Charity is dead. This was a statement said last week at a meeting by our leader at Not For Sale, David Batstone. It’s a strong and incredibly bold statement, but he stands firmly behind it. And I agree with him 100 percent. How many times have we walked by booths set up by organizations to raise “awareness” and of course, more importantly, money? I remember walking by multiple UNICEF booths that displayed the most depressing photos of malnourished children everyday on my way to work in Korea. The volunteers would ask, “Would you like to help a child in need?” Like most Seoulites, I would quickly shake my head and walk as fast as I could past the volunteer. Sometimes I would purposefully weave around people in the crowd in hopes of avoiding making eye contact with those pleading eyes of the volunteers. I wasn’t dodging the actual person, but trying to escape the guilty feeling of not helping one of those children out with a few extra bucks. For the year that I walked past those booths and many others in the city, not once did I see anyone stopping to take a look at more information about the organization or having a conversation with one of the volunteers. I’m guilty as charged like the rest of us.
We live in a selfish society and in order to give, we need to receive. It’s sad, but I really think it’s true for most people. At Not For Sale, we don’t want people to give a donation to our cause and be done with it. We don’t want to beg for contributions. What we want is for people to really join the movement to end modern-day slavery with us as partners. We don’t want to be the nonprofit that works with our funds from paycheck to paycheck spending all of our time “creating awareness” and “collecting funds” to fulfill our mission statement. We want to see an end to this injustice.
I feel that the best way modern consumers can directly help end this crime is by doing what they do best. Shop. By making a conscious effort to support and purchase from companies that do not use forced and child labor, together we can make a significant dent in ending human trafficking. I never pictured myself to be someone that cared about buying Fair Trade coffee or chocolate. I assumed that “Fair Trade” was another one of those “Go Green,” “Buy Organic!” trends that would soon pass. I was an uninformed shopper that didn’t know my purchases could make such a difference. Recently, Hershey pledged $10 million to improve their trade and combat child labor. This is the result of consumers taking a stand to show companies that they not only have power, but also have a say in how they want their products made. You might ask, “What is the easiest way to support companies that use fair labor practices?” I’ve got an answer for you! Not For Sale’s own Free2Work application provides consumers with information on forced and child labor for their favorite brands and products. The app grades companies on a scale of “A” to “F” based on their efforts to prevent and to address forced and child labor. As a consumer, you can use this information to find out what labor practices you may be supporting with your purchases and to change your consumption habits that will ultimately end the war against human trafficking. I wasn’t too happy to find that some of my favorite brands had received bad grades, but I’m so thankful that when I make a modification in my life as small as this, it can literally save someone.