This is empowerment: day 1 with Krochet Kids Peru

I am spending this week in Lima, Peru with my friends Sarah, Heather, and Rebecca. We are visiting with my friends The Goodfellows, who run the Peru arm of Krochet Kids, an organization that provides training, employment, childcare, and mentorship for impoverished women. I’ve written about Krochet Kids before. I love their model of empowerment and I’m thrilled to be here again with some other bloggers in the hopes that we can expand the reach of Krochet Kids’ mission. Photo Feb 15, 10 37 12 AM Yesterday was Sunday and we spent the day getting to know some of the women in the program. We want to get a sense of their lives outside of work. We each paired off with a woman from the program who had made some Krochet Kids items we had been sent. I was paired with Beatrize, who has a spunky 3-year-old son named Paul. IMG_8468 Beatrize rents a room that has been built on the roof of a large building in the Chorillos area of Lima. It is the southernmost region of  Lima, an impoverished region where many people live in shanties they have constructed on squatted land. With the help of her income from Krochet KIds, Beatrize is able to afford a modest home with running water, plumbing, and electricity. IMG_8338  IMG_8343   We visited with Beatrize for a bit and then took a trip to the market for lunch supplies. Very few people have refrigeration so going to the market for fresh food is a part of food prep. Photo Feb 15, 12 32 45 PM  We took a combi to the market, which involves about 20 people being smooshed into a public van that runs with the doors open. It was hard to snap a picture because it was so crowded. You can see that Blake got a little cozy. IMG_8364 The local market is full of fresh meats and produce.  There are very few convenience foods – the “slow eating” whole foods eating trend is a way of life here. IMG_8365  IMG_8367 Photo Feb 15, 12 49 04 PM  IMG_8370 IMG_8383 IMG_8385  After procuring the ingredients we went back to Beatrize’s house to cook. There is a communal sink on the roof – a bonus for Beatrize since it’s on the same floor as her home. The sink serves as a place for washing, food prep, and laundry. Photo Feb 15, 1 35 57 PM  It was really a treat to watch Beatrize and her friends cook. We help with shucking corn and peeling potatoes, but we were clearly out of our elements as they marinated the meat with herbs and spices. IMG_8432  Photo Feb 15, 2 25 44 PM   It was truly delicious. We had a popular Peruvian dish called bisteck. Photo Feb 15, 3 15 53 PM After eating, we chatted for quite a while about their lives. Beatrize and her friend Lesly are part of the program, and we were joined by their mentor, who acts as a social worker to the women in the program. They both recounted learning about Krochet Kids and wanting to work with them. Lesly was so determined that she walked by the headquarters almost every day until she got to know someone in the program who eventually recommended her. She said that when she told her boyfriend about the new job, he was scared that it was too good to be true and that it was going to turn out to be something insidious. But indeed, it turned out to be exactly what she had hoped, and she loves being a part of it. IMG_8459 Both women were in pretty desperate situations prior to working with Krochet Kids, because they both have small children. Beatrize said she prayed every day for God to reveal a job opportunity to her, but she couldn’t figure out how to manage it and raise her child. The fact that Krochet Kids offers childcare makes all the difference in the world to these women, who get to work in a supportive environment while their kids are well cared for. Tomorrow I will write more about our visit to Beatrize and Lesly’s workplace, and about the childcare center. I will also share more about the unique empowerment model of Krochet Kids and how they are setting up the women in their program to develop their own business and their own savings plan. To learn more about Krochet Kids, and to see the awesome apparel and accessories they offer, check them out here. You can also follow our trip on instagram with the hashtag #knowwhomadeit. photos by Joy JeongKrochet Kids intl. #knowwhomadeit

The inconvenient truth about your Halloween chocolate and forced child labor

Three years I wrote a ridiculous post about deciding on a new place to buy my coffee . . . a place where the prices were really low because the store relied on children to work for little money.  My intention was to point out how selfish it sounds for someone to willingly turn a blind eye to social injustices just because we want to pay less for something we like, and how shallow our justifications sound.  I used coffee as an example because it’s one of those indulgences that people claim they can’t live without.  Shortly after, I wrote a post detailing the human rights abuses involved in the manufacturing of most of the commercial Halloween candy we purchase this time of year. I’m posting again, because I think it’s an important message. If you read this previously, scroll down to the bottom for an update on Hershey’s and Nestle. And please consider sharing this so others can know the truth.  I’ve included a comprehensive guide to buying ethical Halloween treats here.
The picture below is a photo of a young child gathering pods to harvest cocoa beans.  There are hundreds of thousands of children in West Africa who do this work.  Young children. Children who should be attending school and having a childhood. And they are working for most of the mainstream chocolate providers in the USA.    A report from the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture about cocoa farms in the Ivory Coast estimated there were 284,000 children working on cocoa farms in hazardous conditions.  Some of them have been taken from their families, or sold as servants.  U.S. chocolate manufacturers have claimed they are not responsible for the conditions on cocoa plantations since they don’t own them.  This includes Hershey, Mars, Nestle, and the US division of Cadbury . . . who collectively represent pretty much every snack-size candy bar that will be available in stores this Halloween. 

Did your child's Halloween chocolate come at the expense of another child?

The connection between most major candy bar manufacturers and child slavery is one of the world’s best kept secrets. The US government is currently being sued by the International Labor Rights Fund for failing to enforce laws prohibiting the import of products made with child labor, and the chocolate industry has failed to meet numerous deadlines set by Congress for regulating.  A few major chocolate companies have done a great job in the last year with some smoke-and-mirror campaigns . . . either offering an obscure fair-trade chocolate bar or making a show of giving to charities that support farmers. But these actions do not change the fact that they don’t want to take the necessary steps to avoid the human rights abuse of children.   But honestly, what concerns me even more is that we, as consumers, are not demanding that this be stopped.  People continue to buy chocolate even after learning about the harm to children in Africa.  I’ve heard excuses from people in my own life that sound pretty similar to the ones I made in the coffee post.  We rationalize that we can’t afford fair-trade.  We joke about how addicted we are.  We justify that we can’t change everything.  And I think secretly, we don’t relate because these are kids in a far-off country, and not our own.  It’s okay as long as we don’t have to see it happening right in front of us. Did you know thousands of children are trafficked each year to farm cocoa for American chocolate companies?
Well, I’m here to ruin it for you.  Now you know.  We can’t keep looking away.  If we choose willful ignorance on this one, then we are no better than the people who are directly forcing children to work.  I’ve embedded a BBC documentary about this issue below.   Even the first ten-minute segment is eye-opening, but the whole thing will wreck you . . . and you will be better for it.  Bookmark this and watch it later.  Watch it with your kids.  Jafta saw this last year and despite his love of chocolate, he is the most fervent fair trade advocate I know after seeing this.  Share it with your friends.  Blog about it.  We’re breaking up with commercial chocolate, or buying fair trade. I hope you will, too.



In November of 2011, the Louisiana Municipal Police Employee’s Retirement System, a public pension fund with holdings in Hershey Co., filed a lawsuit against Hershey’s. The suit claims that Hershey’s board knew for as many as 11 years that its cocoa came from West African suppliers that used child slave labor to harvest crops. The fund accuses Hershey of ignoring domestic and foreign human trafficking laws. Whole Foods Markets announced it will stop selling Hershey’s high-end Scharffen Berger brand chocolate products over the issue of child labor. On January 31st 2012, in what was likely a response to the growing bad press about child labor practices, Hershey’s made an announcement regarding child labor in their supply line. You can read the entire statement here. In March of 2014, a Louisiana pension fund raised questions about Hershey executives’ knowledge of how much of the company’s cocoa, grown in West Africa, may have been produced by child slaves. The suit said Hershey officials refused to ensure all its West African cocoa suppliers honored international child-labor restrictions and said some retailers have voiced concerns over the company’s “failure to remedy child labor problems in the supply chain.” Again, it’s great that Hershey’s is creating a fair-trade line, but why not apply this standard to all of their products?  Fair trade shouldn’t be a specialty item, and many international rights groups are still skeptical. You can read more about that here. Now let’s look at the strides Nestle has made:
Nestle announced they were submitting to a study by the Fair Labor Association to determine if child labor actually did exist in their supply chain. This was a bit of a PR move since Nestle signed the Harkin Engel Protocol and vowed to remedy the child labor issues in their company over ten years ago. Very little effort was made by the companies involved which resulted in only about 5% improvement over the last 10 years. So I’m slightly unimpressed that they are now making a public show of “getting to the bottom of this”, but again – it’s a step. The findings of the Fair Labor Association?  There is indeed child labor in the Nestle supply chain. Reuters reported: “Child labour is still widespread on Ivory Coast cocoa farms supplying Nestle, an investigation by a workers’ rights group has found, prompting the world’s biggest food group to pledge a redoubling of efforts to stamp out the practice.”  Nestle has made several public statements about their commitment to stopping this and their strategies include producing an illustrated guide to the supplier code and educating their farmers not to employ children. Still, Nestle is not willing to submit to fair trade certification, which would be the best way to insure compliance. The International Labor Rights Fund names Nestle as one of the top 14 companies behind the worst labor abuses. This year, CNN returned to the Ivory Coast and did another documentary. It revealed that while child labor is still not hard to find, there has been some slow progress. Cocoa-nomics: A CNN Freedom Project documentary from Matthew Percival on Vimeo. The bottom line is this: profit margins are likely going to take a dip if these companies really step it up, and it’s likely that chocolate prices will go up, too. But I think that we, as a society, need to be willing to see this through, even if it costs us something. Because no bar of chocolate is worth robbing a child of their education and childhood.
Buy fair trade. Don't support child labor for cheaper chocolate this Halloween. Or ever.
If you are motivated to make your Halloween purchases more ethical check out this comprehensive guide to buying ethical Halloween treats.

That’s what SHE said: #lovehope Ethiopia edition with Jen Hatmaker, Korie Robertson, and Jillian Lauren.

that's what she said new I’m in Ethiopia this week with Help One Now, hearing stories of how their work is preventing the tragedy of poverty orphans. I thought that for this week’s picks, I would share some of the writing of the other women on this trip. I hope you will take the time to click through and read their essays. It’s powerful and heartbreaking, and yet there is redemption. Stories of how @HelpOneNow is preventing orphans. #lovehope   Love Hope | Jillian Lauren Our adoption gave us more than the family we were longing for; it also allowed us to experience our interconnectedness with people halfway around the globe, the permeability of the membranes between our lives. Since then, Scott and I have been trying to finagle a return trip. We often wonder- what can we do to work toward a world in which children are not orphaned by poverty? The answers are not always easy. Like a lot of people, we are sometimes overwhelmed and confused by the choices. How can we do the most good in a conscious and respectful way? Is there something we can do beyond writing a check? Is there some greater understanding we can gain, some more immediate action we can take? Stories of how @HelpOneNow is preventing orphans. #lovehope   10-Year-Olds Should Not Be Day Laborers | Jen Hatmaker When her children were chosen to be sponsored by Help One Now, she was dying. Her children were considered the most vulnerable. She is HIV Positive and was very sick at the time. She didn’t have access to the important Anti-Retro Viral medication that can make an HIV patient healthy again. Her family, which consisted of herself and her six children, had no cow or chicken or garden to sustain them. She was too sick to have a job – where would she find one anyway? She was forced to leave two of her children at an orphanage because they were sick as well, and she had no way to care for them. Stories of how @HelpOneNow is preventing orphans. #lovehope A Story Of Opportunity, Restoration, Triumph And Hope | Korie Robertson When her children were chosen to be sponsored by Help One Now, she was dying. Her children were considered the most vulnerable. She is HIV Positive and was very sick at the time. She didn’t have access to the important Anti-Retro Viral medication that can make an HIV patient healthy again. Her family, which consisted of herself and her six children, had no cow or chicken or garden to sustain them. She was too sick to have a job – where would she find one anyway? She was forced to leave two of her children at an orphanage because they were sick as well, and she had no way to care for them. Stories of how @HelpOneNow is preventing orphans. #lovehope   The Road | Jillian Lauren I’m going to get really real with you here. I don’t often talk about T’s origins, or the reasons he came to be with us. Tariku is a poverty orphan. Which is to say, that without the pressures of extreme poverty, he wouldn’t have suffered the trauma of separation, malnutrition, pneumonia- all the things that made his eyes so scared when we met him, his little legs hanging beneath him like skinny, limp noodles. Stories of how @HelpOneNow is preventing orphans. #lovehope   Your Money Can Help Or Hurt | Jen Hatmaker Initially, HON’s mission was laser-focused on double-orphaned children (both parents deceased), but last year local Haitian leader Jean-Alix asked Chris to consider sponsoring children living in impoverished Drouin with their parents. When Chris explained that HON only focused on orphaned children, Jean-Alix said, “Oh. Okay. Then just wait one year and most of these children will be orphaned.” Thus, orphaned and vulnerable children now make up the mission of HON. Both worthy. In some cases, we respond to tragedy. In other cases, we help prevent the tragedy. Either way, children destined for orphanhood, poverty, and family disruption are empowered toward family, education, and economic sustainability. Cyclical chains are broken and the next generation is raised up to lead strong. Stories of how @HelpOneNow is preventing orphans. #lovehope   Again, Always: Ethiopia | Jillian Lauren The minute we walked off the plane in Addis Ababa this morning, the distinctive smell hit me- some mysterious mixture of frankincense, burning trash, eucalyptus, coffee, and bodies. It’s profoundly human and otherworldly at the same time and lets you know unmistakably that you are in Ethiopia- this glorious and complicated place. Stories of how @HelpOneNow is preventing orphans. #lovehope   To read more about the trip and to sponsor a family, click here. You can also follow our hashtag on twitter and instagram at #lovehope. Stories of how @HelpOneNow is preventing orphans. #lovehope Photos by Ty Clark, Jacob Combs, and Scott Wade.

Murrieta is a Mess: Border Crisis and Confusion (a guest post by Joey Aszterbaum)

Two weeks ago a crowd of angry protesters faced off with border patrol agents in Murrieta, California, where the city’s mayor and residents blocked buses carrying immigrant children who were going to be processed there. Some saw anti-immigration protestors as patriots bravely standing up against a failed federal government. But when I went to the town hall meeting at Murrieta Mesa High School the next day I didn’t see bravery at all. What I saw was fear and confusion. Citizens Rule - photo [photo credit: Jolynne Photography]   Things you might have seen among the anti-immigration crowd: the Gadsden flag (“Don’t Tread on Me”). Signs saying “Send them home!” A tee shirt saying “If you can’t feed them, don’t breed them.” A woman yelling in the ear of Latino pop star and counter-protester Lupillo Rivera. A protester spitting on a young Latina and telling her to go clean toilets. What you wouldn’t see among the anti-immigration crowd: non-whites. What you wouldn’t hear: any understanding of the the cause of this mass migration, or a good idea what to do about it. I went to the town hall with my wife, my oldest son, and a friend from church to be part of a peaceful counter-demonstration. Though the gymnasium would only hold 750 people, there was a line of over 1,000 people waiting to enter. Police were directing traffic and keeping an eye on the crowd. There were crews from every major news outlet. The line was surprisingly quiet and orderly considering the chaos the night before at the border station. Instead of getting in line, we walked beside the crowd towards the front. People looked at us with curiosity and suspicion. Never having been part of any public protest, I wondered what I was doing there and what I hoped to accomplish. A look at the crowd let me know that we were definitely in the minority. I asked my friend from church, who is my mother’s age, if I could hold her hand as we walked. I began thinking that the counter-demonstration was going to be only four people, but as we approached the front of the line we saw one woman facing the crowd, silent, holding a sign that read “WWJD?” (“What would Jesus Do?”). I guess that’s where we’re going to stand. I was encouraged. Our motivation in going wasn’t “political” in the usual sense of the word. We weren’t taking a stand for or against any party or the president. Our motivation was primarily religious. We took signs that my children had created, with messages such as “Love your Neighbor” or “Who Would Jesus Deport?” We took my guitar and sang “Lord, Make Us Instruments of Your Peace.” We saw our counter-demonstration as one of compassion, hospitality, and moral obligation to welcome the stranger and care for children. Love my country - photo [photo credit: Jolynne Photography]   Later on, after about half the crowd was left outside the town hall meeting, the line collapsed into a crowd. Well, two crowds. One was older, white, and carried signs such as “Citizens Rule” and “Americans before Illegals.” (I often wonder: do people know that Central and South America are also Americans? It’s in the name.) The other crowd was smaller, but had a diversity of both skin color and age. There were families on the pro-immigrant side. They held signs that tended to be religious (“If the Migrant is not your Brother, God is not your Father!”) or pleading for basic dignity (“Keep families together!”). There were U.S. flags all around. I was glad to have more than three others to sing with me. Especially the children. What sometimes gets lost in the emotions of protest and counter-protest are the facts:

  • The overwhelming majority of this surge of migrants are not from Mexico. They are from Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala.
  • An unholy percentage of immigrants are unaccompanied alien children (UAC). In 2012 there were 8,000 UAC refugees. In 2013 there were 14,000. It is estimated that 60,000 or more unaccompanied children will cross the border in 2014. Imagine a child crossing Mexico alone or with strangers. How many children don’t survive the trip?
  • Honduras has the highest murder rate in the world. El Salvador and Guatemala are 4th and 5th, respectively. Children are fleeing levels of violence and poverty normally associated with war zone. Young men are forcibly conscripted into drug gangs. Young women are raped. Where was the outrage in the 90’s when white children came to the U.S. fleeing Croatia and Bosnia? They are not “illegal aliens.” They are refugees.
  • Border security is working. That is why there are floods of refugees currently in custody. Children are placed in deportation proceedings according to law. Murrieta mayor Alan Long and County Supervisor Jeff Stone agree with the anti-immigration protesters, if not their tactics. Apparently community leaders want a border station in Murrieta when it brings federal investment dollars and jobs, but not when it’s time for federal agents to actually do their jobs. So much for following immigration law.

In 1939 the St. Louis sailed close enough to the United States that they could see the lights of Miami. On board were 938 Jews from Hamburg, Germany seeking asylum in the U.S. from the Nazis. For reasons economic and political, President Roosevelt’s administration told passengers to get in line like any other immigrants. The ship wasn’t allowed to land. If the St. Louis had gone directly back to Hamburg, it is certain that every passenger would have been killed. Captain Gustav Shroeder stalled the return voyage in order to save the passengers, even concocting a desperate plan to wreck the ship off the English coast. Finally Western European countries took the passengers in. Tragically, a third of the passengers of the St. Louis were killed by Hitler’s forces as they conquered Europe. My own family emigrated from East Europe to live in Argentina. They then came to the U.S. when my father was four years old. What if they had been on the St. Louis? How could the country where I live, a country that celebrates its role in liberating Europe from the Nazis, been so careless with the lives of these refugees? I believe that the United States is making the same mistake today by failing to declare these immigrants refugees, and by failing to create comprehensive immigration reform that creates a path to citizenship for refugees. Some things are the right thing to do, no matter how much personal sacrifice it takes. Let us become a nation of immigrants again. Let us immigrate from rancor to responsibility.  Let us immigrate from chaos to coordination. Let us immigrate from fear to fellowship. Let us immigrate from political stalemate to personal sacrifice. This time, let’s not send back the St. Louis. What can I do?

  • My family signed up with Border Angels to be a host family. There is a waiting list until the legalities and other details are worked out. The National Latino Evangelical Coalition is doing something similar with churches.
  • Give. Organizations like World Vision already have structures in place to help immigrants here and back home.
  • If you are a part of a church, host a showing of The Stranger. Visit Evangelical Immigration Table to learn how churches are mobilizing for the immediate crisis and for long-term reform.

  Joey Aszterbaum is a husband and a dad of four kids. He works for County of Riverside DPSS and leads worship at Spirit of Joy Community Church in Hemet, California. You can find more photos from the protest here.

On Hobby Lobby, employee injustice, and the inconvenient cost of caring

This week the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Hobby Lobby’s right to deny coverage of birth control methods they deem to be “abortifacients,” and it seems like the whole internet exploded in outrage. My facebook and twitter feed were lit up with rants about women’s rights and boycotts and religious tyranny. And I get it. I wasn’t really thrilled with the decision myself. I think access to birth control is a pretty vital component in reducing abortions, and I personally don’t believe that Plan B or the other drugs they are denying their employees are abortifacients. (I talk more about my thoughts on that here.) I also understand how people feel leery of a secular store creating policies around religion that they then hold over their employees, who may or may not share their faith. It’s a slippery slope. At the same time, I do find the level of outrage confounding. Or more accurately, I find the lack of outrage on other justice issues confounding. Admittedly, much of my reaction is viewing all of this through the cloud of having visited with an anti-trafficking organization in S.E. Asia last week. I’m still reeling from what I saw and from the injustice that exists in the world, particularly in relation to the trafficking of women into the sex trade. On Hobby Lobby, employee injustice, and the inconvenient cost of caring While I’m frustrated by the Hobby Lobby decision, I’m also aware that this organization still offers 16 of the 20 birth control methods approved by Food and Drug Administration to employees. I’m aware that their employees can choose other methods, or pay out-of-pocket, or seek other avenues with funding for birth control, or find other employment. It’s annoying and no doubt may prove to be a major inconvenience to some employees. But in the scheme of things, I can’t help thinking . . . on the list of labor abuses happening in our world today, this is pretty low on the totem pole. That’s not to say that people shouldn’t continue with their boycotts and their activism. I don’t believe in playing the Oppression Olympics because doing so means that every issue is muted save for the most dire. I guess what I’m wanting to ask, though, is why we are so quick to get behind a labor issue that is, ultimately, more of a first-world problem, while turning a blind eye to major labor abuses occurring in the supply chain of stores and companies that we use every day. For most of us, a Hobby Lobby boycott is pretty easy. If you’re crafty you can get the supplies somewhere else . . . if you’re like me, you can not even think twice because Hobby Lobby is not a store that you were even enter. But on my trip to S.E. Asia, Matt Parker, the founder of Exodus Road, talked to us a bit about some of the labor trafficking they are investigating, and how prevalent it is in certain industry. Shrimp, for example. I had no idea that many people are held against their will for months or even years at a time on shrimping boats, for shrimp that is later sold to companies like Costco and Walmart. I’ve talked about the reality of child labor in mainstream chocolate before. This is also true for coffee.  When we really peel back the layers, there are labor abuses happening in the production of many of the things we buy on a regular basis, from produce to clothing to electronics. So why are we so willing to boycott Hobby Lobby, and not some of the companies were people in the labor chain are being abused, or trafficked, or working in conditions that we find abhorrent? I’m asking this question of myself, too, because God knows I’ve turned a blind eye to some of this in my own purchasing practices. Sadly, I think the outrage over Hobby Lobby illustrates an unfortunate aspect of justice bias: we’re for justice when it’s convenient for us . . . when it doesn’t cost us much. I’m not calling for a boycott of the boycott. If you want to protest Hobby Lobby, go for it. I’m just saying that if labor abuse is an issue we truly care about, we’ve got bigger fish to fry, in ways that may come at a cost.