Would You Sell Your Child For Chocolate?

It’s here.  The big V Day. Yes, that’s right.  The day that Americans dole out billions of dollars on that dark, sweet delicacy- chocolate.  Did you know that the U.S. spends $16.7 billion on chocolate each year? And, on the day you profess love to your sweetie, Valentine’s Day, Americans spend an average of $40.  
Let’s be honest here.  Every woman, including myself, loves a piece of chocolate.  Or, for that matter, 100 pieces. Until recently, I never stopped to think where the chocolate that I love so much comes from.  I have been doing a little digging lately and I started to realize that there is a very dark side to chocolate that we don’t hear about very often.

Here’s the basic rundown.  West Africa grows over 70% of the world’s supply of cacao. And the Ivory Coast produces more of it than the rest of West Africa.  So what? Well, a UNICEF study reported that 200,000 children are trafficked yearly in West and Central Africa. Many of the adults and children that are trafficked to the Ivory Coast are being exploited as they work on cacao farms used to make the chocolate that we buy at our local grocery stores.  

Can you imagine destitute parents selling their children to traffickers in hopes that things will take a bright turn once they arrive on the Ivory Coast?  Once they arrive, these children become bonded laborers and will work 80 to 100 hours a week.  Can you imagine selling your child into something like this for chocolate?

I am not saying that we should never eat chocolate, but what I am saying is there is a good choice we can all make.  When you want to purchase chocolate, go for chocolate labeled Fair Trade.  Fair Trade is where purchasers of products such as chocolate and coffee agree to pay an above market price. The money is used to help the small farms and cooperatives selling the products make improvements in their communities such as building schools, hospitals and increasing the availability of clean drinking water.

When we lived in Seattle, the family and I loved to make trips to Fremont to visit Theo’s Chocolate Factory.  If you are ever in the area, they are the best and the first organic, Fair Trade, Bean-To-Bar
Chocolate Factory in the United States.  And, of course, their chocolate is delicious.  There are many other Fair Trade brands.  And, yes, they are available at your local grocery store.

I know the holiday is almost over, but the next time you buy chocolate, remember buying slave-free chocolate can make a difference. 

Sex Trafficking and the Super Bowl

After a long day of tantrums and mini-fashion crises from a 3-year-old and the disasters and strange, unidentified piles of goo a crawling 9-month-old can leave behind, I sat down this evening to look around my house.  My normally, a little messy house is still quite torn apart from Sunday’s big Super Bowl party.  As I look around, trying to figure out where to begin, I can’t help but think about something that has been on my mind.

The Super Bowl, an event which makes for a fun party, is surprisingly one of the single, largest human trafficking events in the United States.  Disguised as an All-American sporting event where the fans yell loud and parties take allegiance to teams in almost every household in America, the demand for prostitution around this event is very high.  This doesn’t really surprise me, because the Western world is the largest consumer for the sex industry and victims who are trafficked.

How can this be? I started to think a lot about American tradition.  As we gather with our families, our small children, kids from church and eat popcorn and watch the big game, our experience is memorable and fun.  I can’t help but think through the eyes of a human trafficking victim where an event like the Super Bowl is anything but memorable and fun. They will live each day with dark memories that they can’t forget as modern-day slaves.

Of course, human trafficking isn’t just a problem on Super Bowl Sunday.  An estimated 18,000 people are thought to be brought into the country as part of human trafficking operations each year.  Many do not realize that an estimated 100,000 children are forced into prostitution every year in the United States. Can you imagine? Your daughter, your sister, your niece or the little girl who lives across the street.  It could happen to anyone.

Many times, my day gets the best of me.  I spend 15 hours a day wrapped up in kids and 3 hours a day running from my kids.  But I do know one thing: I can’t and I won’t be someone who closes my blinds, looks the other way, makes excuses, turns off the news and acts like this issue does not exist.  If every overstressed mom, every high school kid, every teacher, every preacher, every company, all of us did our part to help, we could make a difference.  We would see a shift that goes on for miles and surpasses state and country borders.

I am ready to live this way.  How about you? Ready to help? Here 21 ways, courtesy of A21, that you can make a difference: http://www.thea21campaign.org/21-ways-to-help.php.  And, if you are interested in helping in the Arkansas area, shoot me an e-mail and I can share more with you.