It may be the last thing on our minds when taking a sweet bite of chocolate, but it’s the bitter truth: child slavery still plagues the cocoa industry, and the number of slaves is increasing as the world’s consumption of chocolate is increasing. These children are handling dangerous agricultural chemicals, wielding sharp tools, carrying heavy loads, and enduring abuse from their captors.

“The beatings were a part of my life,” said one former child labourer. “When you didn’t hurry, you were beaten.”   

Fair trade group, Divine Chocolate, demonstrates that a love for chocolate doesn’t have to cost innocent lives. They are the only chocolate company worldwide which is 100% fair trade and owned by cocoa producers in a Ghanain cooperative called Kuapa Kokoo. Last year, they generated an astonishing GBP 282,000 which was designated to help build schools, along with other projects that are lifting people out of poverty.

Our Global Handicrafts marketplace has been selling Divine products proudly since our very beginnings.

In 2017-18, we sold 2,339 bars of chocolate, and served chocolate drinks in our cafe made with Divine cocoa, loving that our customers can indulge with a clear conscience.

Crossroads Foundation Hong Kong

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“They tried to bury us. They didn’t know we were seeds. We are growing.”

Drop Earrings, Not Bombs

 

The memory of bombs and gunfire still echoes loudly among the 3.5 million Syrian refugees in Turkey. All refugees feel dis-empowered when forced from home, but none more so than women who come from a culture where they are often not allowed to work.

One group of refugee women has taken matters into their own hands. It is the first time some of them have ever had paid employment, and they have created a workshop to make drop earrings from wire and brightly coloured thread. We love their brand name: “Drop Earrings, Not Bombs”. It’s a heart-cry for peace, from some of those affected most deeply by the brutality of war. Their workshop is so much more than a place to earn income. It is itself a refuge: a place where they share their stories and encourage each other through their ongoing hardship. Their income is making a real difference to their families, covering, as they put it, “the monthly grocery expenses of a Syrian family here.” This way, women don’t have to ask for money from anyone when they’re shopping for food. As their Social Media powerfully puts it, “they tried to bury us. They didn’t know we were seeds. We are growing.”

You can purchase the beautiful jewellery from Drop Earrings, Not Bombs at our Global Handicrafts shop at Crossroads Village.

Crossroads Foundation Hong Kong

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“There’s no health without mental health”   

World Health Organisation  

Hong Kong can feel like a pressure-cooker for those at the grassroots. When rents are high, work hours are long, and there are both children and elderly parents to worry about, self-care and preserving mental health fall to the bottom of the list. Recent figures suggest that more than 13% of Hong Kongers suffer with depression and/or anxiety. Sometimes, all that’s needed to take the first step towards healing is a pair of hands reaching out to say, ‘you are not alone’.

Such is the story of Smiling Heart, which started with one woman battling depression. Volunteers visiting her from Tung Wah group of hospitals noticed she had a creative way to find sunshine through the storm clouds in her life: making handmade jewellery. She told them her depression made it difficult to leave the house and interact with others, but she wanted to keep occupied at home, and create something beautiful.

The Tung Wah volunteers loved her idea and knew it could help others living with mental illnesses. With a little encouragement, the woman agreed to teach other people the skill that had brought light to her own life.

To begin with, she held a workshop for just 2-3 women. Her confidence grew, and so did her sense of self-worth.

 

From there, the project snowballed into Smiling Heart, a registered NGO which today helps many women battling mental illness by offering a place to learn something new, find friendship, and grow stronger together.

Now, they don’t just make jewellery, but also handmade ornaments, magnets and accessories.

 

They’ve been popular products in our Global Handicrafts shop, where we have sold Smiling Heart handicrafts since 2016.

Crossroads Foundation Hong Kong

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It was never Maria‘s dream to become a sex worker. With a broken marriage behind her, though, and a past of rape and abuse, she was struggling to bring up her child in Hong Kong. Desperate, she signed up for work in a massage parlour: one which, like many, came with the expectation of ‘extra services’ for clients. As years passed in this role, Maria’s self-worth crumbled. Life held little promise. It didn’t take much convincing, then, when she met a man on WeChat who asked her to marry him, sight unseen. “Come and meet me in Australia,” he said, painting a picture of a new, trouble free life.

When she arrived at the airport in Australia, however, immigration officers were on high alert. Trained to identify signs of trafficking victims, they called Maria to one side. Before long, Maria discovered that, had she successfully connected with her ‘groom’, she would have become a statistic: one in a line of women tricked into work in a brothel or forced labour.

It was a narrow escape for Maria. She returned to Hong Kong shattered in spirit, but resolute about starting over. Thankfully, Maria met one of our partners, Eden, an NGO that supports women wanting to escape the sex industry. They gave her friendship and counselling. They helped her learn English. They supported her research into new job prospects, such that, today, Maria is thriving as a property agent.

Sadly, Maria’s story of hope does not typify the narrative for many who have been trafficked into sex work. Because of the underground nature of trafficking, it’s almost impossible to know the full scope, but estimates suggest 21 million people are trapped in modern day slavery, worldwide.

Eden is at work in several Asian locations, supporting other ‘Maria’s on their journeys. One of their centres trains its women to make jewellery: exquisite items that are among our best-sellers in Global Handicrafts, Crossroads’ fair trade shop. And, when Eden recently opened an office in Hong Kong, we were only too delighted to support it with donated furniture and computers from our warehouse.

Perhaps Maria herself is best in summing up the inspiring work of Eden. “You have helped me a lot,” she says. “You always ask me questions that inspire me to think deeply about myself. You are like my angels.”


Commitment for Freedom

Eden’s ‘Committed’ necklace is more than a piece of jewellery. Each necklace has a gold heart taken from the middle and made into another necklace. This second pendant is given to a woman through Eden’s projects in Asian red-light districts.

“We hand her the gift and tell her that somewhere in another city or country there is a person wearing the other half of her necklace who values her and is standing up for freedom,” say Eden.

Committed necklaces are available at Global Handicrafts for HK$245.

 

1, 224 pieces of Eden jewellery have been sold through our Global Handicrafts in 2017.

 

 

Crossroads Foundation Hong Kong

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War can leave a deadly legacy long after its ‘finish’. Guatemala’s civil war ended in the 90’s but the country still hovers at the top of the charts for violent crimes, drug cartels and pedophile rings. Daily life can, then, still feel somewhat like a battle zone

The town of La Ezperanza is translated ‘Hope’. Women in that town gathered to bring change. They chose to do so in its infamous ‘Red Zone’:  a part so dangerous that tourists are warned not to visit. Hope, though, drove these women on.

They formed a FairTrade group UPAVIM, a Spanish acronym which, in translation, means “United for a better life’. Together they are literally and figuratively ‘crafting’ a different future.

 

“The beautiful colors, the conversations shared over cups of coffee, the sound of children’s laughter, and the collective force of empowered women make [it] an inspirational and joyful place to live and work,” say staff.

“By earning a fair wage we have been able to pull ourselves out of poverty, improve our living conditions, feed and care for our families, and send our children to school.”

It’s difficult to reconcile the beautiful, joyful products with the grief that some of their creators have endured, raising their children on the front lines of fear and violence. We’re glad to walk with them in bringing their story of courage and their handiwork to a global audience.

Our Global Handicrafts shop now sells their products.

It’s difficult to reconcile the beautiful, joyful products with the grief that some of their creators have endured, raising their children on the front lines of fear and violence. We’re glad to walk with them in bringing their story of courage and their handiwork to a global audience.

Crossroads Foundation Hong Kong

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IMG_5578It will come as no surprise that Vietnam’s rural villages see many trapped in poverty. What is a surprise, perhaps, in today’s world, is that this grip is much stronger on women than men. As a young girl, Huong took every step she could to change that story. The odds were not in her favour. Her father had died when she was little and her mother, dependent on seasonal earnings from their little family farm, needed to bring up five children alone. “All I can give you is education,” she told her children. “Study, study, study!”

Huong did. So did her five siblings. Three of them, all boys, received scholarships for medical school. Huong applied for a scholarship as well but was told ‘a girl from the village doesn’t need to go to college.’  She eyed her options. She knew girls from the village who had left to find their own way forward, only to fall into sex work in neighbouring Cambodia. She knew of others, too, who had ended up working in a dark, dusty lacquerware factory: places where workers are often in poor health and where wages are so low that they provide no way to get ahead.

Huong’s choices were bleak until, miraculously, an organisation agreed to sponsor her tertiary education. She was on her way. She studied hard, graduated and then won an internship with a major company. She moved from strength to strength in the business world, never forgetting how it felt to be a small village girl with big dreams.

To that end, Huong has taken another step in her battle to see doors opened for other young women who are trapped as she was. She has found a niche business in papercrafts: specialising in the art of quilling greeting cards. She started with just 10 women employees, but has now grown to 300 staff, never straying from the goal of paying a fair wage to every employee. Her wages are 25% higher than the local rate, but she wants good working conditions for her employees. She also gives maternity leave and healthcare benefits and strictly limits working hours to avoid exploitation._J3A1716

In the five years since Huong started the business, 2,000 young employees have been trained, most of them women from rural provinces. “Of course, this is a business,” she says, “but the way I look at it, it’s not about the bottom line. It’s about how many jobs I can create for young women, to give them financial independence and a stable family.”

It was our joy to support Quilling Card this year when we chose them as the producer for our 2017 Christmas cards. They’ve done a beautiful, professional job, testament to a woman with great vision and great values.

Crossroads Foundation Hong Kong

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It was the end of an era when Hong Kong’s beloved Excelsior shut down in early 2019. As their doors closed,...

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The city of Bethlehem has attracted tourists seeking peace and meaning for centuries, and for local Bethlehem residents, this stream of tourists is an economic lifeline. In a region where jobs are so scarce, many small handicrafts shops have appeared, where Bethlehem craftsmen can earn an income selling olive wood carvings that symbolise the memory of Bethlehem for visitors.

There’s a darker side to Bethlehem’s woodcarving industry, though. Olive wood artisans often work in small spaces where generations of fine sawdust is thick on the walls, the floor, the roof and even in the garden outside. It takes a serious toll on the health of these craftspeople who often work with wood throughout their entire lives. They can develop coughs and respiratory problems, and even cancer.

For many of these artisans, this is just the way life goes. Their parents before them had worked in the same conditions, just like their grandparents and the generations before them.

One woman, Basma, saw the unsafe conditions faced by Bethlehem’s woodworkers and was determined to make a change. Heading up local enterprise Holy Land Handicrafts – whose wood carvings we sell in our own Global Handicrafts shop – she started making workplaces safer for the 35 workshops in the cooperative. At first, she met resistance. “Why change things from the way our ancestors have done things for generations?” the olive wood families asked her. With education and advocacy, though, Basma started to see people’s attitudes shift, and she finally found one woodworker named Raja, who agreed to let her help him adapt his workshop to make it safer and in line with fair trade principles.

An engineering team worked on Raja’s workshop for months. They re-painted the walls, cleaned out generations of wood dust, and most importantly, installed an extractor device that sucks up wood dust and coating fumes, removing them safely from the workspace. Raja coats his  wood carvings in lacquer to preserve them. Inhaling the fumes for many years had damaged Raja’s health.

“Before, I was coughing all the time when I put lacquer on the carvings,” he explains. “But since I’ve been using the extraction hood, I noticed that I’ve stopped coughing. I can breathe better and my health has improved. It really changed my life.”

In such a small community, it doesn’t take long for stories to spread. The fact that Raja had suddenly stopped coughing reached the ears of other artisans and their wives. Soon, dozens of other woodworking families were begging Holy Land Handicrafts to renovate their own shops too. Thus far, 9 shops have been renovated and many more are on the waiting list! It’s literally changing the health and lives of Bethlehem’s artisans. For their wives too, it’s a relief to know that their own sons, who intend to follow in their fathers’ footsteps, might escape the health problems that have plagued generations of local woodworkers. “Before the renovation, I wouldn’t allow my son to work in this business,” said one mother. “There was so much noise and dust everywhere. It just wasn’t safe and I didn’t want to expose my child to this, even if he wanted it himself. But because of the renovation, I’m now happy for my son to follow his father.”

Olive wood carvings from Holy Land Handicrafts are popular sellers in the Global Handicrafts shop, especially at Christmas time. Now we, and our customers, can breathe a little easier, knowing that the artisans can, too! It’s a joy to know that fair trade truly is changing, and saving lives.

Crossroads Foundation Hong Kong

HELPING LIGHT THE DARKNESS

The BBC calls if ‘the worst refugee camp on earth’. A camp on the far-flung island of Lesvos, Greece, seen by...

read more ...

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The quantity was astonishing: 7,000 brand new toys, donated through our Global Hand service by a leading toy manufacturer. NGOs across...

read more ...

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It was the end of an era when Hong Kong’s beloved Excelsior shut down in early 2019. As their doors closed,...

read more ...

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"Finally, the repair of our maternity hospital is finished," wrote our colleagues in the Ukraine. "Your beds are in refurbished rooms...

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The Yamuna river, in Northern India, battles pollution on a tragic scale. Although its waters are clear in the early stages of its journey, when it flows through New Delhi, that drastically changes. Up to 80% of its pollution is gathered in the 22 km stretch within the city.

Entrepreneur Vimlendu Jha sought to make a difference. Targeting young Indian students, the leaders of tomorrow’s generation, he sought to gather change-makers. He soon found, though, that there were more environmental issues to be addressed and, in time, began a very successful scheme they call “Green the Gap.” It was started as a way to give waste another life by upcycling old materials. They purchase materials from rag-pickers and waste markets, transforming old tyres, juice cartons and waste fabrics into beautifully designed products.

We now stock trendy satchels and bags in our Global Handicrafts store. These products ‘do a double good’. They are good in brilliantly re-purposing trash and, being a Fair Trade organisation, good for employment opportunity. Many ‘Green the Gap’ workers have come from low income backgrounds and, by working there, have seen not only their environment improve, but their personal lives as well.

Crossroads Foundation Hong Kong

HELPING LIGHT THE DARKNESS

The BBC calls if ‘the worst refugee camp on earth’. A camp on the far-flung island of Lesvos, Greece, seen by...

read more ...

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The quantity was astonishing: 7,000 brand new toys, donated through our Global Hand service by a leading toy manufacturer. NGOs across...

read more ...

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It was the end of an era when Hong Kong’s beloved Excelsior shut down in early 2019. As their doors closed,...

read more ...

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"Finally, the repair of our maternity hospital is finished," wrote our colleagues in the Ukraine. "Your beds are in refurbished rooms...

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“Chile is losing its artisan culture,” says Alvador, a 58-year-old copper craftsman who makes beautiful jewellery stamped with traditional designs. Thanks to the gap between Chile’s rich and poor – one of the widest in the world – Alvador is one of a dying number of Chilean artists who can still make money from their handiwork.

Fair trade is more than just an idea for Alvador. It’s literally the only reason he can afford to make his jewellery passion a business. He works with Pueblos del Sur, a fair trade cooperative that helps Chilean craftspeople find international customers for their work, where they will get a fair price, be paid on time, and network with other artists to share ideas.

Our marketplace, Global Handicrafts, sells clay ocarinas and pendants from Pueblo del Sur artists, along with their exquisite glass jewellery .

Crossroads Foundation Hong Kong

HELPING LIGHT THE DARKNESS

The BBC calls if ‘the worst refugee camp on earth’. A camp on the far-flung island of Lesvos, Greece, seen by...

read more ...

7,000 brand new toys for Christmas

The quantity was astonishing: 7,000 brand new toys, donated through our Global Hand service by a leading toy manufacturer. NGOs across...

read more ...

Excelsior Hotel close equips HK social enterprise

It was the end of an era when Hong Kong’s beloved Excelsior shut down in early 2019. As their doors closed,...

read more ...

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"Finally, the repair of our maternity hospital is finished," wrote our colleagues in the Ukraine. "Your beds are in refurbished rooms...

read more ...