Families Impacted by Fair Trade: Ambassador Trip to Ecuador
Noonday Collection Ambassadors are storytellers by trade. We love sharing how our customers help change the world simply by choosing to shop fair trade. It’s one thing to pass along the stories we’ve heard from others, but it’s another to meet the Artisans and hear the stories of impact firsthand.
The first Artisans I met were Luis and Marina. Seeing them now, you would never know that for years they struggled to piece together scarce jobs just to survive. Through selling hand-crafted pieces at the local market, they got connected to someone from Noonday Collection, and Luis’ dream of making a living as an artisan working with local seeds like tagua, pambil, and açai slowly started to become a reality.
We have partnered with Luis and Marina for five years now, and hearing them share about how their lives have changed was amazing! Because of their partnership with Noonday, they rarely need to sell in the local market. They have also built a workshop next to their home and added a second story to their house. They have expanded their business to employ four women from their community, who all enjoy a living wage, dignified working environment, and meals while they are working. Luis and Marina dream of expanding their home even more so it can be a haven for women in the community who are in need of a safe place to live.
But the most striking thing to me was hearing Marina share, with tears in her eyes, how they were able to help their son pursue his dream to study music by sending him to a specialized music school. They could even afford to buy him the instruments he needed—something they could have never imagined just a few years before.
During our visit, their four-year-old daughter, initially shy, was eventually showing us around the workshop and helping us shop the pieces that were on display. We couldn’t resist filling our shopping bags as she worked her adorable magic, exclaiming, “Que bonita!” as she proudly showed off her parents’ handicrafts.
Noonday’s hope and goal is to work long-term with Artisan Businesses to ensure that they will have a sustainable income season after season. Much of the fashion industry operates on a “one and done” order system. An artisan business may get several huge orders one season, and then struggle to make ends meet the following season. The income is unreliable, which makes it hard to move out of survival mode, much less dream for the future. In contrast, our focus on long-term partnerships empowers our artisan partners to take needed steps to grow their business and widen their impact, not only for their own families, but for their communities as well.
After visiting Ecuador, I now know that the impact of long-term partnerships is not just an idea we talk about, it’s a reality that is on display in the lives of the children of our artisan partners. Luis and Marina’s children are growing up with options that wouldn’t be imaginable if they were still piecing together a living from agriculture, construction, and local market sales. Their son can dream of studying music, and that dream is already coming true. Their daughter is growing up seeing her parents empowered as entrepreneurs. She is already immersed in the family business and whatever her dreams are, she will grow up knowing the value of hard work and the blessing of opportunity.
And this amazing future is now extended beyond their immediate family as Luis and Marina use the opportunity that has come their way to offer that same hope to their community. All four of the women who work for Luis and Marina have children of their own—children who are seeing their mothers support their families through dignified, stable work. These children, along with Luis and Marina’s children, will be able to offer their own children a meaningful future because they were given the opportunity for education and the freedom to dream at a young age. Imagine how their dreams will multiply and bear fruit through generations as we continue to say “yes” to fair trade, dignified work, and making our purchases count!
I am more convinced than ever that long-term partnerships are a key piece in changing the world as people are empowered to climb out of poverty through dignified work. What a gift to be a part of a business that is focusing on the right things and is leaving an impact, not just for the present, but one that will echo down through generations to come. Noonday Collection is transforming communities and families alike; Luis and Marina’s story is just one of many. I’m thankful I got to witness it firsthand, and I’m excited to share their story and follow them for years to come.