By Timothy Gillis
PORTLAND – Local residents can celebrate World Fair Trade Day by visiting Karma Fair Trade, on Brighton Avenue. Karen Burnell, the shop’s owner, is thrilled about her new space, and looks forward to Saturday’s event as a chance to showcase her business, and provide much-needed support for craft-makers all over the world.
Her shop, which carries ninety percent fair trade items and ten percent “non-profits with a purpose,” is nestled next to Don’s Trading Card Center and Rosemont Bakery. Karma Fair Trade is a return to the old neighborhood for Burnell. Now living with her family in Windham, she grew up around these streets, she said. In fact, her parents live just around the corner.
An example of the purposeful non-profits is hand soap from Nashville made by women in a two-year program that offers housing and support while they are recovering from domestic violence or drugs. Another item not listed as “fair trade” that she carries is Pooh Paper, recycled paper made from elephant dung. The hope is that by making the living animal more valuable than a poached one, people will be more likely to let it live.
The vast majority of her stock is even more pointed to a human end. She is proud that her sales support the people who make them, in some of the most depressed areas of the globe. She has twenty-five suppliers – some deal in only one product, like baskets, and others deal with only one country, say Guatemala. She also carries work by six local artists, creating such crafts as purses and stained glass.
“Twenty-five percent of the dollar you spend here ends up with the artisan,” Burnell said. “It may not sound like much, but in their economy, it can be a good income. I wonder what Target gives back to the people who make their products.”
Fair Trade provides artisans an opportunity to earn a vital income and improve their quality of life by establishing a sustainable market for their handcrafted products, according to http://www.karmafairtrade.com, her store’s website. Some of the principles of fair trade include “paying a fair wage in the local context,” “providing healthy and safe working conditions,” and “engaging in environmentally sustainable practices.” The site also touts fair trade as a policy that offers “equal opportunities for all, particularly the most disadvantaged basket-makers.”
The business is also preventative medicine for helping poorer people combat so many of the ills that are associated with their living conditions: drugs, prostitution, and human trafficking.
“In my mind, it’s all connected to ending to ending human trafficking. If you help out people in poorer countries – they’re the ones that traffickers target,” Burnell said, adding that human trafficking is second only to drug trafficking in terms of an international business.
Burnell started her business about five years ago, out of her home, garage, and car. She did home parties for people. She’s excited about now having store space, and especially amped about the area of Portland she’s moving into. Her shop’s been open since February, but she wanted to have her grand opening coincide with the World Fair Trade Day, this Saturday, May 12.
The day will be celebrated in diverse places and cultures across the globe. Various events are organized in more than seventy countries in Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America, North America and Pacific Rim, according to the World Fair Trade Organizations (WFTO) that have pioneered Fair Trade for more than five decades and are leading the organization of the international day.
At her opening Saturday, she plans raffle giveaways people can enter to raise money for two causes – Not for Sale, an organization that fights to end human trafficking, and Love 146, which is an aftercare facility in Thailand for children who have been rescued from trafficking.