Fair Accessories for the Holidays

Is anyone else out there suspicious of all those sparkly, glittery accessories available at the mall? I certainly am. I want to know who made them and how much they were paid. You’ll have an extra glow at the office Christmas party this year with these Fairtrade and Fairmined accessories.

Need to add a little something to jazz up your holiday finest?


‘Double Helix’ Earings by Hovey Lee $48.00

Hovey Lee’s first jewellery collection garnered positive attention from both the arts and fashion world. Hovey Lee upholds the standards of the Fair Trade Federation and the No Dirty Gold Campaign to ensure that all her pieces are made in a way that brings dignity to miners and ensures sustainable mining practices. Add these reclaimed brass accessories to your holiday finery and you’ll feel merry and bright (clever you for seeking out Fairtrade accessories!) the whole night through.

Canada’s ethical diamonds sparkle on the hands of people the world over. Did you know Canada is also home to Fairtrade and Fairmined jewellers?


Custom jewellery from Hume Atelier.

Vancouver based Hume Atelier specializes in bespoke jewellery using Fairtrade and Fairmined gold. They believe in connecting clients to producers and helping people become aware of the people behind their unique products.

T’is the season to pop the question!


Engagement rings from the Fairtrade Jewellery Company in Toronto.

Toronto’s Fairtrade Jewellery Company was the first Fairtrade certified jeweller in North America and is proud to use Fairtrade and Fairmined gold for their jewellery. If you’re planning on popping the question this holiday season make sure the future of the gold miner will be as bright as your future together.


2 Gifts To Warm You Up On A Cold Winter’s Day

The temperature in Calgary has dropped into the -30s (celsius) over the past few days and staying warm is a challenge! Below are two ethical gift options to help you warm up as the temperature plummets.

Calgary boasts several ethical options for the coffee lover in your life.


Three month seasonal direct trade coffee subscription from Phil & Sebastian $105.00

Keep your coffee lover stocked with seasonal coffee that will keep them buzzing well into the new year. The three month subscription from Phil & Sebastian delivers two 12oz bags of seasonal coffee to their doorstep each month. Phil & Sebastian’s dedication to top quality coffee is evident in the relationships they’ve built with small farms in places like Kenya, Guatemala, and Panama. These direct trade relationships mean top quality coffee in your cup and top dollar for farmers and producers.

Warm winter accessories are essential when braving the elements.

embroidered-fairisle-mittens-5302c2e3959fEmbroidered FairIsle Mittens from People Tree $32

embroidered-fairisle-beret-391e5a474f92Embroidered FairIsle Baret from People Tree $32

Your head, hands, and heart will stay warm in hand knitted woollen accessories from People Tree. These woollies are knit by women trained at the Kumbeshwar Technical School (KTS) in Nepal. The partnership between KTS and People Tree ensures that these Nepalese women earn a decent living wage and also puts money back into the community ensuring that children can go to school.

How To Set Up A Mosquito Net in 10 Easy Steps

5 years ago I travelled to Ghana, West Africa for 6 weeks to study Women in African Literature and Post-Colonial Literature. It was an amazing trip that deeply enriched my view and understanding of the world and some of the underlying causes of extreme poverty. Throughout those 6 weeks I experienced many firsts. It was the first time I’d been to Africa, it was the first time I read anything by Chinua Achebe, it was the first time I’d seen a millipede bigger than my hand. It was also the first time I ever had to take malaria pills and the first time I ever had to set up a mosquito net to provide further protection against mosquitos carrying the terrible disease.

My first attempt at setting up a mosquito net inspired me to write a step-by-step how to guide, which I thought I would share with you in the lead up to World Mosquito Day on August 20th.World Mosquito Day is a day meant to raise awareness about the causes of malaria and how we can prevent it, as well as raising funds to help tackle the disease worldwide. If you have a malaria related story, please share it on the Malaria No More UK website to help raise awareness of malaria’s impact around the globe.

Malaria kills over 655,000 people each year, but thanks to multiple doses of bug spray, malaria pills, and my insecticide impregnated mosquito net my experience with malaria is limited and I left Ghana without the lingering side effects of this debilitating disease.

How To Set Up a Mosquito Net In 10 Easy Steps (originally posted June 6, 2007)

Step 1: Remove mosquito net from package.
Step 2: Search for instructions.
Step 3: Realize there are no instructions just random bits and pieces of screws, string, plastic sticks, and netting.
Step 4: Question who on this planet would just assume that I know how to set up a mosquito net without instructions.
Step 5: Place tiny stool on bed.
Step 6: Have roommate hold the wobbly stool while lifting yourself up. I suggest using your roommates head for balance, but this is completely optional. Also, the sensation of climbing onto a stool that is placed precariously on a bed feels a little like surfing or perhaps experiencing a slight earth tremor…I suggest working on your ab strength and balance prior to mounting the stool.
Step 7: Once you are standing up right on the stool and are relatively balanced…laugh hysterically for at least one minute.
Step 8: Jab one of the random available pieces into the ceiling. Beware of falling debris and bugs which may cause you to jump which will inevitably throw you off the ever-so-stable stool.
Step 9: Attach net to random piece lodged in the ceiling.
Step 10: You’re done! You may carefully dismount the stool and repeat the process for your roommate!

Despite the lightheartedness of this post, malaria is a serious disease that kills one child every minute and disables many more, which can limit their ability to earn a decent wage and stay out of a cycle of poverty as they grow up. If you’d like to take further action against malaria, please write to your local MP using this letter as a guide. For a little more info about malaria, check out this video care of Malaria No More and K’naan.

Malaria No More & K’naan #endmalaria

Dine Below the Line

I’m more than a little embarrassed by how long it has taken me to get this post up, especially considering the brevity of its content.

As you may or may not recall, we held a Dine Below the Line breakfast to cap off our Live Below the Line challenge. The goal of Dine Below the Line is to cook a meal for your guests that costs just 33 pence per person. We did a little brainstorming and figured out that we could easily make enough pancakes for about 10 people for less than £3.30, complete with homemade white sugar syrup. Jonathan is the pancake making star in our home, so he hopped out of bed and got a start on the pancakes, much like any other Saturday morning. To cut back on cost we opted out of using baking powder, but kept the flour, eggs, and salt in the mix. The cost of syrup combined with the low frequency of pancake consumption in our home means that we often make our own syrup although this time we replaced our usual brown sugar with white sugar to keep down the cost. Throw in some Fairtrade tea bags for less than a penny each and we had a rather lovely Saturday breakfast, though some of our guests would have enjoyed a nice hot cup of coffee, but that simply would not fit into the budget. Fruit would have also been a nice addition, but was a luxury we could not afford.

We spent some time talking about our Live Below the Line experience with the group and lamenting the things we had missed throughout the week. Chocolate and berries were on the top of my grocery list!

We were all a little surprised by how much you could do to make a simple breakfast on such a small amount. Of course, a pancake breakfast isn’t enough to sustain anyone for a prolonged period of time or to expend any substantial amount of energy that might be required on a normal work day. But on a lazy Saturday, the pancakes hit the spot and we all left grateful for the blessings we do have here in the UK. I was especially excited to get to the grocery store to start preparing our first post-Live Below the Line meal, bouillabaisse- which is a type of fish soup, and to get my hands on some chocolate.

Overall our Live Below the Line experience was certainly challenging, but it was a great experience that revealed similar challenges faced by the 1.4 Billion people living in extreme poverty world wide. I’m excited to take the challenge again next year and to continue to raise awareness of ways that we can end extreme poverty as well as raising funds for organisations who actively work to end extreme poverty.

Will you join me and Live Below the Line in 2013?

Live Below the Line: Day 5

I didn’t feel quite human today and struggled to get any real work done. I was also extremely emotional and struggled to hold back tears at the most random times of the day and I don’t think it’s because I’m sad this challenge is over. I’ve found each day increasingly difficult and come home feeling hungrier and more exhausted than the day before. To be honest, I am so excited to be able to indulge once again tomorrow. And it’s not just the food I’m looking forward to, but the experiences that go along with the food such as a coffee out with my husband, or a picnic lunch with friends, or having a quiet night in to bake. Living on £1 per day not only limits what you can eat, it limits your social life as well, which is part of the reason why poverty can be so isolating. It’s difficult to share your life with others when you can’t afford to share common experiences with them and food often plays a significant role in our shared experiences.

We totally splurged today and totalled £0.97 per person. Here’s how:

  • Oatmeal breakfast with tea = £0.25
  • 5 biscuits = £0.05
  • 3 cups of tea throughout the day = £0.01
  • Chick peas with a splash of oil and spices = £0.17
  • Flour and water pizza dough with ham slices and courgette = £0.23
  • Noodles and broth with pork sausages = £0.26

Over the past five days I’ve come to dread the question “why are you doing this?” because I know that behind that question is another question, “how does living on £1 per day for five days do anything to solve extreme poverty?” The simple answer is that it doesn’t. I am under no delusion that the food I’m not eating and the money I’m not spending is somehow making its way to someone who lives in extreme poverty. And, to be honest, I’m glad that’s not the case. I am not campaigning for a temporary solution to extreme poverty. What I desire is lasting change. And I believe that a permanent end to extreme poverty is possible within my lifetime. Live Below the Line is, in part, a symbol of my commitment to do everything I can to see the end of extreme poverty within a generation.

My choice to live on £1 per day for five days has no immediate impact on the lives of those who did not choose to live in extreme poverty. I have had complete control as I took this challenge. I could have stopped at any point. But many do not have that choice. While I can celebrate my accomplishment of successfully completing a challenge and go back to eating whatever I want, whatever it is that I’ve longed for over the last five days, there are 1.4 billion people in the world who endure this longing, hunger, and exhaustion without an end in sight. Ghandi once declared, “poverty is the worst form of violence.” Part of that violence, I think, comes from experiencing longing and desire for extended periods of time without a foreseeable end to the struggle. Whether that struggle is to be able to afford enough food to eat each day, or to provide adequate housing for your family, or to put your children through school, to live without hope for the future because there seems no end to your current circumstance is as detrimental to a person’s health as not being able to afford groceries.

But there is hope. Though many go hungry, there is enough food in the world to feed everyone on the planet one and half times over. And there are many who believe that we are living in a unique time in history when we have the resources and the knowledge to eradicate extreme poverty. Jeffrey Sachs is one of many people who believes change is possible and he explains why below.

To see how we can all play a part to end extreme poverty why not book the 1.4 Billion Reasons presentation? Feel free to contact me for more info.

If you’d like to help me as I work to see the end of extreme poverty, please donate here.

Thank you so much to all of you who have followed along and offered your encouragement and support. Stay tuned tomorrow as I share about our Dine Below the Line breakfast.

Live Below the Line: Day 4

It’s day four of Live #belowtheline and I’m tired and hungry. We’re just not eating enough each meal to feel satisfied and there’s not much room in the budget for snacks.

I’m also tired of talking about my poverty. The bulk of the conversations I’ve had over the last four days have been about this challenge and what I can and cannot afford to eat. On one hand that means that this challenge is serving its purpose perfectly as it opens doors to talk about what extreme poverty looks and feels like. On the other hand there’s a part of me that would love to be asked about something else going on in my life right now, something other than my own personal ‘poverty’. Which leads me to wonder how often we define ‘the 1.4 Billion people’ by their poverty rather than their humanity. Just like me, those living in extreme poverty likely have other things on their minds apart from the food they do or do not have access to. Some may have concerns about their role as husband or wife, others may be struggling to keep up decent grades (which is made more difficult by insufficient nutrient intake), while others might be moving from one place to another and are struggling with the stress of that move. People should not be defined by their poverty. And when I stop to think about those living in extreme poverty as whole individuals who are made up of so much more than their current circumstance, my passion to see their lives changed and my resolve to have more conversations about extreme poverty and how we can see its end in a generation grows stronger.

As we head into the final day of Live #belowtheline I’d like to thank those of you who have offered your generous support to either my or Jonathan’s campaign! In case you’re curious, today’s budget works out as follows.

  • Sugar, cinnamon, milk with oatmeal and tea for breakfast = £0.25
  • 5 biscuits = £0.05
  • Leftover spaghetti with pork sausage, courgette, tomatoes and spices = £0.20 (the photo is of last night’s portion)
  • 3 cups of tea throughout the day = £0.01
  • A sneaky chick pea snack before supper = £0.05
  • Flour and water pizza dough with ham slices and courgette = £0.23

Our grand total for the day comes to a whopping £0.79.

If you would like to “buy us lunch” and support us as we raise money for the Global Poverty Project, please donate here.

Live Below the Line: Day Two

Day two of Live Below the Line has been okay even though I had to start the day with cold oatmeal because I was too slow getting up and Jonathan had made enough for the two of us prior to leaving for work.

Our oatmeal breakfast and cup of tea came to £0.25.

We had leftovers from our noodle and pork sausage mixture for lunch, which cost about £0.31.

We decided to try the pizza recipe for supper. This meant a trip to the grocery store to spend our remaining £0.80 on courgette and possibly an apple if the budget would allow. We did manage to get a courgette for £0.43 and then debated whether we should get an apple that we could use for two desserts at best or whether we should buy biscuits that we could ration to last the rest of the week. We found a package of 36 biscuits for £0.31 so we put the apple back and enjoyed one small biscuit each on the way home. The biscuits cost just shy of £0.01 each, which meant that I could eat three tonight without going over budget.

I was a bit nervous that making pizza for supper would push us both just over £1 for the day, but my fears were quieted when Jonathan did a quick double check of the math. Our flour and water dough with ham slices, courgette, tomato, and a few herbs and spices came to a grand total of £0.60. Split between two people our dinner came to £0.30 per person.

My grand total for the day, including tea with breakfast and three biscuits comes to £0.89. I must confess that, for the most part, I’m busy enough during the day that I’m not overly aware of my restricted diet. However, I do miss having snacks at regular intervals.

One of the most interesting parts about this challenge is the reaction of those around me. One woman asked me what exactly I was eating on only £1 per day, in a tone suggesting that it was simply not possible. She remained slightly unconvinced even after I described what we had for supper last night and it wasn’t until I gave her the price of the major meal pieces that she was satisfied and even impressed that it is possible to feed yourself on £1 per day.

Some colleagues see the challenge as really no big deal, knowing that in a few days I’ll be back to my normal eating habits, while others are genuinely saddened when they realise I cannot partake in whatever indulgence they were hoping to share with me.

As day two draws to a close I am feeling mostly satisfied though extremely tired. But I am definitely already thinking about what luxuries I can indulge in once the weekend arrives and how lovely it will be to be able to afford apples again. If you would like to donate to help support those who will not be able to afford apples by the weekend you can do so online by visiting here.