charity

I'm Donating a Portion of Blog Proceeds to 2 Important Charities

bee Xerces Society

The time has come to put my money where my mouth is. 


I'm going to donate 6-10% of StyleWise's annual proceeds to two charities that are near and dear to my heart. I would love to give more, but as this blog becomes a more essential source of income in the next few months (my husband's about to lose funding for his graduate degree with at least a year left to go), I can't commit to more at this time.

So, what are the charities?

Xerces Society

The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation is an international nonprofit organization that protects wildlife through the conservation of invertebrates and their habitats. We take our name from the now extinct Xerces Blue butterfly (Glaucopsyche xerces), the first butterfly known to go extinct in North America as a result of human activities.

Now that I have a bee tattooed on my arm, it only makes sense to go the next step and monetarily support insect conservation to the best of my ability. The Xerces Society works with scientists, land managers, policy makers, farmers, and citizens to provide resources, advocate, and create long term solutions for conservation. They're well respected and established, having been operating since 1979. Learn more here.

DONATE HERE.

ACLU

For almost 100 years, the ACLU has worked to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed by the Constitution and laws of the United States.

The ACLU, or the American Civil Liberties Union, has tirelessly fought for equal rights - and against policies and people who would threaten them - since 1925. Their recent work in opposition to the Trump Administration's Muslim Ban was/is absolutely remarkable, a definitive example of justice prevailing. In this political climate, I find it particularly important to support the ACLU and organizations like it, fighting the good fight with knowledge, dedication, and passion. Learn more here.

DONATE HERE.


There are lots of other organizations I could donate to, and I'm sure some align a little better with the ethical fashion premise of StyleWise. But I think starting where I'm led is a good first step. I'll review this topic at the end of the year, or when something significant changes either in my income level or in terms of greatest need.

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What charities and organizations are you passionate about supporting?


Would you be interested in supporting charities through a group fund? I'm not sure how to do that (yet), but it might be fun to see how much this community is able to raise throughout the year.

On Trafficking, and Why I'm Participating in Dressember

Dressember Challenge, Trafficking Facts
One of this year's Dressember Dresses produced in collaboration with Elegantees.

If your Instagram feed is filled with social enterprises and fair trade bloggers like mine is, you've likely heard about Dressember.

Founded in 2013 by Blythe Hill (I followed her personal style blog when I was in college), the Dressember Foundation is a fundraising nonprofit that benefits anti-trafficking agencies.

But it's markedly different from most fundraising agencies in that it centers around an unusual challenge: wear a dress every day in December. 


Like marathons and charity walks, the idea is that you pledge to follow the guidelines of the challenge and, in return, friends and family donate to the cause on your behalf. 

Now, I like a sundress when the weather is warm, but I shove all my dresses to the dark corners of my closet as soon as it gets nippy outside. I could layer leggings and sweaters and long sleeve shirts over, under, and around my dresses, but it takes a lot of pre-planning to end up with something that resembles an actual outfit, so I lean heavily on jeans in the fall and winter. 

In my case, then, the Dressember Challenge is appropriately named. I didn't get involved for the last couple of years in part because I was still trying to learn how to dress for real winters and I thought I would die of hypothermia if I had to throw dresses into the mix. This year, I'm ready to take it on, and beyond that, I strongly support the work of International Justice Mission, one of the charities Dressember benefits.

According to IJM...

  • There are over 45 million people enslaved today.
  • Children as young as 4 are exploited.
  • People are exploited in both labor and sex industries, with some crossover.
  • Key Industries: internet sexual exploitation, brick kilns, brothels, mines and quarries, tree-cutting facilities, and fishing boats.

Additional Data:

  • Children are heavily exploited in the chocolate industry. Nestle even admitted to it.
  • High demand for steel by the auto industry has increased labor trafficking in Brazil and destroyed parts of the Amazon Rainforest.
  • Trafficking is hard to track because many cases go unreported, but every country, even the US, is affected by it.
  • Trafficking is a 32 billion dollar a year industry. 
  • Approximately 20% of reported trafficking cases relate to labor trafficking (with labor trafficking primarily affecting men) and 80% relate to sex trafficking (with sex trafficking primarily affecting women).
  • The New York Times reported that wage slavery is rampant in the nail salon industry.

I often feel uneasy talking about trafficking because it's been highly politicized and tied into other ideologies, like American Evangelicalism, which can make it hard to get real answers and determine best practices outside of these hyper-biased frameworks. If you're not familiar with typical Christian trafficking rhetoric, it's often tied to "traditional" (read patriarchal) ideas about male and female roles and sexual purity culture, juxtaposing the feminine ideal of chastity with the jarring violation of women's bodies in the sex trafficking industry. In my mind, this rhetoric only further objectifies women, because in both cases, women are merely bodies who do or do not have sex, bodies that need to be protected by "savior" men, bodies that have value only in their relationship to men's needs. 

A more ethical approach to the trafficking conversation would speak to a broader ideal of women's equality and freedom that doesn't seek to shame them for the sex they are or aren't having, and in what context they're having it. 

Women don't need to be "rescued" from trafficking because trafficking makes them impure. They need to be brought out of trafficking because they are humans, and slavery is an egregious human rights violation. 


I was initially on edge about getting involved with Dressember because I didn't want to perpetuate this idea that trafficking must be linked to femininity. Trafficking has nothing to do with being pretty and wearing dresses. It has to do with power and money and moral degradation and systemic failures that cause a sort of societal hemorrhaging. But I decided that the best way forward is to use this unifying and relatively simple challenge to have a conversation about words while also supporting the good work of anti-trafficking agencies.

Because no matter what I think about the language of the movement, it's just a fact that if we consume things, our lives touch on slavery and those enslaved. We eat slave-produced chocolate, wear slave-produced clothing, drive cars made with slave-produced steel, and likely engage with people - at nail salons, food banks, airports, social service agencies, schools, and stores - who are enslaved by the labor and sex trafficking industries. 

So, all that to say that I'm excited about the sartorial and personal challenge of the Dressember Challenge and hope you will find ways to have hard conversations about trafficking this month, whether you choose to participate or not. 

I'll be posting outfits on Instagram as often as possible, so follow along there

Additional Reading from StyleWise:

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I've started it off with a $25 donation. Please consider donating $10 today.

Giving Tuesday: The Ethical Writers Co. Shares Charitable Giving Picks



When I was in early high school, I went away for a couple weeks with a Christian youth band and came back with a sponsor child through Compassion International. For $30 a month, I could pay for the basic needs of a little girl in the Dominican Republic. I practiced the Spanish I was learning in school by sending her post cards of manatees and other Florida natural wonders.

The only catch? I didn't have a job. My parents gave me $20 a month in allowance and my friend was supposed to make up the rest. She flaked out almost immediately and my parents didn't like that I was spending the money I was supposed to save on a kid in another country. I still feel guilty that I pulled my sponsorship.

The point of all this is 1. my parents really should have let me keep the sponsorship going and, 2. giving responsibly and consistently - in ways that hopefully don't end in teenagers pulling monetary support for children abroad - is important, gratifying, and something you can teach, and learn, young. Even though I love giving and receiving physical gifts, I think there's value in considering the charities and causes that help build the type of world we want to live in, especially during the Holidays, a time that's meant to be shared with others.

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Members of the Ethical Writers Co. were asked to share their favorite charities to challenge the idea that this Holiday season is only about getting.

Here are their unfiltered responses:


Alden | EcoCult

It’s hard to narrow it down from the dozens of worthy charities, but I’m asking for donations to the Environmental Defense Fund. It seems like the most appropriate for the situation, because the environment will need the EDF’s pragmatic, science-based approach in the next four years. They help craft bipartisan legislation, fund educational initiatives, and partner with corporations to make incremental changes that ripple across the business world to make a huge impact. They also have a score of 95 in Charity Navigator, which is excellent.

Of course, I should also add that I’ve had a recurring donation to Planned Parenthood for three years, and that is not going away. I believe giving families and women the tools to only have children when they are ready emotionally and financially is the key to raising the next generation of engaged, healthy, and responsible citizens. Planned Parenthood is under threat from VP elect Mike Pence. So do him a favor and make the donation in his name, with his office’s address, so he knows how you feel.

Stephanie | My Kind Closet

I’ll be asking for donations to Earthjustice, the nation’s largest nonprofit environmental law organization. Earthjustice works tirelessly in and out of the courtroom to fight for wildlife, clean energy, and healthy communities, representing all of their clients for free. In recent cases they’ve protected threatened coral reefs in Florida, defended the waters in West Kauai from pollution by agribusiness, are fighting to convince the E.P.A to ban neurotoxic pesticides that are harmful to people, and are representing the Standing Rock Sioux tribe in their fight against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Earthjustice is the organization behind many landmark environmental victories and we’ll need them now, more than ever, given the incoming administration’s anti-environment and climate-change-denying stances. So much is at stake, but I feel confident knowing that an organization like Earthjustice exists and will continue to demand accountability for those who break the law, and ensure that our planet and all her inhabitants are protected.

In addition, I ask that friends and family become more active in the causes that are important to them. One way to do this is to call your government officials to demand they block Trump and his administration from hateful and divisive policies and to protect policies already in place regarding civil rights and the environment.  As we’re gearing up for Thanksgiving, I am specifically requesting that friends and family call officials in N. Dakota to demand that law enforcement stand down in their abusive treatment of peaceful protestors.

Nichole | Green or Die

The day after the election, I set up automatic monthly donations to three organizations who I feel need our help now more than ever. I have become a member of the Sierra Club, the grassroots organization that helped pass the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, and Endangered Species Act, because I trust they can (and will) get things done (with our help). Earth Justice is a non-profit that takes on legal cases to help protect the environment. Their slogan reads "Because Earth needs a good lawyer," and in today's political climate (pun intended) that could not ring more true. Thirdly, the Anti-Defamation League is one of the leading organizations fighting anti-Semitism, bigotry, and hate crimes the U.S.A.

This holiday season I am asking for donations to any or all of these three organizations. They can use all the help they can get.

Catherine | Walking with Cake

I’m a native Texan and we’ve seen a lot of our basic rights threatened or disappear over the last few years. I love my state and support local and grassroots efforts here, in an effort to improve things where I live. Battleground Texas, Texas Democrats, and Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas are on my regular contribution list. I’m also an advocate of independent news and support my local public radio and television stations, as well as The Guardian. Finally, as the mother of two young children, I’m concerned for their future. Their local school is a wonderful resource in our town, and I give my time and money to support it. I encourage everyone to support your closest public school, whether you have children or not, because you’re directly investing in the future.

Holly | Leotie Lovely 

At this present moment in time, apart from us ripping each other to pieces through wars and disagreements, us little Earthlings have - for the most part - avoided talking about the biggest threat humanity has ever faced. Despite popular belief, that threat isn't Isis (you have more chance of being killed by an asteroid than a terrorist), it's a much bigger and badder bag of worms soon to be unleashed in all its fury due to the global warming process. Thus far, America's trumpet President-elect has called global warming a Chinese hoax and threatened to scrap the regulations put in place to reduce US carbon dioxide emissions - including the Clean Power Plan. He has also vowed to to get rid of the Environmental Protection Agency entirely and repeal all federal spending on clean energy. Without the United States leading the world with fortitude and passion into alternative energy sources and reduced meat and dairy consumption, we're headed towards huge ramifications which can only be described as apocalyptically troubling. The rise in temperature we’re due to see if our habits aren’t reversed and policy is not put in place is set to put 30% of animals at risk of extinction, will cause oceans to acidify, wildfires will get bigger, droughts more severe, and drown entire countries due to sea level rise. Donald Trump has tapped a climate change denier as his environmental advisor and thus donating to projects which protect your health and that of the planet through their work is paramount in fighting the evils put in place for profit over people. Thus, I’m asking for donations to EPA/EWG, and THE DAVID SUZUKI FOUNDATION (which is Canadian but has a huge influence on research and education worldwide), and EARTHJUSTICE, all of whom research, educate and lobby for the greater good in law and policy.

Elizabeth | The Note Passer

The most pressing cause for me is supporting the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe who are on the front lines protecting their land and everyone’s water from the Dakota Access Pipeline. Watch this video to find out more about the situation in North Dakota. Similarly, these charities are helping the people of Syria right now. Next, I want to support all vulnerable displaced people through organizations like Refugees International and the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants. Third, a climate denier in our highest office means we have to support environmental work directly. Everybody Solar creates a ripple effect of change; they promote solar infrastructure by gifting solar power to nonprofits which eliminates their electricity costs so they can maximize their total impact. Solar One helps New Yorkers move in the direction of energy efficiency and greater sustainability through school programs, green job training, building efficiency programs, and solar panel installations. Finally, I want to fund independent journalism through organizations like The Center for Public Integrity, Pro Publica, and the Global Press Institute, which employs local women journalists to produce ethical, accurate news coverage from the world’s least-covered places.

Chandra Fox | These Native Goods

I was a little late in the game so I had a chance to peek at many of the other wish lists before creating my own. Such great recommendations! I wholeheartedly believe that in our current political situation we need to support the organizations with causes that will face the biggest threat. Standing up for environmental issues, women’s health and human rights is incredibly important right now. The suggestions from my fellow EWC members are for awesome charities that do just that. I wanted to throw in a couple more options for protecting wildlife as well as our planet. Wildaid raises awareness about the consumption of wildlife products, fighting back against the illegal trade by strengthening enforcement and bringing these issues to light. Whether it is for sport (ahem president elects son) or for profit, the killing of endangered species needs to stop before it’s too late. Rainforest Action Network is helping to combat the increasingly devastating effects of the Palm-oil industry, among other causes. Modern day slavery, the displacement of indigenous peoples as well as wildlife, and catastrophic environmental damage are all results of this industry. With large western junk food brands being one of the biggest contributors to the destruction. Along the same lines of protecting the environment and her inhabitants, there is the North Dakota pipeline. Some of the other writers already talk about this heartbreaking issue but I wanted to add another donation idea for the cause. A photojournalist that I know is currently at Standing Rock, she is working with the water protectors to build up the camps and prepare for the freezing winter temperatures. She set up a GoFundMe for much needed supplies, please read the updates section of the fund for a full understanding of how your donations will be used to help the people.

Renee Peters | Model4GreenLiving

As an animal lover and environmentalist, I cannot think of a more pressing time to give back to charities fighting to preserve the natural world. According to the WWF’s 2016 Living Planet Report, “Populations of vertebrate animals—such as mammals, birds, and fish—have declined by 58% between 1970 and 2012. We’re seeing the largest drop in freshwater species too: on average, there’s been a whopping 81% decline in that time period.” The mass extinction occurring on Earth cannot be reversed with more climate change denial and corporate lobbying in the White House. Organizations standing up for nature need our help, now more than ever, if we are to keep its continued destruction at bay.

One organization that I have personally volunteered for, The Wild Bird Fund, is taking local action for wildlife right here in NYC. “The WBF rehabilitates over 3000 sick, injured or orphaned wildlife and releases them back to the wilds of New York City. NYC is a major stopover on the East Coast migratory flyway, and over 355 bird species live in the Big Apple or take refuge here during the spring and fall migrations.” Supporting the Wild Bird Fund not only heals injured birds, but positively affects the people who try to help them, and shows a desire to take responsibility for the impact that we have had on the environment of our precious wildlife. Check out this video for more information about them. On a global level, Conservation International is doing great work to protect our planet, and I also ask for support for them. “Building upon a strong foundation of science, partnership and field demonstration, they empower societies to responsibly and sustainably care for nature, our global biodiversity, for the well-being of humanity.” Donations made to either of these organizations benefit our planet and ensure that its wildlife and ecosystems are cared for.

Mine

On a local level (Charlottesville, VA), I’ll be asking for donations for the Shelter for Help in Emergency. Through my work at a local charity shop, I’ve seen firsthand the great work they do providing survivors of domestic violence with emergency necessities like clothing and household goods, and I also know that they do an excellent job finding long term, safe housing for their clients quickly and efficiently. I’ll also be personally contributing to and asking for contributions for the American Civil Liberties Union. The ACLU is well respected for their broad and impartial human rights work - they have a 94% score for efficacy on Charity Navigator - and given the current political and social climate, there’s no doubt in my mind that their work will continue to be vital to building a kinder and more just America.

the moral wardrobe: Hands Producing Hope Tee

hand lettered tee
adventure tee
hands producing hope indiegogo
graphic tee
Ethical Details: Tee - c/o Hands Producing Hope; Necklace - c/o Hands Producing Hope (previous collab); Boots - Oliberte

Hands Producing Hope is the brand behind one of my most worn necklaces, the Shalom Necklace, which I featured here a few months ago. They're expanding their resource and employment program to Nkombo Island in Rwanda and are in the midst of an Indiegogo campaign. They're seeking $20,000 to:

  • employ staff on the ground to personally oversee the program's development 
  • offer consistent training to a group of women who will be our newest artisans 
  • provide an allowance that will allow the women to attend training classes with their children instead of working in the fields 
  • host a variety of life skills workshops to help equip these women 
  • set aside for scholarships for the women and their children to attend school 
  • purchase start-up supplies & place an initial order!

The nice thing about Indiegogo is that, unlike Kickstarter, the recipient gets to keep anything they receive even if they don't meet their end goal, which means any amount can make a difference. Plus, there's a tiered rewards system and you can unlock this "And so the adventure begins" tee at $50. I put my money where my mouth is and donated $25.00 toward the cause even though Hands Producing Hope let me review this tee ahead of time. 

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Donate here. Shop Hands Producing Hope here

Why Pity is a Bad Marketing Angle, by Tavie Meier of MadeFAIR

pity marketing is bad

This essay was originally published on EcoCult, a blog devoted to all things sustainable in NYC and beyond.

“For just 10 cents a day, you can help a child in need,” said Sally Struthers with an emaciated, brown child sitting on her hip. Cut to a group shot of more malnourished brown children with flies congregating around their eyes and mouths. “No child should go hungry. Find it in your heart to sponsor one.”

Those commercials gave my 8-year-old self unfamiliar pangs in my stomach and pulled at my tiny little heart strings. Now, as an adult, it’s Sarah Mclachlan’s ads for rescue animals. It’s always late, and I mournfully stare at the residue in the bottom of my wine glass, emotion is running high, so I pick up the phone. However, my credit card isn’t within reach, so I promptly hang up and turn on Netflix.

That feeling is called pity. It creates awareness of a problem – always sad and far away – but it’s not strong enough to make us take action. We convince ourselves that it’s not within our power to help, or our power is too limited to make a difference.

This strategy is prolific in ethical fashion. There are two types of buzzwords associated with our niche:
  1. Fair Trade, ethical, sustainable, and 
  2. Survivor, at-risk, war refugee, sex-trafficked, poor, needy
As MadeFAIR’s buyer, I prefer the first because they describe the products. I actively avoid companies who use the second because they reduce their makers to simple adjectives.

Ethical fashion is commonly – and erroneously – regarded as charity because it’s a solution to fast fashion, one of the main contributors to global poverty. 80% of humanity lives under $10 per day, due in part to complex and sinister socio-economic systems which ensure the West has access to cheap clothing. Ethical is not the fashion or any major industry’s default. It’s growing, yes, but 98% of clothing manufacturers exploit workers and/or create irreparable damage to the environment. Fair trade offers customers a choice on how to spend their money on products they’d buy anyway.

Pity and guilt come into play when ethical labels market the perceived tragedy in their employees’ backgrounds. I have seen countless businesses and charities march through Cambodia with both sinister and wonderful intentions, but who produce similar results that perpetuate poverty and harp on Cambodia’s past.

dorsu top at madefair.co

Here’s an example from an online store that works in Cambodia, with the URL www.BuyHerBagNotHerBody.com, a dire binary in which neither choice sounds appealing.

The Nomi Network is in business to create economic opportunities for survivors and women at risk of human trafficking. Every item you buy provides jobs for survivors and helps end modern-day slavery.

While it’s true that poverty is root cause of human trafficking, not all people living in poverty are at-risk of being trafficked. A study in the 2011 U.N. Inter-agency Project on Trafficking said that, at most, 1,058 prostitutes in Cambodia out of 2.7 million females living in poverty were trafficked and held in a brothel against their will – including 127 children, six of whom were under the age of 13. That’s .03% of the “at risk” population.* I’m not painting the image of “the happy hooker” or downplaying the abhorrence of the modern slave trade, but you can see that poverty does not immediately put someone at risk of human trafficking or prostitution as many companies imply. They could be at-risk of back-breaking agricultural work, or dangerous commutes to factories, but these scenarios boil down to the lack of better employment options.

Survivor is another buzzword ubiquitous in ethical fashion and offers a lot of leeway. A survivor of what? In Cambodia, anyone over the age of 35 is a genocide survivor, and anyone over 20 lived through a coup d’état and civil war, including people working in garment factories. Fundamentally, nothing differentiates a shirt labeled “Survivor-Made in Cambodia” with an H&M shirt labeled “Made in Cambodia.”

This subject is viscerally irritating to me because my mother came to the United States as a genocide survivor. Close friends, family, and pushy strangers know about our family’s history, but it’s a fact I don’t usually publicize on popular blogs. That’s because besides being a “survivor,” she is an expert seamstress, talented designer, international volunteer, and a hard-working mother of two strong-minded daughters. She never put “genocide survivor” on her resume.

The most damaging aspect of pity is how it perpetuates a colonial dichotomy between maker and buyer. The makers are from the “Third World” or “developing” nation, while the buyer is from the “First World” or “developed” nation. Those terms are outdated and create a hierarchy that turns the West into the paragon of society who can force its values on other countries. Framing a marketing campaign around adversity exploits the maker and manipulates the buyer. Pity solicits a knee-jerk response that may work once, but isn’t sustainable if a business wants to retain customers.

I want MadeFAIR to be different, keeping stories of survival at bay and focusing on moving forward rather than calling on people’s tragic backgrounds for marketing purposes. We’ll never call an artisan a “survivor,” “at-risk,” or “underprivileged.” They’re seamstresses, craftsmen, and business owners.

sseko designs gold loafers from madefair.co

So, instead of describing a scarf like this:

This scarf was hand-loomed in rural Takeo by elderly survivors of the Khmer rouge who lost their families to the genocide and their land to factory development.

Try this:

This season-defying scarf was meticulously hand-loomed by expert craftswomen in Takeo, a province renowned for their exquisite silk weaving and hand-dying technique, ensuring each piece is one-of-a-kind.

Alden succinctly worded what ethical fashion should be in her policy on free stuff: “beautiful, useful, sustainably made, and ethically produced.” We are not charities. We’re selling products, not causes. Ethical fashion is long-term capitalism at its best. We gainfully and rightfully employ people with the skills to make desirable products. Customers will know our ethical values the first time they buy, but repeat customers appear when our products outstanding quality.

When the revolution happens, it will be due to innovation and creativity. There’s limited space in our brains for an exhausting emotion like pity, and limited market space for the same bohemian bag made by a different set of survivors.

If we’re to compete with thoughtless fast fashion, our energy needs to focus on building alternatives that can replace cheap, throwaway clothing. As the revolution takes hold of the industry and more workers are fairly compensated, their “tragic” histories will be replaced by a bright new story, and the companies who rely on those tragedies will be lost as well.

*Based on a population of 15.2 million Cambodians, a .96 male-to-female overall ratio, and a 2012 poverty rate of 17.7%.

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Tavie Meier is owner of MadeFAIR, an online ethical clothing shop based between her hometown, Denver Colorado and adopted town, Sihanoukville, Cambodia, where she’s lived and worked for the last three and a half years. Armed with a degree in anthropology from CU Boulder, she worked in the non-profit sector for ten years before founding MadeFAIR, a retailer which partners with ethical fashion labels, small businesses, and artisan workshops that ensure their employees receive fair wages plus use sustainable, repurposed, and biodegradable materials in their products as often as possible.

P.S. Check out the MadeFAIR* sidebar ad for a groovy coupon code.

*affiliate link

on seeing people


This post is a follow up to my previous post, You Don't Have to Feel It

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I tell the college-aged women at my church that service industry work builds character, and I truly believe that. You're being paid to interact with whoever comes in the door; to answer even dumb questions with kindness; and to treat rich and poor, annoying and pleasant with impartiality and grace. Now, I haven't always seen this principle of equality practiced that effectively among my coworkers and I admit to being less-than-welcoming on a few occasions, but I believe in the ideal, and that normally keeps me from snapping. 

Life has changed a lot since I got my first retail job and it's changed even more since August, when I started managing a church-run charity shop. Suddenly, most of my coworkers were 60+  and my customer base became a lot more diverse. While it wasn't always easy to please the affluent, international clientele at the coffee shop on the Downtown Mall (an outdoor pedestrian street full of local shops and street musicians), it was predictable enough to fall into a rhythm. Wealthy, left-leaning business people seemed more alike than different, so I could easily go on auto pilot and I didn't have to hold my tongue - they appreciated the spectacle of their minimum wage barista chatting about politics and theology while the espresso grinder whirred in the background. 

But the thrift shop is different. The thrift shop doesn't discriminate. Due to its place in the retail hierarchy, it can't help but welcome all. We're here for the poor and the bored, the frazzled mom, the wealthy house wife, the college hipster. Anyone and everyone comes through that door. We've made coffee for a homeless couple who got caught in an autumn rain storm, outfitted a dog in a child's vest to keep it from getting cold, opened the staff lunch table to a new age hippie who lives on the outskirts of town, given free clothes to new mothers, bartered for tech services with a man with life-threatening allergies, and enlightened a donor about the global human trafficking industry. We've cried, prayed, and laughed. We've played with children and helped old ladies out to their cars. 

It sounds like utopia - and it is, in a way - but it isn't easy to keep being open to whatever the day holds. It's easier to sit in the back and chat with coworkers. It's easier to sit in my office in the dark, checking emails aimlessly or texting my husband. It's easier not to deal with the uncertainty of each new interaction. And things between me and the volunteer staff have gotten heated on more than one occasion. We gossip too much; we forget we come from different worlds.

I can no longer make assumptions about who people are, or how they'll react. With every interaction, it is made more clear that I'm dealing with individuals, not stereotypes. I have to see the person in front of me - really see them - and I have to make a little room in my heart for vulnerability and loosen the death grip I have around my perspective. This is community; it's not about me. 

This is what I'm getting at: mutual understanding doesn't come naturally. To see people, you have to be willing to get to know them. You have to ask them what they need instead of assuming you have the answers. You have to see past the small talk and really look them square in the face and try to memorize it for next time. You have to learn to do this every single time. And it's never easy. 

If we want to build a world full of compassionate people, if we want to change lives both here and across the globe, we have to start with the people right in front of us. We have to start having intentional interactions, every time. Charity becomes problematic when, instead of seeing the person on the other side, we only see ourselves reflected back. 

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Artwork: Communion by Ruth Meharg. Used with permission.

Fashion Project


fashionproject


fashionproject by fracturedradiance on Polyvore

Fashion Project is a new-ish online secondhand clothing retailer with one important difference from other companies in its market: 55% of proceeds go to charity.

The company focuses on well known, mid to high end designers and the site is distinctively modern, with clean lines and minimal use of color. It's a cool place to be. From a quick sampling of items within several categories, clothing is priced in about the same range as Thredup's higher end pieces (but noticeably lower on designer shoes), but the site layout and product images and descriptions are considerably better.

I don't tend to buy much from Fashion Project's preferred brands (Trina Turk, Elie Tahari, Anne Fontaine), so I don't really know where to start, but I think they're capable of appealing to a unique niche within the secondhand market, and that's a great thing. The more the merrier.

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clarks + soul of africa


soulofafricashoes



soulofafricashoes by fracturedradiance on Polyvore

I stopped into Clarks on my walk through the forsaken corridors of our local indoor mall, thinking maybe I'd invest in a pair of their classic little elf shoes. The price tag caught me off guard (and they were out of my size), but I noticed a flyer for Soul of Africa on the display that piqued my interest.

It turns out that Clarks has an ongoing relationship with fair trade company, Soul of Africa, which employs people in need, particularly women, thereby offering living wages and greater stability. Additionally, all proceeds are given to charities and organizations that enrich and support African orphans.

As far as I can tell, only styles labeled Soul of Africa directly support the organization. My store only offered a leather mule from the line, but there are more styles available online. You can also peruse independent Soul of Africa designs, but you'll have to locate a stockist when you're ready to make a purchase.

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TOMS: taking another look

toms

I was initially put off by TOMS' business model because it seemed that they were really just in it for personal gain; when you pay $40.00+ for shoes that won't last more than a couple seasons, you better hope that people are getting more than one pair of substandard shoes. But I have to give them credit for creating a more ethical, charity-minded business model that has since been copied by dozens of companies.

And they've really improved since the last time I perused the site. They still give shoes, but they've also created jobs that provide a living wage, donate to various charitable organizations, and feature like-minded companies in their marketplace. These improvements make me feel better about backing them.

toms



toms by fracturedradiance featuring TOMS

When TOMS first came on the scene, I was worried that their model was just another advertising angle. But recent changes make it clear that they really do intend to positively and sustainably impact the world - by spreading awareness, creating jobs, providing resources, and building up others. Good for them!

Do you like TOMS? I owned a pair a couple years ago; they were comfortable, but the quality was so-so.
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