If you haven’t already experienced Balmain Uniting Church, it’s the message of Jesus and the aroma of coffee at Casual Monday’s café that draws you in. But more than that it is a space that embraces the phrase ‘all are welcome’ to it’s a hub of the Good News and social justice action.
See, Balmain Uniting Church is also home to the little shop of fair trade, Global Conduct and this small business is making a difference to people’s lives continents away.
Lifelong friends Zoe and Gai are business partners that see Global Conduct as their way of doing what they can to end poverty and modern day slavery in countries most in need. Both of them have been advocates for all things fair trade long before taking on this business venture in 2016.
Gai, who has been part of the Uniting Church for over 20 years, said that it is more than just a stall.
“It’s more about just telling people to be cautious and conscious and be aware of where things are made,” said Gai, who became interested in fair trade after seeing firsthand the injustices in poorer countries and being involved in fundraising campaigns through her local church.
For Zoe, it was not only her Christian faith but also her family unit that solidified her passion for social justice and fair trade in particular. Zoe has two brothers who are adopted from Sri Lanka.
“Because they were adopted from Sri Lanka, my parents were very involved in wanting them to know about their heritage,” said Zoe, as she learned more about Sri Lankan tea-pickers and the importance of fair trade standards.
Her passion in social justice and mission work saw her complete a short-term Uniting Church Mission trip to El Salvador. She then also spent a year in Zimbabwe volunteering in an orphanage before heading to Bible College.
After settling down with her family in Australia, Global Conduct was a way to still live out the social justice mission close to her heart.
“It is still in some way helping the third world from here, by promoting fair trade,” said Zoe.
Global Conduct sells authentic products from jewellery and ornaments to carpets that are made while ensuring no one is exploited. Sourced from Nepal, Cambodia, Vietnam, India and East Timor, one of their main producers is a leading school of textiles and cotton, Kumbeshwar Technical School (KTS). KTS also part of the World Fair Trade Organisation.
By establishing close working relationships with their suppliers, Gai explained that when these countries are experiencing natural or man-made disasters they feel it to. This is what happened when they heard of the devastation of the Nepal floods earlier this year.
“There is a real sense that this is family and you want to be supportive,” said Gai.
The ethical sales through Global Conducts, directly supports the economic stability and health clinic access for their suppliers’ workers and communities in these third-world countries.
The Global Conduct outreach doesn’t stop there, both Zoe and Gai are also available to talk at schools, fetes, conference stalls and congregations. Their goal is to create awareness about the substantial benefits and the positive impact fair trade has for those in vulnerable countries where workers rights can be easily abused.
But most importantly, as Gai explains, ecumenism is also a big part of the Global Conduct philosophy as well as her own, with the goal to encourage all faith communities to become fair trade communities.
“It doesn’t have to be just a single person; we can do this and make a difference as a group,” said Gai.
Zoe reiterated this by saying that churches in Australia are on the back foot on prioritizing fair trade. Right now there is a real opportunity for churches to take a meaningful stand together and ensure that our products are sourced and made ethically.
“As Christians we should have that responsibility to support people in the developing world,” said Zoe.
Zoe and Gai still work part time in their respective fields, while juggling the full time mission that is Global Conduct. Both are available to talk at events, churches and/or schools to discuss the importance of fair trade and the lives that benefit from us choosing fair trade.
This Christmas why not support the fair trade movement by choosing Global Conduct products for your gifts at www.globalconduct.com.au. You can also catch the Global Conduct stall at the Balmain Uniting Church or follow them on Facebook or Instagram to see where they are heading next.