I'm frugal. A simple-liver. I committed to it in college, when I learned in sociology class that we in the United States are using up the lion's share of the world's resources. I started turning off lights. Eating less meat. Then I married a Mennonite, which sort of clinched it. Our poor kids were the last to have a home computer, cell phones. On the rare occasions when we frequent the drive-through to get soft drinks, we order one drink for each row of seats in the van. We're actually pretty cheap.
So, you may ask, why am I starting a company to sell jewelry, headbands, scarves...stuff people probably really don't need? Good question. I've been through this. I heard it a lot from customers when I managed a fair trade store for six years: "I really really love this thingamajig, but I just don't need it." No, I'm sure you don't. You probably have a closet like mine, full of stuff from your local thrift shop (OK, well, maybe yours comes from Macy's or whatever). In fact, when you clean out your closet, you may give your stuff to your local thrift shop, which, to tell the truth, is fuller than your closet, so that your stuff eventually gets baled up and sent off to Africa...where it shows up in the market. And guess what? It's cool again! It's American! It's cheaper than buying locally-made clothing! A win-win, right?
Nope. Not for Sarah and Florence, two seamstresses in the market in Gulu, Uganda. They make our African batik items. They've grown up poor, but have trained as tailors, and sewing is the way they hope to rise out of poverty. But because the local market for clothes has been flooded with all our used stuff, they have less business than before. OK, maybe Sarah and Florence should find another job. But unemployment is about 70% where they live. Maybe they could go back to school and re-train to become computer programmers or something that's the wave of the future. But it took just about all they had to get where they are. They love what they do.
The world needs people who make things. Simple, beautiful things, made from materials they find in their environment, like paper, pine needles, African batik, bales of American Tshirts...and the people who make these things need us. They need us as a market for their goods.
You may say, "I don't need stuff, and I'd rather just donate money directly to help poor people." OK, there is a need for that, and that's why Omiyo is connected with a sponsorship program, to help orphans and other kids who are living with ancient grandmas unable to put them through school. But ideally, parents are the ones who pay school fees, who put shoes on their kids' feet, who do all the things we do for our own kids. They want to do it. They are able-bodied and they believe they can do it. They have learned to sew, or to make jewelry, and they are offering their beautiful products to us. So, give in. Treat yourself, and in doing so you'll be helping them support their families with dignity. You may not need this purchase, but they do.