-power or talents to abolish slavery?  Let everyone know so we can support you and join in the fight together!

For more posts about Human-Trafficking and becoming a modern-day abolitionist, see the category “Do Justice” on the right of the screen.

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Start the conversation: Modern Day Slavery and Fair Trade Shopping

Without fail, whenever I take my bright green bag to the grocery store, it draws out many questions.  “Where did you get that bag?”, “This is the coolest thing”, “It’s made so well”.  The door swings open to tell others about people who are at risk for human trafficking.  The purchase of the bag or other Fair Trade items, helps keep people out of slavery by keeping them in work.  Usually the response comes with a surprised tone, “Really?  How cool.  I want one.”

Although the news about Modern Day Slavery, or human trafficking is spreading, our communities are still hugely unaware of this human crisis and the power the common citizen has at their fingertips to help put an end to it.

A few weeks ago I ran into an old friend at Target.  She yelled out to me and embraced me with a grateful hug.  “Bonnie, thank you for always posting about Modern Day Slavery.  So many of us need to hear about it!”  Truthfully, I am not always sure if people want to hear about this heavy topic every week.  But I am compelled to share what I learn and invite others to take new steps along with me.  I am reminded of myself watching Roots when I was a young girl, or learning about slavery in my history classes.  Burying my head in my hands and pondering the evils, my heart ached as I often wondered, would I be one to make a stand for the value and dignity of human beings?  Now here I am, some 30 years after those school days, and my generation is faced with more slavery than ever before in history.

I know many of you are abhorred by the statistics and stories you hear about Modern Day Slavery.  Will you put your heavy heart into action?  Will you be one of a mighty army of common citizens to put an end to slavery?  Where will you begin?

Start conversing about Modern Day Slavery

There are many casual ways to begin a deliberate discussion about Modern Day Slavery.  Make a goal to try one of these things, or a creative idea of your own, in the next 30 days.

  • Bring Fair Trade coffee or chocolate to your next business meeting or function.
  • Host a Party.  Invite a small group of friends over and host a screening party.  Serve Fair Trade chocolate or popcorn, and let your friends know about Modern Day Slavery.  You can get a DVD kit for your party from Call and Response:   Home Screening Kit – DVD Kits.
  • Start a club on your campus.  Students on junior high, high school and college campuses are organizing Anti-Human Trafficking clubs.  They are raising funds and educating their peers about human trafficking.  A great Screening Kit specifically made for students is available through Call and Response:  Call + Response.

Have you started a conversation about Modern Day Slavery and fair trade shopping in your sphere of influence?  Tell me about your hurdles, your attempts and your successes so we can rise up together in this effort.

If you want to learn more about Modern Day Slavery:

Do Justice « Woman Gone Wise.

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The label conscious Abolitionist

Fair Trade labels on local grocery items

Be a Modern Day Abolitionist

Together, we are using our buying power to help abolish modern day slavery.  We are becoming  more familiar with the term Fair Trade, but some of you may not be sure how to identify those Fair Trade products.

These tools are an effective way to become a label conscious abolitionist.

Fair Trade Labels

Companies must reapply every year for Fair Trade certification.  They are required to list the suppliers who comply with Fair Trade standards, then these suppliers are scrutinized for their use of money and services.

Look for these specific labels which identify Fair Trade certified items:

  • Fair Trade Certified-shows product certification
  • Fair Trade Foundation-this is a FTF U.S. based company that bases certification on 9 principles
  • WFTO Producer Certification-this is a world Fair Trade organization
  • Fair Trade Labeling Organization-this organization certifies Fair Trade co-ops

Research the companies where you frequently purchase items

Companies are presently being graded for their integrity in the supply chain.  A company may receive an A through an F depending upon their commitment to producing products that are ultimately slave free.

Companies such as Levi’s, Nike and Old Navy have received an A or B rating.

Companies such as McCormick Spices, Hershey’s Company and Hanes Brand have each received a D rating.

In order to clearly understand these company ratings, check out this informative website:

Company Grade Explanation – Free2Work.

Smart App-tivism

If you have an Android or iPhone, you can download a free Smart App that will help you identify Fair Trade items on the spot.

Android and iPhone Smart App-tivism:

About Smart Phone App – Free2Work.

Please join the discussion and tell us what Fair Trade items you are purchasing. 

If you use the Smart-Apptivism download, I would enjoy hearing how it is working for you.

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Fair Trade and the Supply Chain: Be a Modern day Abolitionist

commercial soccer balls

Before the next seminar, “Fighting Slavery with the power of our Spending”, I checked out the Fair Trade market set up in the lobby.  I was soaking in as much as I could learn about the Bay area and Federal Government’s response to human trafficking while attending the Freedom Summit Conference.

There were so many great things to purchase in the market, but the soccer ball imprinted with “Do Justice”  was speaking to me.   I thought it would be cool for my boys to have a soccer ball with this great message on it when they are practicing with their team.

I stood in a long line waiting to pay for the ball.  I’m a bargain shopper, and I know soccer balls are always at the local sports store for a mere $20.  As I fluctuated in front of the cashier, I finally told him it costs too much for me to buy.  Politely he said, “I understand”.

Only a few minutes passed in the seminar when I began to sink in my chair as my ignorance was exposed.  Fair Trade is expensive I learned, because the items are not mass-produced.  Fair Trade items are being made by those in danger of slavery:  human trafficking.

Who is vulnerable to human trafficking?  Impoverished individuals who are so desperate to eat or provide for their family, they sell their children or themselves into slavery.

Often times, these individuals are tricked into slavery.  Someone promises them an education or a paycheck, and they are coerced into labor or sexual abuses.

Modern day slavery includes those individuals in the supply chain who are producing  the goods you and I purchase daily.  The bottom line is,  cheaper products can be traced down to slave labor.

Check out this informative video :

I learned when these vulnerable human beings are given Fair Trade jobs, it keeps them out of danger.  Valiant, vision-minded business people have created jobs specifically for this purpose.

When you and I purchase Free Trade products, we have the potential to create a demand on these goods.  Can you believe your purchase power has the power to put an end to modern day slavery?

I thought I needed to go to the streets and dark corners of our cities to help rescue a slave.  But I can go to my favorite stores and do my part in abolishing slavery by getting into the habit of buying Fair Trade items.

Fair Trade items are generally more expensive, but our family wallet can afford to take the hit since human life is worth more than any price tag.

Will you be a Modern Day Abolitionist?  Come back each Friday and learn how you can make a difference.

Next week:” How do I identify Fair Trade products?”



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