Oz Fair Trade is the newest Fair Trader of Australia

As some of you already know, Oz Fair Trade has been certified as the newest Fair Trader of Australia by the Fair Trade Association of Australia and New Zealand.

It is a big milestone for me and for Oz Fair Trade. I wanted this certification much earlier, but I couldn’t, because a business needs to be in operation for at least 12 months before it can be assessed. Oz Fair Trade was incorporated in October 2013, so I had to wait. Now the wait is over, and I’m very happy for the recognition.

To any ethical business in Australia, becoming a Fair Trader of Australia is a big deal. It is the official certification in Australia that recognises businesses that have fair trade at the heart of what they do. It gives customers confidence that they are buying from an ethical business that adhere to fair trade principles.

Thank you to all who supported Oz Fair trade!

Why I Am Becoming A Rotarian

I first came across Rotary at a BBQ in front of my local hardware store. It’s just another charity, as far as I was concerned. The guy behind an apron looked like Santa, and I was happy to have sausages and a cold drink as a cheap lunch. After a few cheap lunches, I started to take notice of their unusual name. What is “Rotary”?

I didn’t really act on my curiosity until recently. My life took a turn, and I suddenly found myself desperate for new things to do, new people to meet, and new experiences to try. It was at this moment that “Rotary” popped into my mind.

So what is Rotary?

Rotary-Club

Rotary Australia belongs to Rotary International, which is a non-political and non-religious organisation that has about 35,000 clubs and 1.2 million members worldwide. The members of Rotary Clubs are known as Rotarians. Rotary’s primary motto is “Service Above Self”. Members usually meet weekly to socialise and to organise work on their service goals.

So why am I interested?

I have always wanted to join a community of people who are selfless and who want to make the world a better place. So I set up Canberra Sustainable and Fair Living Meetup. So I network with social entrepreneurs. So I joined Kiva. But I always felt like I wasn’t contributing enough to local communities, and I wasn’t having enough interactions with experienced leaders in the charity/NFP sector. I am eager to learn and engage, but I struggled to find “my people”. I am an introvert, which makes it even more difficult.

Friends have taken me to church, but I haven’t found that calling inside me. Many charities have a religious belief, which makes me uncomfortable to join or volunteer for. But Rotary is different. It is non-religious and non-political. It is one of the most efficient charities in the world in terms of how little money is spent on administration. It has a good track record and it is a large family. I will be welcomed to attend any Rotary club meetings anywhere in the world. The thought of connecting with so many like-minded individuals made me smile.

Which Rotary club am I joining?

IMGP0125

I am joining my local Gungahlin Rotary club. So far, I have been to two meetings and one Christmas party, and I have found Rotarians so friendly and welcoming. In the last meeting, we had a guest speaker, a fellow Rotarian who has served in the aid industry for over 20 years, and I thoroughly enjoyed her honest account of stories that she heard or experienced. I felt inspired.

Gungahlin Rotary club raises most funds through BBQ, and supports a number of local projects like the Rotary Youth Leadership Awards and the National Youth Science Forum. It also supports international projects like Rotary Oceania Medical Aid for Children, Shelter Box and End Polio Now.

As a Rotarian, I will be given exceptional opportunities to do wonderful things for not just the local communities but also international communities, on top of my work as director of Oz Fair Trade.

You all know how passionate I am about fair trade, and how I prefer trade to aid. I believe that aid can be useful in emergency and special circumstances, and if done right, it can be very beneficial. There is a lot I want to learn in this field, and joining the Rotary club opens a big new door for me. I am excited!

Why I am joining Amnesty

I first came across Amnesty Australia at a meetup film gathering organised by an area coordinator from Amnesty. After a few films, I was really impressed with the quality of the documentaries, and found myself wanting to learn more about human rights and how I could contribute.

I grew up in China, a country known for its human rights issues. I remember how visiting Tibet really changed my mind about whether Tibet should be independent. I remember learning about the Tiananmen Square Incident in Australia because it was never taught to me in China. It is hard to overcome years of prejudice as a result of teaching that was forced upon me. Sometimes I still find myself not wanting to believe certain things.

Amnesty_International_banner_-_2

Amnesty International is a non-political and non-religious human rights organisation. It helps to raise awareness of human rights issues, organises petitions, sends experts to help victims, monitors media etc. It has a record of achievements since the 1960s.

We are lucky that we live in Australia, because Australia has pretty good human rights record. But we can do better. We can treat refugees with more compassion. We can stop violence against women. We can reduce the gap between indigenous and non-indigenous Australians. We can also protest against overseas human rights issues. Our very own Peter Greste is still behind bars in Egypt and we should be angry about that.

I encourage you to read the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. To me, it’s like bible.

When I think about it, I have been a human rights activist for two years now, because I founded Oz Fair Trade to help people who are living in extreme poverty to live a dignified life through fair trade. To me, dignity is the most important part of human rights. The world trade system is far from perfect, and many people are forced to work long hours for little pay. That’s not right. Fair trade aims to change that.

You can learn more about fair trade here.

You can click here to join Amnesty Australia online and/or sign one of their petitions. Remember, every voice counts.

Turning 30

After 14.5 years in China and 15.5 years in Australia, I am truly a product of mixed cultural influences. On the eve of my 30th birthday, I look back at my achievements and regrets.

Achievements:

  • Survived a childhood without my mum, who left me for Australia when I was 4.
  • Safely made a solo return trip from China to Australia when I was 9.
  • Moved to Australia when I was 14 and survived the first six months of school subject to bully and language barriers.
  • Graduated from high school with an UAI of 99.3 and became an unlikely dux.
  • Managed to finish an actuarial degree and an economics degree.
  • Moved to Canberra alone and made a few good friends.
  • Got driver’s licence after two years of classes.
  • Landed a job where my skills can be utilised.
  • Taught myself how to ride a bike.
  • Learned to swim.
  • Learned to camp.
  • Found love.
  • Found passion.
  • Founded a charity.
  • Lots of travel.
  • Been to Tibet.
  • Adopted a rescue dog.

Regrets:

  • Not taking a gap year.
  • Chose a career based on UAI and expected future salary.
  • Gave up piano after just two years.
  • Being anti-social in university.
  • Spent my hard earned cash on fast fashion.
  • Not spending more time with my grandparents before they passed away.

On the eve of turning 30, I am content. I have a good job, nice colleagues, a loving partner, healthy parents, a cute dog, an upcoming European trip, a growing charity and a number of supporters. Most of these were not imaginable three years ago.

My biggest wish for the next decade is to grow Oz Fair Trade and to convince more people to choose fair trade.

I survived on $2 a day

LBL_Logo_Landscape

Recently I signed up to Live Below The Line after being inspired by a friend who is also passionate about fair trade (you can read her blog here). It is a fund raising event, but my main objective was to challenge myself. To be honest I’m not a huge fan of aid; I believe in fair trade as a more viable solution to the alleviation of poverty. I signed up simply to experience what’s it like to live on $2 a day.

In the planning process, I calculated:

  • how much a slice of cheese was
  • how much a slice of bread was
  • how much a cup of rice was
  • etc.

Such things never crossed my mind before. I also came to the realisation that I couldn’t possibly afford any meat at $2 a day. Mostly I relied on rice, weetbix and bread. Here’s what I ate on a typical day:

Breakfast:

Two pieces of weetbix with milk as usual. This costs roughly $0.30.

Lunch:

Rice and frozen veggie come to the rescue! Frozen peas and corns cost $4 per kg. I used 200g per meal, that’s $0.80.

Dinner:

I had $0.90 left to spend on dinner:

  • two slices of bread with peanut butter: $0.50
  • one banana: $0.30
  • one carrot: $0.10

After five days of living on $2 a day, I lost 0.5kg and I can honestly say that it’s not easy. On Saturday morning I had a chicken pie for breakfast 🙂

My main takeaway:

We can’t expect someone who’s financially stressed to take strategic steps to break poverty cycle. When our mind is constantly on how much a cup of rice is, it is extremely difficult to step back and think strategically. Only when basic human needs are met, then we can talk about the next step.

 

Point of difference: one woman brand

ImageImageImage

One week after my previous post about putting my face forward to showcase products, I have delivered! The very amateur photo studio with a wrinkled backdrop sheet delivered relatively satisfactory results. There were lots of running from the front to the back of camera in my small living room, and there was certainly no room for a second person, but the end results justified all the efforts. At least for now, I’m quite happy with the photos 🙂 I hope my efforts will help you to make more informed purchase decisions.

I was thinking very hard about the point of difference that Oz Fair Trade can offer you as a customer. Yes we are a charity, but it is a charity that relies entirely on a sustainable business model. So I have to make it work commercially, and to do that, I have to be able to compete with other businesses, and I must think like a businesswoman. I can offer excellent products and great customer services, and you’ll only deal with one person if there’s any issue. If there’s any problem with delivery address, product availability, etc. I’ll contact you quickly and directly, and aim to fulfill your order asap! I want to make this work, so that I can support more fair trade producers and help push forward the fair trade movement!

A registered charity – a new chapter begins.

Nepal trip Oz Fair Trade

When a good friend of mine heard about Global Handmade at about the same time last year, she suggested that I should register with the ACNC (i.e. the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission) where she worked as a lawyer. I remember my response at the time was that ‘it’s in my plan’. One year on, I achieved this goal.

As any new business owner would know, moving from a sole trader to a company structure requires some guts and money. I made the leap in October last year, as part of the re-branding, because I knew how committed I was to running it for the long term. Even though financially it wasn’t the best time to make the transition, I did it anyway because I wanted the organisation to have the credibility it needs and deserves. I can now proudly call Oz Fair Trade a charity and confidently continue the journey forward.

The next big thing is to be endorsed by the Fair Trader of Australia. It is a lengthy process, but I’m sure I’ll get there!

P.S. you can find Oz Fair Trade on ACNC’s online register here: http://www.acnc.gov.au/