Thursday, 16 December 2010

More than just a Christmas present?

I don’t know about you but I’m definitely not someone who has all the cards written and ready to send by the beginning of December. Some years I’ve been so lax that cards haven’t even featured. Nor am I particularly organised when it comes to presents either. I have a friend who is so ahead of the game she posted a comment on Facebook to let us know all the decorations were up, the cards were ready to post and most of the presents were all sorted – and it was still November. Love her to bits as I do, I couldn’t help feel just a tad bemused and for that matter irritatingly inadequate.

Perhaps one of the best Christmas presents I’ve ever received was one of those ‘gift presents’ – no, I’m not the proud owner of a goat, nor is there a star named after me (although there is a village in Senegal that is, seriously there is...). My Christmas present was to give a week at a sports camp to a Palestinian kid – I hope the child had the time of his life. It certainly made me feel pretty good.

Hatti Medium Shopper in Red
My Christmas present to Clare, my sister, this year is going to be something that will perhaps have a similar positive effect on a life, probably a number of lives, over in Nepal. It’s going to be a Hatti bag. I can’t tell you which one just in case Clare reads this before Christmas Day and if I did tell you I would have to eat you or do something to silence you…not very ethical I know.

Clare’s bag quite simply has helped to change lives. Why? Well, it’s a fair trade bag that's been made in Nepal by young women who, as children, were trafficked into a life trapped in brothels and bonded labour in circuses. Even when they were finally able to return home many of the young women were treated as outcasts from society with no purpose and no future to look forward to. That’s when they are taken in and cared for by the Esther Benjamin’s Trust. And after a period of rehabilitation with the Trust, the older girls (17 years and over) are offered the opportunity to work at the Hatti Fair Trade production centre. They are provided with safe, secure accommodation with a house mother to care for them and are trained at the centre. They are paid a good monthly wage, holiday, sickness, hospital fees and maternity pay and are helped to adjust to life. An unprecedented change often takes place in the girls - they are no longer ‘charity cases’, rejected by society after a life trapped in brothels and bonded labour in circuses. They are now independent professional young women working for a foreign organisation and finally able to leave their past behind.

Now that’s what I call a real gift…

Click here to read more about Hatti’s story