Sunday, October 23, 2011

Changing how you think about clothes

This TEDx talk from Fair Trade USA's Heather Franzese is timely - right on topic with what we've been thinking about this month: Every Purchase Matters.

What are you wearing? Where was it made? "Made" probably makes you think "stitched," but what happened before that? Where did the fabric come from? Did your shirt start on a farm -- as a cotton plant, sheep's wool, a silkworm, petroleum, or a recycled plastic water bottle? These questions matter. Why is it that we can walk into a grocery store and make all kinds of choices about how our food is made and what's in it, but we can't make any of those same choices about clothing?

About Heather Franzese, senior manager at Fair Trade USA:
Heather has been working for more than 12 years to improve the lives of vulnerable farmers and workers in global supply chains. Last year, she launched Fair Trade USA's Fair Trade Certified™ Apparel & Linens program in the U.S. Heather brings together industry experience managing CSR for Columbia Sportswear Company's licensed and collegiate categories, a fundraising track record of channeling $4 million in social impact philanthropy to Fair Trade certification, and field experience working with small-scale farmers for the Peace Corps in Mali.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Sending thoughts to Awoto Margret

Please keep Awoto Margret and her family in your hearts this week - she lost her husband, Opiyo. Awoto Margret is the 'grandma' of One Mango Tree, always helping Alice with looking after the little ones. She is in charge of packaging - doing a final once-over on our products and making sure each product has a signed hangtag before it's placed in a poly bag and boxed for Kampala. Here are some beautiful shots of Margret and Opiyo at their home taken last month.

We will miss you Opiyo!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Who is the LRA?

Have you heard? President Obama is sending 100 US troops to Central Africa to help and advise government forces battling Ugandan Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) rebels accused of murder, rape and kidnapping children.

While Northern Uganda has now seen a few years of sustained peace, the LRA continues to terrorize villages in Eastern Congo, Sudan and Central African Republic. Earlier this month, Invisible Children and Resolve announced the launch of the LRA Crisis Tracker - a mapping tool that reminds us, even though Northern Uganda is relatively safe, this conflict has not ended. 

All of the women working with One Mango Tree in our Gulu workshop have been affected by the LRA. Many lost brothers, fathers, and uncles. Several of our tailors were abducted and forced to fight. Others became child mothers when they were raped by LRA rebels and forced to serve as their wives. Almost all were displaced from their villages and have lived most of their lives in fear. While we are all glad to see peace in Northern Uganda, we cannot forget that this group continues to tear apart families and communities in other parts of Central Africa.

So, who is the LRA?

Who is the LRA from INVISIBLE CHILDREN on Vimeo.

What are your thoughts? Do you agree with President Obama's decision to send troops?

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Video from the Horn of Africa

When I was in Uganda this spring, the Prime Minister was sending out text messages urging Ugandans to store food for the coming drought. We were waiting and waiting for rainy season to arrive, and watching food prices increase while inflation depressed buying power. It felt like impending disaster, but somehow the rains came, and the harvests came - for Northern Uganda.

In contrast, the northern areas of Kenya and Somalia are suffering from the worst famine in decades. The saddest part is that no one seems to be talking about it (outside of my Twitter feed, which follows a lot of aid workers in East Africa). The situation is dire, and there are things that you can do. For starters, watch this video of Dadaab Refugee Camp in Kenya.

Footage from the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya relating to Horn of Africa food crisis from World Vision ACT:S on Vimeo.

What can you do? Adapted from World Vision:

In this footage, you will see stories being told that words cannot quite capture. World Vision staff who travelled to Kenya shared these nine minutes of video clips so that we can see and connect.  The faces, tents, barren land, and sounds of Dadaab in Northern Kenya, the world’s largest refugee camp, paint a picture and tell a story that is difficult for us to understand.

Here’s the thing:  it’s simply nine minutes of footage. No music. No narration. No statistics. Just the sights and sounds of the camp. “The humanity of the refugees really shines through what is an intimate look at a people suffering quietly,” as one viewer described it.

Here are a few ways to use this powerful footage with your group:
1. Play it as people are entering an event.
2. Play and watch it as-is during an event.  It may get uncomfortable, but use that as leverage to start discussions. 
3. Have people write out the thoughts and feelings they experience as they watch the footage and discuss afterwards. 
4. Share it.  Post it on Facebook, Twitter, your blog, or forward it in an email.  Make it available to those who need to see it.

Those suffering from the famine in the Horn of Africa have a face, have a name, have a story. Take the time to watch this footage, share it with your network, and incorporate it into your activism.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Women, War & Peace

"It has become more dangerous to be a woman than an armed soldier in a conflict."
The first part of this powerful five-part series - Bosnia: I Came to Testify - aired on PBS tonight at 10 PM. If you missed it, be sure to tune in every Tuesday from now through November 8 to see the other episodes. Check out the trailer and be sure to watch and spread the word.

Watch the full episode. See more Women War and Peace.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Meet Akello Pamela

In fall 2009, after Stacey Edgar of Global Girlfriend visited our project, we received our largest handbag order to date. We knew we were going to need more tailors to get things done. We'd brought all of our tailors under one roof in June 2009, but the ladies from Bobi and Unyama camps weren't quite ready to make our more complicated purse designs to the level of quality we needed. One day after work, Lucy and I were talking about our predicament, discussing our options.

The next morning was a rainy one, and I knew Gulu would be in a standstill. With most people traveling on foot or by bicycle, very little happens on rainy weekday mornings. I took my time waking up, made some coffee and unlocked the workshop door. I was headed to the office with my laptop bag, but out of the corner of my eye I saw three ladies huddled on the front porch.

One of them, Akello Pamela, had her little daughter nestled on her lap.

All three women were wrapped in woolen scarves, shivering in the cool Gulu rain. I smiled and greeted them all, and quickly realized that none of them spoke English. I had no idea why they were there. Suddenly my phone rang - it was Prisca. She apologized for being late to work (Prisca rides her bicycle several miles to get to work each day), and asked if any of the ladies had yet arrived. I glanced at the three women on the porch - they avoided my eyes.

"Um, yes, there are three ladies I've never met - none of them speak English. I think they've been sitting on our porch for some time. Do you know anything about this?" I asked.

"Ahhh, sorry," Prisca laughed her short, now famous laugh. "Those must be the new ladies Lucy found - they are already tailors and they can sew well - they can help us with our order. I am coming Halle, let me come."

Pamela quickly became one of our best tailors, bringing her daughter Maria to work everyday on her bicycle. Shortly after starting work with One Mango Tree, she invited me to visit her family in the village, Awac.

Awac is only a short drive from Gulu town, but during the height of conflict in Northern Uganda, the insecurity caused Pamela's family to flee to town for safety. She lost brothers and uncles in the fighting and her family lost their livestock, which had been the base of their livelihood. After 21 years away, Pamela's family returned to their land. She stayed behind and began working for One Mango Tree, saving money for her own future and sending it to the village to help her family.

To learn more about Pamela, check out past stories here and here.
See more beautiful photos of Akello Pamela and Maria on our Facebook page.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

October Fair Trade Month Wardrobe Giveaway

We're pushing the envelope in honor of Fair Trade Month - friends, are you ready for this? Our October giveaway is $150 to buy One Mango Tree products. Our new Fall Collection arrives this month, so that means you'll get first dibs on all the beautiful new products, including sweet hats from Andean Collection and lots of gorgeous jewelry from 31Bits! Have a sneak peek here, and tell everyone you know!

 Oh yes, the Organic Shirred Tunic in Chocolate and some 31Bits. Perfect.

Charcoal Lola Hat, Sunset Hand-loomed Scarf, Indigo Organic Cozy Tee


 Organic Maxi Skirt in Indigo/Sycamore & Chocolate Lola Hat

Weekender Bag in Spiced Cider & Indigo Organic Cozy Tee

Getting excited? There's more where these came from! To win this HUGE giveaway, all you have to do is help us spread the word about One Mango Tree. Here's how to do it:
  1. Mention us  on Twitter and make sure to tag us using @onemangotree
  2. Link to One Mango Tree on Facebook - make sure you tag us using @One Mango Tree so we can see your post!
  3. Talk about One Mango Tree on your blog and link to our site, Twitter and/or FB page - make sure you comment on our blog and include a hyperlink to your blog post
If you mentioned us on Twitter, you're all set, if it's a Facebook or blog post, leave a comment here so we can find it and enter you. EACH ENTRY COUNTS, so the more you tweet, the more chances you have to win! Thanks for the love!

xo Halle

Meet Adong Kevin

When you visit the One Mango Tree workshop in Gulu, Adong Kevin is sure to be your language teacher. Her approach for teaching Acholi-as-a-second-language? She continuously speaks to you in Acholi until you get it. I once spent an afternoon cooking chicken and malakwang with Kevin and Prisca. They decided not to speak English with me the entire day - several hours later, I'd figured out how to communicate that 1) no, I wasn't going to break the chicken's neck, and 2) I was really sorry for how bad I was at cooking _______(fill in the blank with any Acholi food item).

Kevin started out with One Mango Tree in the very early days - easily one of Mama Lucy's favorites. She was always on time for work, and after opening the stall doors, her next step was always to crank up the radio. When Julie Carney, Director of Gardens for Health in Rwanda, worked with One Mango Tree for two months, she and Kevin became fast friends - when Kevin's first child was born a couple of years ago, she named her Aber Juliet. She's a strong and sassy little girl, and with a smile just like her mom's. She often spends afternoons chasing Anena Betty's son, Obama, around the compound.

See the rest of the photos from our visit to Kevin's home here.

When promotions came around this summer, Kevin was an obvious choice - she still occasionally stitches handbags, but most of the time you can find her checking the work of the other tailors. She's in charge of quality control, making sure that the women are following guidelines for quality and consistency in their work. Kevin and her husband rent a tukul in Gulu town, but she's saving for land and a house of her own. She's proud that she doesn't have to ask her husband for money - with her salary, she can easily buy food and clothes, and take family members to the hospital without having to worry.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

October is Fair Trade Month

Every Purchase Matters.

That's really something to think about. I love that October is Fair Trade Month. Fall is my favorite season, and the perfect time to reflect as the weather turns cooler and the season's change creeps in. Summer's crazy schedules wind down, and the hectic holidays still seem far off on the horizon. We finally have the time to be present - conscious of the decisions we make each day.

Fair Trade is a Story. Here's one story about how fair trade helps farmers around the world, and your role as a consumer.

There is really only one thing we ask of our customers this month - start to think about your purchases. Our sputtering economy has most people tightening their belts and doing their best to hang on. In an effort to save, we often look to buy only what's cheap in the marketplace. This month, instead of looking at price tags alone, we urge you to make the effort to see behind the price - look for the person behind the product. Hesitate for just one minute to think about how your buying decisions are shaping our world.

Need some help finding fair trade products? Check out this great new app from Fair Trade USA - Fair Trade Finder - every time you find a fair trade product in a shop, you can check in. It's a huge, community-based effort to make it a little easier for all of us to shop fair trade.

In honor of fair trade month, we're boosting our efforts to share our fair trade story with you - you'll see beautiful photo stories of our tailors and more in-depth information about how we comply with the nine principles of fair trade.

We'll also make it a little easier for you to shop fair trade. Twice during the month we'll have two-day free shipping events - but you have to stay tuned. Check our Twitter feed and Facebook to find out when it will happen.

And then there is our October Giveaway. You've never seen a giveaway like this before.

How will you celebrate Fair Trade Month? Share your story with us.


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