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Our Story

The AngelShare Jigsaw

Like many people we struggle with the amount of money that is spent on presents, especially at Christmas time while every year over 7 million people, most of them children, die of hunger or hunger related causes. But giving gifts chosen with care and given with love is rightly a special part of all of our lives.

My Grandmother, Jill Buxton, who was still driving a Ford Transit at the age 93 spent over forty years as an aid worker, starting with the Bihar famines in India in the 1960’s, then working with Tibetan Refugees in Himachal Pradesh and in Ethiopia during the Civil war in the 1970s. As she became older, she gave aid to the poverty stricken in Poland. I spent some time visiting projects she had been a part of in the early 1980’s and this developed an interest in poverty reduction and fair-trade.

During the months he spent in India one story which demonstrated one the difficulties of aid particularly struck him. In a neighbouring part of Bihar some Dutch philanthropists had decided to help a drought ridden village by having a bore sunk and a pump installed. The work was done, the water flowed, the villagers trained how to maintain the pump and the benefactors returned to their home country. Within a couple of weeks the pump had been dismantled, taken into the large town of Gaya and sold. The villagers spent the proceeds on alcohol and food and spent the next few months having a wild party. They failed to plant their crops and six months after that were dying of starvation. These people had been bonded labourers for generations and had never had total responsibility. This is clearly an extreme example but was told to me to demonstrate the difference in the way that work was being undertaken at the scheme I was helping at.

The idea of “trade not aid” is great in principle but there have been real quality issues with fair-trade from bitter tasting coffee to poor quality products. Over the last couple of years we have come a across importers of fair-trade products which are well designed and excellent quality, made to last, and which make excellent and often unusual presents. As well as creating a varied collection we have been really picky about quality and selected only those products which meet our criteria. For instance, one supplier has beautiful journals but the quality of the paper and binding means that we do not stock them. Another has beautiful wooden products but they are just too expensive for what they are.

The final piece of the jigsaw is microfinance. By investing a percentage of our takings to small businesses in developing countries through Kiva we have found a way to have a long term impact on poverty. Click here to learn more about what we do, and click here to learn more about Kiva. 

Peter Pease

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