Ten years ago this month we had our first conversation about whether or not to start a nonprofit that would sell fair trade items to create employment in developing countries. Our goal was to alleviate poverty and we felt so strongly that employment could make that happen. As February starts and we take time to celebrate relationships and love and connection, I can’t help but take a few minutes to share what we have learned.
Employment isn’t enough. Economic development, a good job, lots of money and opportunity are not enough to end poverty and the emotional havoc that it wreaks. It’s the relationships, the connections between the maker, the designer, the supplier and the customer. Every person who carries a product carries love to another.
Three years ago when we were rebranding Route I read and at one point spoke (yikes!) on the essay “I, Pencil”. It’s a brief essay marveling on how supply chains are so complicated and really beautiful in their intricacy. In our world, supply chains are simple, but reflecting on that essay I have come to almost charish how are products are passed on. It is the passing from one person to another that creates the relationships that carry the love and the appreciation and the value. AND then, when we are able to return again and again to those same people for more product, (which of course means more economic support) we also return to them in friendship and support and encouragement.
In ethical fashion, these exchanges are more often than not done through women. So this year, at Route we are going to salute the women who are committed to supporting each other, encouraging each other and giving strength in community to do impossible things.
Thank you to the women in our community who dream with us and challenge and support us. Here is to each one of you, from maker to customer and every incredible person in between. We LOVE you and THANK YOU for carrying the love.